View Full Version : Leather Maintenance & restoration

40 Nuck
11-06-2008, 03:35 PM
I was going to PM Paquette, but realized that others may both have an opinion on this topic and/or benefit from the question and its responses.

I'd like to make sure that my leather seat and saddlebags are maintained as much as possible, as well as some of the vintage horsehide jackets I have. I know others are concerned with boots and other pieces of clothing.

In doing research on leather treatments, the opinions seem to be like you know what ... everyone has a different one. Anyway, I know that silicones are bad, but have seen all kinds of products that are both recommended and disdained. It seems that mink oil (without any silicone additive) is generally recommended. I am curious as to what folks with practical application and are independent of product profits recommend.

My seat is a new manufacture repop (I intend to have an original seat pan recovered and replace it). Any recommendation on treatments and cleaners on new stuff?

I also have a pair of original Speedball Saddlebags, and a couple of old horsehide jackets. The saddlebags are in nice shape, but the previous owner seems to have oiled the straps pretty heavily and they seem almost too flexible ... almost seem like they could be easily torn.

The horsehide jackets are in generally good shape, but one has a few areas where the original surface has worn away or degraded, and the raw leather is exposed. Is there a way to preserve as much as possible these exposed areas?

Thanks in advance for any recommendations.

11-06-2008, 06:27 PM
Yup, I got one. I try to use it daily. I don't know about the old leather, but for my jackets, gloves, shoes and repop bags, I like Meltonian Leather Balm. I think just about anything will work on Vinyl. I have had good results with ArmorAll.

11-06-2008, 07:39 PM
I use products from a company called Obenauf's. They have a web site and sometimes have closeouts on private lable stock. Thier site can explane it better but basically the stuff was designed to preserve the leather boots of the people who fight forest fires out west. If it's good enough to protect leather against standing in boiling lye for hours on end..... well lets just say it works real good.

11-07-2008, 08:37 AM
Stay away from any type of oil such as neetsfoot, mineral, baby, etc. as it has the effect of sealing the leather and does not allow it to breathe. Mink oil is OK for boots buy not seats or bags. I use a lot of glycerine in restoring old leather. It sinks into the leather without sealing it and attracts moisture which is just what leather needs. I also use a lot of Lexol brand products, leather cleaner, preservative, etc. and I think they also have a product for garment leathers. Lexol also contains glycerine. Remember: leather needs moisture, not oil!!!!
Michael Paquette--6671

40 Nuck
11-07-2008, 09:37 AM
Much appreicated guys ... I'll do a little more research specifically on Lexol and Obenauf's for the right product for the right application, and ensure that the product content is what I need. I guess as I was skimming the internet, I would see product sites swearing by their stuff, and finding that it contained silicone or sealants, etc. and became skeptical of what I was finding out there. Your real world experience is much more credible. Thanks again.

T. Cotten
11-07-2008, 10:00 AM
40 Knuck!

Please stay away from Neatsfoot oil on horsehide at all costs.

It will shrink and turn as hard as oak, and it cannot be rejuvenated.


40 Nuck
11-07-2008, 10:45 AM
Thanks, Cotten. By the way, I think I'll be getting with you soon on my M25 Carb. Based on everyone's info, I'm thinking of going with the Lexol PH Cleaner with glycerine (rather than Glycerine Saddle Soap ... alkaline?), and then using either the Meltonian, Obenaufs or Lexol Conditioner. There is also some pure glycerine out there sold in a jug ... not sure if it would be helpful to give the leather a light treatment of that every now and then.

11-07-2008, 07:37 PM
I have had this discussion with Mr. Cotten on another forum before, but neetsfoot will cause cowhide to become hard as a rock as well as horsehide. Believe me, this is what I do for a living and glycerine and the Lexol products are tried and true in my experience. The pure glycerine ( which is a by-product of bio-fuel production) is used in hand soaps, hand lotions, etc. because it ATTRACTS MOISTURE, making leather more supple and workable. Neetsfoot oil, while upon application, makes leather supple, it seals out the moisture and hardens both horsehide and cowhide,---M--6671

T. Cotten
11-07-2008, 09:18 PM
Neat'sfoot oil is why these saddlebags hang upon my roof and not upon a machine: (attached).

