Leather wipes aren’t a substitute for the labors of leather care, but they are a handy luxury when you’re on the road or short on time. They also might be helpful if you run a riding school or a camp and depend on kids to care for your tack, so you don’t have to worry about too much water in the mix.
We think these products are worthwhile if they induce you to clean your tack every time you ride instead of just when you find time. Ideally, your tack should be clean and conditioned well enough that a wipe-down with a damp cloth leaves it ready to use the next time.
That said, there’s really no easy way to take care of your tack. Wipes are no substitute for an old-fashioned deep cleaning and conditioning with sponges, elbow grease and lots of time.
With these points in mind, our main requirements for a tack wipe are convenience and effectiveness. We’re looking for something that’s a good substitute for times that we’re away from home or in a rush. We want our tack to feel clean and look good after we have used a wipe, close to how it feels when we do it the regular way. We also appreciate when it feels conditioned, too.
Leather wipes do “expire” after a few years. Spritzing them with water doesn’t bring them back to life, since the cleaners and conditioners have pretty much evaporated. Same goes for transporting them in a baggie. If you’re going to leave them there for a while, you may be better off with a wipe that comes in its own envelope. A zippered baggie full of wipes is fine for a weekend at a show, but then the wipes will begin to dry out.
Our testers seemed to either really like or really dislike the Tack Wipes product, which includes olive oil. This may sound odd — you’re cleaning your tack, not making salad dressing — but saddle makers say olive oil is a fine leather conditioner.
Kevin Caporaletti, of Journeyman Saddlery in Middleburg, Va., says the oil he sells has olive oil in it, and Bob Brenner, a saddle maker who owns Pike’s Peak Saddlery, agrees that it’s effective stuff. But he does caution that olive oil can darken tack, which some of our testers found was the case with Tack Wipes. Other testers felt it seemed to dry their tack more than they’d like or even seemed to dry their hands as they worked on their leather.
How “wet” a wipe was, or how much product it was saturated with, was a matter of personal preference.
Some testers seemed to like to have plenty of cleaner or conditioner on their wipes, like the Lexol wipes do, while others preferred a wipe with less “juice,” like Tack Wipes.
Tack Wipes are also big. This means you’re still getting a lot of product, but it’s spread over a larger wipe wipe.
Tack Wipes and the Belvoir glycerine wipes also give you the all-in-one approach to tack cleaning, which is appealing to many. Both wipes clean and condition in one step. If you’re going to use a leather-care wipe, you’re already opting for convenience, so the idea of using two wipes — one for cleaning and then a different one for conditioning — can be frustrating.
But not everyone likes the all-in-one approach either. If you prefer your cleaner and conditioner separate, you’ll want to use one of the other wipes. If you take wipes on the road, it’s easier if they are in little envelopes, like Lexol and Belvoir. (After the trial, we learned that Tack Wipes now comes in individual packages as well as in the one tub.)
If you prefer multi-wipe tub packs, which are useful in places where you’re going through a lot of wipes in a short amount of time, both Weaver and Tack Wipes come in plastic dispenser tubs.
The Weaver tubs are small enough to sit comfortably in most grooming baskets. The Tack Wipes Tub is much larger, more a shelf-size product container.
Weaver is the only wipe with a special shine product. If you polish formal driving harness, tall boots, or other tack that you want to really gleam when you step into the show ring, don’t forget to use the extra step that Weaver’s shine imparts. If you are looking for a hard, glittery shine, this is definitely the leather-finishing wipe for you.
The Weaver Wipes Cleaner includes Bick 1 cleaner, which is from Bickmore. The Conditioner includes Bick 4 conditioner.
It’s important that the first wipe in the containers is well threaded through correctly or the wipes won’t tear correctly. Some testers did experience jams with the Weaver dispensers and the Tack Wipes dispenser.
And if you like glycerine soap, buy the Belvoir wipes. Most of our testers preferred Lexol’s “smoother” cleanser, which is listed as “glycerin-rich,” but if you’re a die-hard glycerine fan who likes the squeaky-clean feeling a glycerine bar leaves behind, you’ll like the Belvoir wipes.
Frankly, there isn’t a bad wipe in the lot. However, they do fall under what we consider “luxury” products. They are considerably more expensive than traditional leather-care products and, of course, there’s more waste. That said, time is also an issue for most of us and clean, well-cared-for tack is worth whatever cost.
If you like travel-size tubs, you may find Weaver’s wipes work best. The Weaver wipes performed well in our trials, and we have no complaints. If you’re a diehard pure-glycerine traditionalist, you’re probably going to be happiest with Belvoir wipes.
For most people, however, the Lexol wipes are the way to go. The Lexol cleaner got our testers’ tack the cleanest overall, and the Lexol conditioner also received the most consistent marks.
For those who would prefer an olive-oil conditioner and don’t mind if it darkens your tack a bit, go with Tack Wipes. Tack Wipes also earned our Best Buy.