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Handmade leather & canvas cleaner

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CaraBou

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I'm soon hitting the Iditarod Trail and need my arctic boots in tip-top shape. I'm hoping you can help.

I wear Steger mukluks, with moosehide vamps hugging my feet and canvas uppers almost to my knees. Inside are snug but removable thick wool inserts. With these and other appropriate gear I've functioned fine to help dog teams either temporarily hunker down or keep trudging along their incredible thousand mile journey.

Four winters I've worn these boots, mostly in snowy subzero temps which actually helps keep them clean. But still, they're kinda krusty which might inhibit function to some degree. And every one of those counts, I'm pretty sure.

I have the product Steger recommends to clean the suede and canvas. It's affordable and easy to use, but I am wondering if you have other tricks up your sleeves? There are almost 2 weeks left to clean, dry and reform.

Pic below is not me but instead some other brave soul with the exact same boots and a similar sense of adventure.

Mukluks.jpeg
 

DeeAnna

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The leather has a suede finish? If that's correct and if the leather is still pliable, but just dirty, I'd just use the cleaner you've got on the leather and canvas, let dry, give the dried leather a good brush to lift the nap, and maybe use a spray type water repellent finish. It's hard to clean suede more deeply and still preserve the surface finish.

If the back side of the laces is a smooth finish and the laces look like they need a bit more pliability, you could apply a light coat of leather conditioner, but just on the smooth surface. Something like Lexol or Leather Therapy would be good. I'd not use a heavy oil such as neatsfoot, mink oil, neatsfoot compound, etc. Or just replace the laces entirely if they are badly worn.

If the leather on the foot is getting really stiff and crunchy from salts and stuff soaking into the leather, it's possible to clean it a little more deeply. I'd dampen the leather with a mixture of a small squirt of mild detergent and lukewarm water (something like Dawn dishwashing liquid, not soap), gently scrub, and follow with a rinse of lukewarm running water. Don't soak the leather with water. Give it a good long time to dry, brush it well, and add a water repellent. This may permanently change the appearance of the suede, however.

The Kelly Lynn cleaner is made by Fiebing, but they're awfully cagey about the ingredients. Even the MSDS doesn't give any hints.
 

mx6inpenn

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I have no answer for your question, but wow! Do you have a team competing? Must be awesome to see!

We have a husky and want to get him started with a sled soon!
 

CaraBou

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Yes, with my limited leather lingo I'd call it high napped suede. For whatever reason it didn't look nearly as dirty as the canvas. The canvas was grungy in places and even had what appeared to be red wine stains (?!:shifty:). Last night I spot treated the wine stains with an oxyclean solution and applied the Kelly's cleaner throughout. The boots look much better now, and more importantly they seem to have dried just fine. I was worried the cleaner would stiffen the materials but everything seems as supple as they were going in to this. The Kelly's is definitely worth $6.50 and I won't hesitate to order it again.

I had also ordered the recommended water & stain repellent and will apply the first coat tomorrow. I'm pretty sure I used this same product when I initially got the boots and annually the first couple years afterward. Maybe this is why the moose leather stayed so clean. These boots are designed for very cold temps but are not made to get wet. So, a good water repellent is essential and is not something I would skimp.

DeeAnna, the laces are indeed smooth on one side and suede on the other. They are still in amazingly good shape, which is great since they can't be replaced without undoing stitching near the base of the boot. I did not apply Kelly's to them last night because I didn't get into that detail. So thanks for the tip - I'll look for those other products. Just curious tho, why wouldn't the Kelly's work and why shouldn't Lexol be applied suede-side?

As for Fiebing not listing ingredients, I noticed that too which prompted my initial question. I couldn't help but wonder if their ingredients are fairly simple. Maybe not though, I have no idea what makes a good leather cleaner.

mx6: I'm not connected with any team. I just got completely hooked when I lived in Anchorage. it is truly an amazing event which is why I still volunteer even though I'm no longer in Alaska. I highly recommend the start line, finish line, or any point in between for your bucket list. It's also a wonderful boost from the late winter blues.

Here's an older post on the subject: http://www.soapmakingforum.com/showthread.php?t=43012
 
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mx6inpenn

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mx6: I'm not connected with any team. I just got completely hooked when I lived in Anchorage. it is truly an amazing event which is why I still volunteer even though I'm no longer in Alaska. I highly recommend the start line, finish line, or any point in between for your bucket list. It's also a wonderful boost from the late winter blues.

Here's an older post on the subject: http://www.soapmakingforum.com/showthread.php?t=43012
Alaska in general is a bucket list item! I know my husband would love to see the race. He'd love to have a team of his own.

That's great that you still go. Thanks for sharing the link!
 

DeeAnna

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"...Just curious tho, why wouldn't the Kelly's work and why shouldn't Lexol be applied suede-side?..."

I'd sure clean the laces with the Kelly's cleaner. But this stuff doesn't appear to be a conditioner, although maybe I'm wrong?

Lexol or Leather Therapy conditioners don't clean -- they are used to add fats back to the leather. (Leather Therapy also sells a cleaner -- I'm talking about just the conditioner.) If you put either of these products on the suede (fuzzy) side of the leather, the fats will darken the color and paste the nap down so the suede won't look as nice anymore. A thin wipe of conditioner on the smooth (grain) side will add fats back to the leather without messing up the suede.

If the laces are getting stiff from use or repeated wetting and drying, a little bit of conditioner will help soften them. But maybe yours don't need any help from conditioner -- you'll have to decide that. People tend to over-condition leather and putting too much fat on leather can really mess it up. I always tell people to lightly apply conditioner, wait a week or two, and condition again if needed.
 
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newbie

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You let me wear those mukluks when I was there, so I hope a little bit of me will be there in spirit and foot sweat with you! I swear I did not spill red wine on them....

I looked into volunteering but I have only skills to answer some phones, I think, so I opted out. Just as well, I guess, since my mom will be needing some help on weekends for a while. I'll be watching for your updates though!
 

CaraBou

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Duh - a conditioner! I hadn't thought about that, so thanks a bunch DeeAnna. I was gone most of the holiday weekend and hadn't looked up those products. Kelly's is only labeled as a cleaner so I doubt it conditions too. My laces are still pretty supple so I can probably wait for that step, especially since now I know not to overdo it ;). And to clarify, by "krusty" I meant "needing spiffing." I probably should have avoided that word but glad I didn't cuz now I know a lot more than before!

Newbie, I forgot you wore my Stegers! I do remember a slight snafu – was it your jacket not zipping right? It was quite cold standing around watching the individual release of 78 teams. But nothing kept you from cradling that snow to capture a dog's eye view of the trail - you have thick Wisconsin blood! You should post one of your pics!

I’m sorry you thought you’d only qualify for the phone room, because I think there are many things they’d readily accept you for – like Trail Guard, Comms, Race Statistics, Dog Drop, Registration Desk and others. It’s true they don’t like to put newbies at checkpoints without ‘HQ’ experience first, but then again they don’t know how far you are from your namesake… Anyway, let’s talk another year, especially when an empty nest has you down. There’s nothing like 1,200 dogs to pick a gal up!
 

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