The bottoms of the bags were cowhide, and suffered not at all. The lids turned to rock.

Only then did an old farmer tell me they were obviously horsehide.

Neat's foot means cow's foot, because that's what its made from.
Horses are a different animal.

It should be no mystery why so many solos are found with a cover that remains supple and intact, but the binding strip, even though protected from the elements and sun beneath, has disintegrated into chalky fragments.


11-07-2008, 11:41 PM
When those fast food hamburgers cool down and the taste changes drastically.....now you know what they are made out of.

40 Nuck
11-07-2008, 11:47 PM
Uh oh ... didn't mean to start (or re-start) TWII (Thread War II). Just for clarification, Mike, should the glycerine be used by itself, full strength, or simply considered as an ingredient. Is my proposed use of Lexol PH Cleaner followed by Lexol conditioner a sound choice? Thanks to both ... and I will not use Neats Foot oil on my Horsehide.

11-08-2008, 12:17 AM
Neat'sfoot oil is why these saddlebags hang upon my roof and not upon a machine: (attached).


Cotten, what IS that up on your roof? Looks like a UL Chain on the other side, Big Twin oil tank, Big Twin kicker sidecover, Flat heads, but in a twin downtube frame with the front exhaust is coming out-the-side (?) Suggests a 36VLD top end on a UL bottom. Can't gauge scale, but it looks funny. Would you elaborate, please?

T. Cotten
11-08-2008, 08:15 AM
Sorry to get off topic, but since Sarge asked:

There is nothing on my roof sign that should ever need to be retrieved. Everything is gutted and filled with 'fomofill' to attempt to keep the bird's nests to a minimum, and also welded together to prevent injury to passers by below.

The right case was WL unearthed (literally) behind a local Indian dealer shack, and the heads were labeled "junk" when Rat Scherk contributed them fifteen years ago.

The front of the frame is HD, but I think the rear was BSA. It came out of a golf course lake that way.

Wheels are Beezers from a local gravel pit. I suspect the fender is Horex or Puch from the same dig.

The center seat post is a vacuum cleaner 'wand'. The generator is a propane bottle. The headlamp clock is not wired, but set to "six to nine". The brake grip is an oilfilter wrench.

The fork is a Paughco that dropped a buddy twice because he thought he could actually run a fender.

The rest is almost what it appears to be,... well maybe sorta.... One thing that is missing is a lightning ground strap.

Back to topic:
It would be interesting to know what the true origin of the bags might be, as I always considered them just 'vintage aftermarket'.

The bottoms sag badly now (from bird's nests), but the lids are still the way they petrified from the Neatsfoot oil. They have the color and consistancy of a coconut shell.


11-08-2008, 07:21 PM
As I have previously stated, Just do not use any type of oil to condition seats, saddlebags, or jackets.

T. Cotten
11-09-2008, 08:05 PM
Although I'm sure this will split hairs and get under somebody's skin somehow,

I must point out that the prime concern in leather preservation is mold control.
Many of you might have noticed that products like Mink Oil are mildew food!

The apparent leader in combating this scourge is http://www.leathertherapy.com/

Gawdforbid, they use a mix of oils.


Rod K
11-09-2008, 08:38 PM
I just picked up some "leather therapy" this week. It was recomended by some (horse people)
that I know. Used it on both new and old seats and was very pleased. It seems to have a
glyceryn content along with any oils. It"s not at all oily and penetrates easily and leaves a nice feel to the surface....Rod

T. Cotten
11-11-2008, 10:17 AM
Attached is a photo (ca. 1981) of the bags with horsehide lids before suffering from neat'sfoot oil. The lids were already slightly shrunken .
Any information about them would be appreciated, TIA..

While searching some vintage leather references, I was surprised that I could find information on nearly any other species than horse!
Apparently the animals were too useful, and lived such longer lives than food animals that their hides were usually too battle-scarred for garments or upholstery.


