What’s that white stuff on my leather tack?
When a person sees the white stuff on their saddles and tack they immediately think that it is the dirty word of the leather industry, MOLD.
What that white stuff that you see is likely not mold. Rather it is something that is often referred to as Leather Bloom, Leather Spew, or Saddlers Bloom.
The white stuff can present either as a powdery substance or even waxy. What is blooming is what determines how it will appear.
Is that bloom harmful to my tack?
Leather bloom is actually just unsightly and can be easily removed by buffing with a soft cloth or soft horsehair shoeshine brush.
What causes leather bloom?
In my personal experience and from my research, cold temperatures and low humidity are some of the main factors in leather bloom. Even a freshly cleaned oiled and conditioned saddle will bloom if they are placed in a cooler space.
I see a lot of bloom on saddles in the winter when the saddles are kept in a tack room or place that is cooler than 70 degrees.
The leather itself also has something to do with it. During the tanning process hides are stuffed with fats, oils and waxes, depending on the materials used and the process itself can setup some leathers to bloom more than others over time.
Every saddle produced has its own unique character.
Since no two animals are alike the leather that made your saddle is also unique.
Bloom doesn’t diminish the usability of the items that are affected by it. The best place to store your saddle and other leather goods is in a warm dry place, that isn’t over 75 degrees.
Mold on the other hand, if left unchecked, will destroy your leather tack. It feeds on the fats and oils in the leather once it gets started.
What Causes Mold?
As per most fungi, they prefer moist warm places. They also need food so keeping your saddle clean and not over oiling will help with keeping away mold.
Don’t store your saddle in the basement, the humidity is entirely too high even in most finished basements.
If you live in an area with excessive humidity, make sure that there is plenty of air flow around your saddle. Fungi love anaerobic environments that lack oxygen.
So don’t put your damp saddle pad on top of your saddle. Even if that is what you use to cover your saddle to keep dust off. In those areas that have high humidity you are just asking for trouble.
Remove the mold!
This can be easily done with white vinegar which is a wonderful fungus and mold killer. Alcohol can also be used in a diluted form, but I do not suggest it. Even diluted alcohol is far harsher and will strip the finish and pull color from your leather. White Vinegar has not done this to any saddle I have used it on.
After removing the mold let the leather pieces completely dry in the sun for an hour. It doesn’t need to be in the sun for hours but a good dose of natural sunlight will do wonders along with all the fresh air.
Mold hates sunlight and fresh air. After getting stripped with white vinegar and laying in the sun, the mold should be dead and if properly stored going forward the mold shouldn’t come back.
Once the saddle or tack is completely dry, you can then condition and polish. Stay away from oiling at this point, you do not want to even entertain the idea of feeding any new fungi.
Prevention is best!
No one wants to deal with either bloom or mold, both are unsightly and makes the saddle look ‘dirty’ while bloom is not ‘dirty’, mold certainly is.
- Store your leather tack and saddles in a 70 - 75 temperature room.
- Allow for good airflow around the saddle.
- Cover your saddle with a sheet or large pillowcase to keep dust off of it.