Leather is a tough material that can take a lot of abuse. Vegetable-tanned leather and bridle leather are the types of leather used in equestrian gear, and are meant to be used outdoors and in the elements.
Your Walnut Studiolo product was made with either vegetable-tanned or bridle leather (if you're not sure which, check the "Materials" section under each product's listing page). Both Walnut's vegetable-tanned and bridle leather are tanned with vegetable tannins (oak bark) at our USA tannery.
Walnut's vegetable-tanned leather, is a full-grain leather, which is considered the highest grade of leather. The full-grain leather is unsanded, and is dyed and finished by hand in Walnut's workshop with our own recipe of leather care dressing, which allows the natural and variable leather character to shine through and creates a lustrous surface.
With Walnut's bridle leather, which is made with top-grain leather, the tannery takes it one step further by sanding or buffing the surface down to remove imperfections, and infusing it with the tannery's waxes and dyes, which creates a homogenous surface with a matte finish. Top-grain leather is considered the second-highest grade of leather. Walnut uses bridle leather in only a few products, such as the mud flaps, where long-term durability is more important than highest-grade beauty.
The bridle leather should need less maintenance than the vegetable-tanned, but in both cases, we recommend conditioning the leather occasionally, especially if it starts to look dry, using the care recommendations below.
Care Recommendations: If your product is starting to look dry, take the time to give it a little care with a conditioning treatment. Care for it as little as once every year or two for occasional use with good storage conditions and as much as once a quarter for heavy outdoor use in the direct sun with dry humidity.
Cleaning Leather: If your leather gets dirty, clean it with diluted mild castile soap or hand dishwashing liquid. Dilute the soap/liquid at least 1:10 (it should not be sudsy), and allow to fully dry before conditioning.
Conditioning Instructions: Assemble your leather care conditioning treatment of choice and your clean, dry leather product.
For a conditioning treatment, we recommend our own recipe of leather dressing, or you can use any commercially-available weather-proofing conditioner product designed for vegetable-tanned leather, like for equestrian sportswear, or even a simple oil, like neatsfoot oil (best), mineral oil (second best), or even olive oil. Walnut Studiolo's All-Natural Leather Dressing contains neatsfoot oil and lanolin for conditioning, beeswax for water resistance, and pine resin and essential oils for preservation. Our leather dressing was developed in-house based on research of historic, colonial-era fisherman's boot wax recipes.
Rub a coat of conditioning treatment into your product lightly using a clean dry rag. Even if it has been a while, use a light coat. Heavy coats of oil can encourage mildew growth. so you want to apply lightly and buff dry, several times if necessary.
You can do this as many times as you like, even allowing the treatment to soak in overnight before buffing dry.
Keep in mind that conditioning leather usually darkens it slightly. Don't worry, this is normal. In fact, doing this several times in a row can speed up the natural darkening process that happens during aging and can also help you fine-tune the color match, if for example, you're trying to match an aged Brooks saddle.
More Information: For a lot more information on leather care than you may have ever wanted to know, check out this excellent article by DeeAnna Weed of the Midwest Fjord Horse Club. It's geared more for equestrian gear but has a ton of helpful leather care information.