40 Nuck
11-11-2008, 11:17 AM
I think a lot of horsehide was used in the past as horses were much more plentiful ... they were used for farm and draft work. So a lot of old leather clothes were made of them. It is a heavier and thought to be tougher material, and seems perfect where you need real protection. Not as supple as other leathers for casual wear, but I feel a lot more protected with horsehide while on the bike. The interesting thing is that you can find a lot of vintage horsehide stuff on ebay, and there is so much of it, that you can find a large size, and while some of it is very expensive, if you keep your eye out, you can get a deal. I've paid less than $230 for two heavy horsehide jackets in good shape with great patina ... one longer and one shorter ... in sizes of 44 and 46. If I were buying a cheap, current production, lightweight leather jacket, I would have paid about the same ... much, Much more if I were looking for a quality jacket. One warning/question to ask of internet sellers however ... does it have an odor ... almost impossible to get odors out of old clothes.

11-16-2008, 01:52 PM
Michael, can the glyserin be a vegetable type extraction ? Thanks, Paps

11-16-2008, 11:32 PM
For what it's worth Dykes Automobile and Gasoline Engine Encyclopedia indicates that for dressing all leather.............. Raw linseed oil and turpentine, mixed in proportions of two of the former to one of the latter, is a time-honored formula.

11-18-2008, 07:58 PM
WOW! that brought back some memories, that's what granpa used to dress our ballgloves with when we were little. I had forgoten all about that till you brought it up, thanks.

11-18-2008, 10:04 PM
You bethca! I was hoping some of the leather guys would weigh in on it........ just curious..... Oh, by the way anybody who doesn't have a copy of that encyclopedia should get one. It's got a pile of info in it.....

11-19-2008, 07:20 PM
CO--As a leather guy weighing in, please read my previous posts. No type of oil should be used on motorcycle seats or saddlebags!!!! It is a recipe for disaster and I will be the guy that folks send this stuff to for repair!!!!--Michael--6671

Rod K
11-19-2008, 09:34 PM
Cory, I've got a copy of Dykes . Every time I pick that thing up Im good for 2 hours of reading. It's hard to put down. Heres another question, I've got some Britt bikes also.
A solo seat by Lycette..covered with a heavy type of oil cloth and a dual seat from the 50s
that has a leather look, but is some type of vinyl. What to use on these type of seats?
I won't use any silicone products..... Thanks for any help...Rod

11-19-2008, 09:37 PM
I read your posts Michael. I just thought I'd post on what they were doing back in the '20's. I guess things have come a long way....... I've got an ancient bicycle seat that may have seen oil in it's lifetime. Man, you could break rocks with it now!!

11-20-2008, 08:35 AM
H-D sold a product back in the 30's & 40's called Leather Lacquer, and that is just what it was lacquer, but OH would it make your seat and bags look purdy ( for a while)!!! It sealed the leather and would eventually make it hard as a rock and crack like the bottom of a dry lake bed. Sometimes, the old ways aren't the best!!

12-04-2008, 06:11 PM

Thought this question belongs in this thread rather than start another. If one were to have put neatsfoot oil on a new set of bags, only on the outside, can the damage be stopped or reversed with the application of anything else, like maybe a solvent or perhap a good soap and detergent cleaning followed up by treatment with Lexol or glycerine?

I'm asking because I have always had neatsfoot oil around for making black powder lubes and since the old school info has always been to use neatsfoot oil on leather, there is a chance that I have used this stuff on a set of bags in the past, or maybe even one of my older jackets. Can I save them before it's too late?

40 Nuck
12-08-2008, 04:30 PM
Good question ... if Michael doesn't see this thread, you may want to send him a private message.

12-08-2008, 09:06 PM
Rob--Before I got into motorcycles, I rode horses, team penning, trail rides, Roundups,etc. Extreme Cowboy type stuff and I used neetsfoot oil liberally on my Circle Y saddles ( the best money can buy) and it seemed to work fine. So when I started Worsham Castle Cycle Leather, naturally I thought neetsfoot would work on all types of old motorcycle leather. Man O Man was I wrong. I ruined so many really good examples of COWHIDE saddlebags it would make one sick. Then I started doing research into leather, what does old leather need and how to acheive that goal. That is when I discovered a formula that attracts moisture while allowing the leather to breathe. That is the key, do not seal the leather, allow it to attract moisture and breathe!!!!!!!!!!! --Michael--WCCL

12-09-2008, 02:36 PM

Yes, I'm fully converted over to the Rev. Paquette's Church of Moist Leather. But my question was, can I save, or better yet, should I try to save something that might have had an application of neatsfoot oil not too long ago?

