How To Clean Your Tack – The Budget Friendly Way

cleaning your tack the budget way

Let’s Clean Some Tack

I’m not sure about where you live, but where I live, it is snowing and COLD. Way to cold and windy to even think about venturing out to ride. If I had an indoor arena, I might consider it. But not here, not today. I have gone out several times to give an extra flake of hay or two because even though it is freezing, both of my horses are standing in the outside portion of their pens. I guess that means they are warm enough, right?

budget friendly tack cleaning

But besides running out into the cold to feed my boys, I have decided today would be a great day to clean and condition my tack. My saddles have not had a good conditioning treatment in a while, and I don’t have much else to do. So I thought I would share with you how I deep clean my tack.

Disassemble and Dust Everything

First things first, everything needs to be taken apart. All of my bridles are taken completely apart and bits removed. On my English saddles, stirrup leathers and stirrups are removed. And I also gather my martingales, halters, and girths. You could even include your boots too, if they haven’t been cleaned in a while.

budget friendly tack cleaning

Once I have everything broken down, I use a microfiber rag to wipe all of the dust and hair away. No sense in making a bigger mess by getting the dust wet, and having the hair stick to my freshly cleaned leather goods!

Soap Is Soap

Some people may cringe with what I’m about to say, but it has worked well for me for as long as I have been riding horses. You can buy expensive soaps for cleaning your leather, or use saddle soap if you have it, but I have had rally good luck with Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Baby Mild Castile soap. I know, you are probably gasping right now. But hey, it works!

Dr. Bronner's Castile soap

You just get a bucket of warm water, and apply a little bit of soap to the sponge, dunk it in the water, and then apply it to your leather. Really get into all of the little nook’s and areas that come into contact with your horse’s body. Sweat is salty, and if left unattended on leather can dry it out and cause it to crack. You need to really clean the leather deeply to get the dirt and sweat out.

budget friendly way to clean horse tack

Once you have soaped up your leather, you want to see suds, and then rinse all the soap away. You can continue to use your sponge, or grab a microfiber rag and remove all of the soap, dirt, and grime residue. A lot of people will just follow the instructions on their saddle soap…”Apply with a damp sponge, and rub in.” If you do this without rinsing it off, it will not clean your leather. It will simply grind the dirt in deeper, and that isn’t good for your expensive leather goods. So be sure to rinse away all of the soap from your saddle.

Allow Drying Time

After you have washed your saddle, allow the leather time to dry. You don’t want your leather to be dripping with water, so after you rinse, dry the leather and then allow it time to dry. Yes, this dries out the leather, but the next step will prevent that from happening.

Apply A Leather Conditioner

This is my favorite part, applying the conditioner. I have 2 favorites personally. One is Lord Leather Conditioner, and the second is olive oil. Yes, I know, I hear the gasps again! But olive oil really is a good leather conditioner. And I like that it is natural, not a petroleum based product.

I am not sure of Lord’s Leather Conditioner though. They don’t tell you what’s in it. And I like to know what I am putting on my leather. It does work really good, but with Olive oil I know what the ingredients are, olive oil!

That being said, the Lord’s conditioner does work great. The only down side is it is expensive. It costs about $19.00 for an 8-ounce bottle. Compare this to a 17 ounce bottle of name brand olive oil at around $7.00  bottle.

But enough about the products, let’s condition our leather!

budget friendly way to clean horse tack

Once your leather is dry, apply the oil. I like to use a 1″ paint brush and paint it on. I let it soak in and come back a few hours later, if it has absorbed all of the oil and still feels dry, I will add some more. If I come back and the leather feels soft and is pliable, I leave it alone.

Putting The Pieces Back Together

After all of my tack has been cleaned and conditioned, then I check over the buckles and run over them with a microfiber towel. I like my buckles to shine!

easy way to clean your tack

Then I re-assemble everything, my bridles (with clean bits of course) martingales, and saddles.

And you may think it’s not a good idea to use ‘real’ soap or olive oil on a saddle, but the saddle below is over 30 years old, and this is how I have cleaned my leather goods for a very long time.

how to clean tack

I just made very good use of a snow day, and my tack looks beautiful because of it. And now my saddles, and bridles and all my other leather items are ready for use! I can’t wait for spring, but until it gets here I will continue to do projects like this so when spring does finally get here, I will be ready!

budget friendly saddle cleaning

Your tack is an investment, and if you care for it properly, it will last a really long time.


About Lisa Goodwin

I am horse crazy and love DIY projects, and finding great deals on everything horse related. When I have a new idea, or find a great deal I love sharing this information with you.
You can find me over on my website, Budget Equestrian or catch up with me on my YouTube channel, The Budget Equestrian