Will Saddle Soap Darken Leather? The Truth Revealed

Will Saddle Soap Darken Leather?

If you’re like most people, you probably have a few leather items in your closet – a jacket, a pair of boots, maybe a handbag. And if you’ve ever wondered whether using saddle soap on leather will darken it, you’re not alone. In this article, I’ll explore the truth about saddle soap and leather and whether it will cause them to become darker.

Saddle soaps that also contain moisturizers, natural oils, waxes, and other conditioning agents, although can clean, condition, and protect leather, can also cause the leather to darken immediately or over a period of time.

This is because some of the ingredients in saddle soap are rich in oils and even pigments that can change the color of leather. In most cases, this darkening is not permanent and can be reversed with little effort. However, it’s always best to test a small area first before using saddle soap on your entire leather item.

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In the rest of this article, I’m going to share with you details on why saddle soap darkens leather and a few tips on how to clean, condition, and protect your leather items without causing them to become darker.

What Is Saddle Soap And What Does It Do?

Saddle soap is a cleaning and conditioning product that’s specifically designed for leather. It’s made from a mixture of waxes, oils, and soap agents, which work together to clean and soften the leather.

Saddle soap can be used on a variety of leather products, including saddles, boots, belts, furniture, etc.

While saddle soap is great for cleaning, not all saddle soap can moisturize leather the same. This is to say not all saddle soaps contain conditioning ingredients that can cause the leather to darken.

In fact, if a saddle soap doesn’t contain any conditioning agents then it’s less likely to darken leather. This is because the cleansing ingredients in the soap will actually strip away some of the natural oils from the leather, which can cause it to become dry and light in color over time.

Details On Why Saddle Soap Darken Leather

Now that we know what saddle soap is and does, let’s explore the details on why it can darken leather. The way saddle soap darkens your leather will generally come down to 6 key things;

  • The Ingredients in the saddle soap
  • How The Saddle Soap Is Applied To The Leather
  • Type of Leather
  • The Frequency of Use
  • The Age Of The Leather
  • The Finish On The Leather
  • How You Dry The Leather After Using Saddle Soap
  • The Conditioner You Use After Cleaning With Saddle Soap

1. The Ingredients In Saddle Soap

Saddle soap is a mixture of natural oils (including Neatsfoot oil) and alkaline chemicals that break down dirt, grease, and other foreign matter on the surface of leather. The alkaline ingredients and moisturizing agents are what can potentially darken leather over time if used frequently.

It is important to know that not all saddle soaps are the same so the ingredients will differ slightly from brand to brand. However, the main ingredients are usually going to be some combination of:

  • Neatsfoot Oil
  • Tallow
  • Lye
  • Potassium hydroxide
  • Glycerine
  • Lanoline
  • pH Adjuster
  • Waxes
  • Fatty Acids, etc.

Of these ingredients, it is the oils and the waxes components that are going to have the biggest impact on darkening leather.

2. How The Saddle Soap Is Applied To The Leather

How you apply the saddle soap to your leather can also affect how likely it is to darken the leather. If you use too much saddle soap or if you don’t rub it in evenly, then you’re more likely to see darker patches on your leather.

Also, if you do not remove all of the saddle soap residues after you have cleaned your leather, then this can also lead to darker patches over time.

To avoid this, make sure that you only use a small amount of saddle soap and that you rub it in evenly. Also, make sure that you remove all of the residues with a clean cloth after you’re done cleaning.

You do not want to over saturate the leather surface for long periods of time with saddle soap as this can also lead to darkening even if the saddle soap does not contain any ingredients that can darken leather.

If you’re not sure how much saddle soap to use, then start with a small amount and add more if needed. It’s always better to err on the side of using less rather than too much.

Finally, make sure that you test the saddle soap on a small area of the leather before using it on the entire surface. This will help you to see how your particular leather reacts to the saddle soap and whether or not it’s likely to darken the leather.

3. Type of Leather

The type of leather that you’re using can also affect how likely it is to darken from saddle soap. Different types of leather are going to have different levels of susceptibility to saddle soap.

For instance, some types of leather, like suede, are more prone to darkening from saddle soap than others. It is important to know that saddle soap is often made for smooth leather and that it may not be the best choice for other types of leather.

Also, unfinished leather, which is leather that has not been treated with any kind of sealant or finish, is also more likely to darken from saddle soap.

This is because this type of leather is porous and will quickly absorb all of the ingredients in the saddle soap.

4. The Frequency of Use

The frequency of use is another big factor when it comes to whether or not saddle soap will darken your leather. If you use saddle soap once or twice a year, then it’s not likely to have much of an impact on the leather.

