Saddler’s Bloom or Mold?

What’s that white substance on my leather tack?

Upon encountering the white residue on saddles and tack, individuals often jump to the conclusion that it’s the notorious culprit of the leather world – mold.

However, the white substance you’re observing is likely not mold; it’s more accurately identified as Leather Bloom, Leather Spew, or Saddlers Bloom.

This whitish residue can manifest as either a powdery substance or even take on a waxy texture, its appearance contingent on the type of bloom occurring.

Is this bloom detrimental to my tack?

Fortunately, leather bloom is primarily a cosmetic issue and can be effortlessly eliminated by gently buffing it with a soft cloth or a horsehair shoeshine brush.

What brings about leather bloom?

From my personal experience and research, cold temperatures and low humidity emerge as primary catalysts for leather bloom. Even a meticulously cleaned, oiled, and conditioned saddle can develop bloom when placed in a cooler environment.

During the tanning process, hides are infused with fats, oils, and waxes, which sets the stage for certain types of leather to be more prone to blooming over time.

Every saddle has its distinctive character, reflecting the individuality of the leather derived from unique animals.

It’s important to note that bloom does not impair the functionality of the affected items. The optimal storage for saddles and leather goods involves a warm, dry location, ideally staying below 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mold, however, poses a much graver threat. If unchecked, it can wreak havoc on your leather tack, consuming the fats and oils present in the material.

What’s responsible for mold growth?

Like most fungi, mold thrives in warm, damp conditions, requiring sustenance for survival. Maintaining a clean saddle and avoiding excessive oiling can act as deterrents against mold development.

Avoid storing your saddle in basements, as even finished basements tend to have elevated humidity levels.

For individuals residing in excessively humid regions, providing ample airflow around the saddle is pivotal. Fungi thrive in environments lacking proper oxygen levels.

Refrain from placing a damp saddle pad over your saddle, especially in high humidity zones. This practice can invite trouble.

Addressing mold infestations

Eradicating mold is feasible with the use of white vinegar, a potent fungus and mold eliminator. While diluted alcohol is also an option, it’s more abrasive and could harm the leather’s finish and color.

Following mold removal, allow the leather components to thoroughly air-dry for at least an hour. A well-ventilated area or even a fan’s breeze can expedite the drying process.

Mold despises fresh air. After being treated with white vinegar and exposed to the open air, the mold should perish. With proper storage practices moving forward, mold recurrence can be minimized.

Once the saddle or tack is completely dry, you can proceed with conditioning and polishing. However, avoid applying oil at this stage to prevent nourishing potential new fungal growth.

Prevention is paramount

Dealing with either bloom or mold can be frustrating, as both diminish the aesthetics of the saddle. While bloom isn’t “dirty” like mold, it can still mar the appearance.

To mitigate these issues, adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Store leather tack and saddles in environments between 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Ensure proper airflow around the saddle.
  • Shield the saddle with a sheet or large pillowcase to ward off dust.

I hold yearly Saddle Care workshops both in person and online as well. 

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