I'm not looking for you to reveal your secrets for restoring leather. That's like asking a magician to show you his tricks. I was just wondering for myself and perhaps others out there if we could reverse the damage done by an application or two of neatsfoot in the past by formerly heathen rider such as myself?

And...since we are on the subject, is it every adviseable to spray Lexol on the rough leather side of a garment or set of bags? Or do we just spray on the smooth side and rub in?

And if this was answered in previous posts by you, I apologize for asking again. This is why I think this site would profit (informationally and productively) by a Garage type of page for tech articles, how to's, etc.


12-09-2008, 07:06 PM
Rob--As far as I know, I am the only vendor that will even try and restore old saddlebags, and it is a "Female Dog" to do. If neetsfoot has been used recently you can soak them in an industrial degreaser to try and remove the oil but once that neetsfoot oil permeates the leather, there is not much one can do. I really do not have any "secrets" as I have freely given my advice, methods, and opinions on this forum. I have been able to bring many vintage seats, bags, and other items back to life and it is a truely remarkable moment when I restore these things and get the reaction from my customers--It is what makes what I do so fullfilling---Michael

12-09-2008, 07:51 PM
Rob, Apply the degreaser and pat down the leather with paper towels. Do this as many times as you can stand to do it. Then repeat the same process using glycerin.(Most drug stores have it.) Then get a big jug of Lexol and have it. I don’t think you can put to much Lexol on old leather. Your bags will be fine. How am I doing Michael?

12-10-2008, 12:23 PM
Understood. I'm not talking about old stuff here, except for maybe a jacket. It's all new stuff that might have gotten a treatment of neatsfoot just because I had it around.

02-15-2009, 09:42 PM
I use Corn Huskers lotion on my hands,main ingredient is glycerin and no oils,any drug store should have it. I bet it would work on leather!What is in Lexol?Johnny-Badgers

02-15-2009, 09:43 PM
I use Corn Huskers lotion on my hands,main ingredient is glycerin and no oils,any drug store should have it. I bet it would work on leather!What is in Lexol?Johnny-Badgers

04-21-2009, 04:28 PM
Fantastic thread and gold class advice fellas.
I'm off to search my shed for any 'Neatsfoot' type product and toss it.
Good on you.


06-11-2010, 11:22 AM
What is the genuine HD leather preservative? To me it sure smells and looks like "Pecards" which also happens to be a product of Wisconsin. Anyone have an opinion on Pecards?

06-12-2010, 12:44 PM
Try this:


I have used it on leather in cars and it works very well. Also smells like new leather.

Z-10 Leather in a Bottle™ Treatment and Conditioner contains a perfectly balanced, solvent-free blend of special oils and other natural conditioners. Z-10 Leather in a Bottle™ penetrates and preserves all fine leathers for years of beautiful service.

We also added Ultra-Gard™ for total protection from the sun, and our exclusive real leather oil concentrate for a rich leather scent. After just one use, your car will have that great new leather smell again.

Z-10 Leather in a Bottle™ leaves a non-sticky, greaseless, stain repelling, natural luster and restores the supple feel and smell of new leather. Does a great job on vinyl interiors and dashboards too. One whiff and you will agree its Leather in a Bottle™. We believe this product has no equal in the world.

The Z-10 bottle contains 8 fl. ozs. (236 ml.)


For best results, apply every 60-90 days.

Just wipe on and let dry. No buffing is necessary.

Do not use an excessive amount.

Allow your leather to dry thoroughly before using.

11-06-2015, 10:42 PM
The curator of the Illinois Military Museum suggested either Pecard's or Cellugel. It seemed that he preferred Cellugel; so, I am using it to preserve some WW II leather family artifacts. It may be obtained from Preservation Solutions, 2650 West Montrose Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618. Pecard's runs an advertisement in AMCA's magazine.
I use Red Wing Boot Oil on my Red Wing boots. They are 22+ years old, and I make good use of them on the bikes and on the farm. The way they are holding up, they may make it another 22 years. Hmm, maybe I should use some of that stuff on me!