Washington is famous for many things: apples, trees, grunge bands... and rain. There are parts of the state that get so much, in fact, that they meet the criteria to be called rain forests: 68-78 inches of rain a year. That's a LOT.
That's great, Wen, I hear you saying, But why are you going on about rain? We want to see pretty pictures of what you've been working on this week!
Okay. How's this for a picture?
That's mildew, folks, and mold. Furry grey-green yuck all over a very nice English saddle. It happens faster than you would think, thanks to all the dampness here. The crud just loves to get into dark, damp places and eat up all the yummy sweat and grime and stuff that we and our horses leave on tack. This is why it's important to give your gear a wipe after riding rather than put it up damp and sweaty.
This is an extreme case. A saddle in regular use wouldn't get this bad. This one was in storage and -- if I'm any good at guessing -- elicited screams of horror when it was found. (No, it's not mine. It belongs to a client. But I would have screamed.)
Step one: get rid of all the crud. It wasn't until afterwards that I realized I should probably have been wearing a dust mask while cleaning. All those airborne mold spores -- I can feel them in my lungs. Ugh. *cough-cough* I just popped the whole works -- stool and all-- into the utility sink in the laundry room and used saddle soap on a damp sponge to wipe it all down. Then I got a fresh sponge and scrubbed the whole thing again, under all the flaps and into the crevices and it just felt so good, you guys.
Look at that. No more green!
Such an amazing difference -- now for the top coat! I used a product by Farnam called Leather New Foam that I got at the local tack shop. Cleans, conditions, and shines in one easy step! it says. I appreciate their use of the Oxford comma, though I am usually not a fan of one-step products as they usually produce substandard results. This stuff is pretty good, though, and came highly recommended. I just put a dollop on, rub it around with my hands, and then wipe off the lather with a bit of clean toweling.
I like how it gives a bit of shine without being dazzling.
The final step is a go-over with a moisturizing wax I make myself with beeswax, olive oil, and tea tree oil. The tea tree oil has anti-fungal properties which I hope will help prevent a recurrence of the nasty mess we started out with.
Isn't it pretty? I can't wait to take it back to its owner and hear the happy exclamations.