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Hey Andrew, thanks for the info on the leather treatment. How often do you use the neatsfoot oil on your car seats and will this keep them "soft and supple" but retain the strenght and durability of the leather?...I just remember years ago when I owned a 1970 Buick GS with a vinyl top (why did they do that) and it was actually in OK shape...until I started using armor all. It went totally downhill in about 3 months. I'll never use that stuff again.
I guess my question is, is it better to leave the leather seats alone and be careful...or does the neatsfoot oil really help!?
Thanks and sorry for the long post!
Randy
 

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You're right about the Armour-All. It's not meant to be a leather preservative.

Yes, neetsfoot oil keeps your leather soft, and softness is the desirable trait.

Untreated leather which is in constant use will eventually dry out and harden with time, and constant bending and shoving and pushing and folding will fatigue it rather like metal, so that it splits along the stress lines, rather than resiliently giving way and then bouncing back.

At this time of year, consider your own skin (and leather used to be, after all, someone else's skin). If your skin gets dry, it starts to crack and split at high-stress places, like your knuckles. And you get around this by stupid tricks like, say, applying Vaseline to them every so often. Same idea with leather.

There doubtless are other leather oiling products that are just as good as neetsfoot oil. I only cite neetsfoot all the time because I have a 5-gallon can of it, and haven't had to shop for a replacement for a few decades, nor am I likely to ever again.

FWIW, while I do have a leather steering wheel, I also have the cloth seats, so I cannot in good conscience give evidence directly concerning the seats in our cars. But my leather bike jacket is 25 years old, and has seen a lot of stress. While it doesn't exactly look new any more, what with the bug shit all over it, it sure the heck looks better than a quarter century, and is still soft.

There's no reason that leather can't last forever. When visiting a church in Cambridgeshire, England, I was shown a pair of Oliver Cromwell's leather boots (guess he died with his boots off). After more than three centuries of regular treatment, they were in excellent shape. (Seems he had square toes. Or else that was just the style back then).

(Sorry, forgot to answer part of your question). Yes, leather will maintain its original strength if you keep it oiled. I think that you're just replacing natural oils that would otherwise be lost. I do my leather clothing articles at least once a year, high stress stuff like the jacket and my wallet and vest twice a year. Winter gloves, belt, and such, at least once a year, more if they start to look dry. Given that book covers (but not spines) are not typically exposed to the air, I think that they could probably go longer, but I do them once a year anyway.

Like riding a bicycle in a race, eat before you're hungry, drink before you're thirsty, and oil leather before it dries out.

[This message has been edited by Andrew Caple (edited January 10, 2000).]
 

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Any competent equestrian store ought to carry the stuff. Oh, they'll gouge you on the price, but that's life. But a place that sells saddles and tack for horses, Western or English, ought to sell it.

If you live anywhere near farm land, or Marlboro country, or even HeeHaw country, you may have big huge WalMart-sized farm-supply type stores that sell seed and tack and western clothing and feed buckets and fencing and engine grease and crap like that. They, too, may carry it.

Last resort is the leather store in the mall. Experience tells me that the bigger quantities (like a half-gallon and up) cost dramatically less per unit volume than the farty little 2 ounce plastic bottles. Go for the volume.

Again, let me emphasize that neetsfoot oil is probably *not* the only oil out there for leather, and that there doubtless are other products that will do the trick. I stick with it because I have so much of it and because I know from horse tack experience that it works fine.

What I *would* avoid is anything from KTel or Ronco like "super jiffy EZ leather care in a spray can", or this crap from Canadian Tire called "The Tannery" that some idiot gave me. But this is probably because I'm conservative and tend to mistrust anything that is hyped up with glossy late-night TV ads. Don't use Armour-All.

If you cannot find neetsfoot oil, ask around at leather stores (the kind with some old Polish guy in the back doing repairs, not Bob's Big World Of Gay Leather at the Six Flags Mall) and equestrian tack shops, seek out people who deal with leather for a living and who care about a quality product (specifically don't ask the high school girl on the cash register - look for some old fart, or some broad wearing jodhpurs).

P.S. Equestrian stores are a great place to innocently indulge your whip fetish.
 
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