Q: I love my white saddle pads, but find they are impossible to keep clean. What is the best way to get the stains out of the pads? —Name withheld by request
A: I have been cleaning saddle pads for years and I’ve tried pretty much everything under the sun to keep them clean and bright. There’s a saying: “An item is only as good as the thread that holds it.” I believe this goes for saddle pads. I repair a lot of saddle pads and I have made my own personal saddle pad. Let’s be honest about this problem though. There’s not much you can do to keep whites white without compromising the fabric with bleach. And even then, bleaches don’t really work. Here are my recommendations:
Generally, the cost of the saddle pad will dictate the quality of the pad. The quality of the saddle pad will be evident in how well it holds up after multiple cleanings and usage.
If you have dark-colored saddle pads, I recommend you clean them as best you can in cold water, using strong agitation. Do not use any cleaning agent if you can get away with it. This will definitely increase the life span of the pad.
When dealing with white and light colors, try to use cool or lukewarm water. Soaking will not necessarily help. Removing hair and debris is extremely helpful and sometimes that is exactly what you’re trying to get off your pad. Do not use regular detergent if possible as it contains a bleaching agent. Any type of bleach will weaken the threads that hold your items together and weaken the fabric itself. Avoid using eco-friendly cleaners as they are just too weak and will do very little to remove grime and dirt. A little hand-scrubbing is helpful as well.
The underside of a pad is somewhat hopeless to keep white and bright. But the outer part is what we all would like to have clean. Unfortunately, polishes from boots cannot be removed.
Hair from your pads can be devastating to your washer pump and excessive hair in a septic system is quite damaging to the system. Hair is comprised of tough strings of proteins, somewhat similar to what fingernails are made of. For a variety of complex reasons, these proteins are not as easily broken down by bacteria as organic waste is. They certainly are not even close to being broken down within the 24 to 48 hours they are held in the septic tank (the typical hold time in a tank for most septic systems).
If you are using a dryer, limit it to 100 degrees if possible. However, I recommend not putting the pad in the dryer.
Believe it or not, shampoo is a wonderful cleaning agent for saddle pads as well as lingerie. And if you think about it, it’s gentle enough to clean your hair and remove grease. This is a cleaning method I learned in lingerie class for delicates you want to keep in good shape and prevent the color from fading.
Here is an old secret for cleaning antique-white fabrics and lace that is quite effective in removing yellowing. Soak the item in a weak solution of borax for an hour or two, then rinse thoroughly and leave in the sun to dry. Try it to see how it works!
I would like to be able to share a great secret for cleaning whites, but even the television ads comparing socks are less than true. I’ve tried these cleaning tests myself. I personally recommend that you keep your horse well brushed and clean in the area where the saddle is located and consider using a very thin, small baby pad under the pad you are trying to keep clean. Positioning may be the problem at that point.
Yvonne Bryant operates Equine T.L.C., a full-service horse-blanket business located in Dickerson, Maryland (equinetlccare.com).