A photo of the bridle cleaned with hemp oil soap, a scrubby and a stiff macho fina sponge

How to Clean and Care for a Bridle, Saddlery and Tack with Natural Plastic and Chemical Free Products

How to clean your bridle, saddle and other tack with natural and chemical free products leaving the leather clean, very supple, flexible and protected. After a friend invited me out horse riding, I thought it only polite to offer to clean the bridle and saddle afterwards, but of course, it would have to be in my eco and natural way. I had come prepared for my ‘apres-ride’ brandishing a jar of Hemp Oil Soft Soap, a coarse textured Macho Fina Sponge and a ‘Sally Scrubby’ natural scrubbing pad.

A photo of the bridle cleaned with hemp oil soap, a scrubby and a stiff macho fina sponge

A photo of the bridle cleaned with hemp oil soap, a scrubby and a stiff macho fina sponge

What is Normally Used to Clean a Leather Bridle?

When I was a child we used to clean all our tack after each ride using bars of glycerine saddle soap. However the glycerine soap can make the reins very slippery in the rain and I never felt my tack was supple enough. Because you need a fair bit of water to create the lather with glycerine bars and I believe that cleaning with bars of glycerine soap is too wetting on the leather, making it go quite stiff and dull once you have finished.

What is the Most Eco Friendly Way to Clean a Bridle?

I was handed a very stiff bridle. As soon as I started, before I had even got half way around the first piece of leather, it was clear the all grease and dried sweat were coming off and the leather became instantly clean and supple. It was certainly much easier and faster with the Hemp Soap and Stiff Sponge and the Scrubby natural scouring pad than I had remembered from my youth.

What are the Benefits of using Natural Products for Tack Cleaning?

  • The mold and mildew ( a blotchy grey film over much of the bridle) came off immediately
  • The grease came off, for the most part immediately – some areas needed a tiny bit more pressure
  • The soap lifts the dirt out of the leather – The salty sweat was removed and the smell of the leather improved – this Hemp Soap does have a great deodorizing quality and it was also deodorise any tack with dung or urine deposits on it
  • The leather became instantly supple and flexible
  • The buckles were easier to do up and undue which is important, especially in emergencies
  • With a more liberal application of Hemp Oil Soap to the driest zones, such on the reins near the bit, the flexibility and therefore strength of the leather was massively increased
  • Many surface cracks vanished as if I had applied some anti-aging product. The Macho Fina Sponge really helped to get the soap into the pores and cracks!
  • The stiching appeared much cleaner and more attractive
  • The deposits on the bit come off quickly with some Hemp Oil Soap and the Scrubby – normally it has to to scrapped off and its is not a very pleasant job
  • As the Hemp Oil Soap is naturally very anti-microbial, the bit has been left very clean and smooth. Something to bear in mind if you by secondhand bits!
  • The leather darkened and took on a light sheen – just like healthy human skin!
  • The Hemp Oil Soap left my own skin feeling great
  • I was able to tip the used soapy water straight onto some plants as the soap begins biodegrading as soon as it hits the soil.
  • All these products are plastic free and sent in eco packaging
Bridle before cleaning image 1, with mould, mildew and very stiff

Bridle before cleaning showing mould and mildew.

How do You Clean a Bridle Using Natural Products?

  • Dissemble the bridle
  • Wet the sponge in a basin of warm water and squeeze it out tightly, so it is just damp
  • Place the bit in the basin of warm water to soak
  • Apply a dab of Hemp Oil Soap with the sponge drawing it along both surfaces of the reins, cheak pieces, nose band throatlash etc.
  • Get the soap under all the loops, around the buckles, and well into the places were the reins attach to the bridle
  • Rinse the sponge from time to time as it goes brown with sweat, grease etc. so you are working with a clean sponge. Add more soap to continue, so that each componet was cleaned and nourished without over wetting it
  • Once everything was clean I added more soap to parts of the leatherwork which get a lot of wear, such as to the inside of the leather straps where they meet the bit. The leather here gets wet while it is in use with the horses saliva and it can become very dry and brittle. Adding the extra soap at the bit end of the reins helps the reins to stay strong and stretch a bit under stress rather than snap at a crucial moment!
    Be sure there is no excess soap left on the riders end of the reins, to minimize slippage in the rain!
  • Finally I gave the bit a going over with a Scrubby and watched as the grass and food stains vanished and then I gave the bit a rinse in fresh water
  • Let the leatherwork dry so you don’t get fingerprints on it and reassemble it.

The Results … More Bridles to Clean!

I checked with my friend yesterday and she has told me that she has not had to clean the bridle over the last few weeks as it is still feeling supple. She is super pleased with the effects of the Hemp Soap and she is a total convert. I told my neighbour about it and offered to clean her horse’s bridle – she brought two of them over and we made a little video showing exactly how it did it – I hope you find it useful! I have also just heard that neighbour is also delighted with her two clean and supple bridles and I’m hoping for a reversal where she will invite me to ride one of her horses around the village soon! I expect friends and neighbours will be dropping dirty saddles, spare stirrup leathers, dog collars and leads and complete sets of harness off for cleaning soon!

More About Natural Tack Cleaning Products

Hemp oil soap is used for shaving, washing and cleaning.

Hemp oil soap is used for shaving, washing and cleaning.

As you might not have heard of our Hemp Oil Soap, the Macho Fina Sponge and the Scrubby before let me explain a little more. Our Hemp Oil Soft Soap is an oil based soap made by Natural Spa Supplies based on ancient British soap making techniques. It is a remarkable soap in that is great for wet shaving, deep cleaning and exfoliating the skin, controling spot prone skin and for cleaning hard to clean things such as burn pans, greasy oily things, dried food from pet bowls, germy things such as cat litter trays. While it has remarkable anti-microbial powers, the great thing about it is that it is fine for people with sensitive skin. So one soap does many tasks in the home and around the stableyard. The soap biodegrades rapidly in the soil and it is packed in reusable glass jars. Follow the link to read more about and buy Hemp Oil Soap

I used the course sponge on the tack, because, the grease can only be removed in one of two ways – by dissolving it (the Hemp Oil Soap breaks down the grease and combines with it so it can be rinsed away) and by mechanical pressure, which also helps with the penetration of the soap through the grease. The Macho Fina Sponge is an unbleached sponge which comes from Greece and which has been collected sustainable by licenced divers. It has a very course and complex texture which is rough enough to remove the grease, but also great for getting the soap in to the rough underside of the leather and into any cracks in the surface, but without destoying the surface finish. You can cut the Macho Fina Sponge into the size that works best for just with a bread knife. The sponge pad I created from this was about 1 inch thick which made it strong enough for the hard work and thick enough to get a good grip on. When the sponge does come to the end of its life, add it to the dung heap or bury it in the soil with your kitchen waste.

The Scrubby is a scouring pad made of cotton which looks rather like a colourful flannel. The big difference is that the loops are as hard a gypsum and it has tremendous scrubbing power. I used one for my washing up and it makes it twice as fast. It is great at many kitchen jobs such as the hob, the draining board and sink, the taps and any rough surfaces such as skirting boards. It is great for cleaning cleaning the bit too! The Scrubbies are very hard wearing and durable and with all the different colours and designs they bring genuine joy and great satisfaction to cleaning. I have retired one Scrubby already by cutting it up and burying it with my food waste in the garden – that will gradually biodegrade.

I hope that you found this blog useful and that you’d like to give it a go!

Scrubbies come is all different patterns and colours