However, if you use saddle soap once a week or even more often, then you’re more likely to see some darkening of the leather over time.

This is because the oils and other ingredients in the saddle soap will build up on the surface of the leather over time and will eventually cause the leather to darken.

Let me also mention that not using saddle soap frequently also means not cleaning your leather frequently and as such you may be allowing a lot of time for dirt to also build up.

So ensure that you maintain a good balance between using saddle soap and not using it too frequently.

5. The Age Of The Leather

The age of the leather is also going to have an impact on how likely it is for saddle soap to darken the leather.

Leather that is older with patina is going to be more susceptible to saddle soap than newer leather. This is because older leather would’ve had more time to absorb all of the ingredients in the saddle soap.

Also, leather as material becomes richer and darker with time so if you’re using saddle soap on older leather, then it’s likely that the saddle soap is going to darken the leather more than it would on newer leather.

6. The Finish On The Leather

The finish on the leather is also going to affect how likely it is for saddle soap to darken the leather.

Leather that is sealed or has a protective coating is going to be less susceptible to saddle soap than leather that does not have a seal or coating.

This is because the seal or coating provides a barrier between the leather and the saddle soap. Leather that is finished or sealed will also be easier to clean and will not require the use of saddle soap as often.

Unfinished leather, on the other hand, will absorb all of the ingredients in the saddle soap and is more likely to darken from its use.

Saddle soap can be used on finished or sealed leather but it’s important to be aware that it may cause the finish to break down over time.

7. How You Dry The Leather After Using Saddle Soap

How you dry the leather after using saddle soap is also going to have an impact on how likely it is for saddle soap to darken the leather.

If you allow the leather to dry under the sun, then there’s a good chance that it will darken from the saddle soap. This is because when there happen to be oil or waxes present and leather is placed under direct sunlight, it will cause the leather to darken.

However, if you allow the leather to dry naturally in a shady area, then there’s less of a chance that saddle soap will darken the leather.

The main reason for this is that when the leather dries under natural conditions, it happens more slowly and allows the oils and waxes to be fully absorbed into the leather.

8. The Conditioner You Use After Cleaning With Saddle Soap

Last but not least, the type of conditioner you use and how much of it you use after cleaning with saddle soap can also have an impact on how likely it is for saddle soap to darken the leather.

As mentioned a couple of times already, most saddle soaps contain natural oils and moisturizers and so when you saturate your leather with too much conditioner, it will be more likely to darken from the saddle soap.

Most experts advise against conditioning leather items after you have used saddle soap because of its rich moisturizing ingredients. What I usually advise is to apply only a thin layer of leather conditioner after cleaning leather so that it’s not too saturated.

Tips On How To Use Saddle Soap On Leather Without Darkening It

Now that you know all of the things that can cause saddle soap to darken leather, let me give you a few tips on how to use saddle soap without it having any negative impact on the leather.

  • Use saddle soap sparingly.
  • Only use saddle soap when you really need to clean the leather and not as a regular cleaning agent.
  • When using saddle soap, be sure to fully rinse off all of the suds with clean water.
  • If you do not rinse off the saddle soap, it will leave a residue on the leather that can cause it to darken over time.
  • Allow the leather to dry naturally in a shady area.
  • This is one of the best ways to avoid saddle soap from darkening leather. Sunlight has a tendency to darken leather so if you allow the leather to dry in direct sunlight, there’s a good chance that it will darken from the saddle soap.
  • Avoid using too much conditioner after cleaning with saddle soap.
  • As mentioned before, most saddle soap contains natural oils and moisturizers. If you apply too much conditioner after cleaning with saddle soap, it will be more likely for the leather to darken.
  • Apply a thin layer of conditioner after cleaning with saddle soap.
  • This will help the leather to absorb the conditioner without making it too saturated. It will also help to keep the finish on the leather from breaking down over time.

Final Thoughts

So, Yes, saddle soap can darken leather if you’re not careful but there are ways to avoid it.

By following the tips I have given you in this article, you should be able to use saddle soap on your leather without having to worry about it darkening the leather. So there you have it, a comprehensive guide on whether saddle soap will darken leather or not.

I hope this article was helpful and provided some clarity on the matter. As always, feel free to share this article with your friends and family if you found it helpful. Thanks for reading!

Kwabena

Hi! I’m Kwabena, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leathercraft enthusiast and I’ve been that for almost 13 years now. I'm excited to share my experiences and all the new stuff I learn each day about leather craft, leather cleaning & care, and everything in-between!

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