I think it's safe to say that without proper care, a leather won't last as long as it should. After perusing the saddleback website for tips on what to use when conditioning the bag, the site recommends either baby oil, mink oil, or beeswax. I was wondering if anybody had used any of the three on their bag yet especially the beeswax. And if anyone has any other tips about caring for their manbag.
Regrettably, I have no experience with a bag. But I've used beeswax with a great deal of success on other leather items, including my dopp kit, and mink oil (which waterproofs) on a monthly basis for my leather hikers for the last couple years. Be forewarned: Mink oil does darken leather noticeably. So test in an inconspicuous place first.
Keeping leather moist is essential—just like moistening your own hide. If you don't, you will see it wear and crack (trust me, I lost a pricey pair of hikers this way, which is why I now oil mine monthly).
Keeping it clean is also important. Just like automotive paint, leather can be damaged by dirt, chemicals, paint, and other contaminants. I wash my leather products immediately after they get dirty, and dry them off.
Applying beeswax and mink oil are both easy, I just use a piece of an old T-shirt, wipe it on evenly, and buff it a little. The leather seems to soak up the oils. Hope this helps, and I'd love to hear how this works on the Saddleback leather.
After about 8 months of hard use, I just used Obenauf's (sp?) on my SBL XL Briefcase. It only darkened the leather slightly and brought it back to the bag's original color. The odor wore off after about 2 hours, and now I have my old bag back! Seems to work great, but I only plan on using it once a year or so to let my bag develop it's own personality. Just my two cents worth.
I don't know that I would use beeswax on my bag- I've used it on my Maine Hunting Shoes, and it makes them waterproof, but you seem to loose the breathability of the leather. I would be horrified if my bag smelled like baby oil. So that leaves mink oil, which darkens the leather.
Anyone know what they use on high end saddles? I've seen amazing leatherwork that is over 100 years old that is still soft and supple.... I think I'm going to go with some form of natural oil rather than petroleum based oils (vasoline, baby, etc.) as I think it would soak into the leather better. As with anything, I think the worst thing you can do to leather is to not use it. What about olive oil? It seems to work for a lot of things.... One of my clients mentioned she saw some wipes from "method" or something at Target that might work well for when you don't want to spend the time for a full cleaning/conditioning routine. Has anyone used them?
So far, the only cleaning my SBL bag has gotten was when I got too close to a waterfall in Cambodia.
After doing a little research (I love the internet and all its useful information.), I figure that I'll go the mink oil route. Any recommendations for mink oil products? I found this and it sounds like what I'm looking for: http://www.mermacminkoil.com/faq.htm
Another note, I also found some articles that claim saddle soap is actually bad for everyday leather products.
I recently bought a pair of Irish Setter boots made by Red Wing (I know, different group). When I asked if the shop carried mink oil, the shop owner said no, but Red Wing makes a product with mink oil, pine pitch and beeswax. It's great, both on the boots and my Saddle Back bag. It darkened the bag nicely, which is what I was looking for. I highly recommend Red Wing's 'All Natural Leather Dressing'.
I've got a "natural" leather briefcase of indeterminate Eastern European origin and when I tried to clean it, the natural leather color turned orange-ish. What, if any, are my options until I can afford to replace it with something of better quality.
Just asked our leather expert, Dave, about this and he said it could have happened for many reasons. But the fix depends on what type of leather the bag is made of. If it's vegetable-tanned leather, you can go out and get a dye or a stain and stain it. If it's a chrome tanned leather, then you can use a colored oil. Mink oil is a good one just to condition it.
Or, just celebrate your new color of bag! :) It's probably going to be difficult to fix either way....