I have “inherited” a few pairs of full length chaps. They are used and a bit older, so they are a bit dry and stiff. What’s the best way to revive them to get them rehydrated, softer, and more pliable?
What kind of leather are they made of? Smooth grain leather will need, cleaning and conditioning, while suede is often washed in the washing machine.
Does sound awful, but I have had good luck cleaning worn, stained, older suede, one color chaps in the machine. This seems to get the dirt out best. I actually used Tide, cold water for washing, hung over a gate to dry. Then kind of drag the suede back and forth across a board edge, rail, to remove the stiffness. Brush the suede with a fine wire brush to regain the “nappy” feel that sticks to a saddle. Did the color stay even? If patchy, blotched, you may want to dye the suede for a even appearance, using a 2nd trip in the washer, with soaking time to allow dye to set well, before rinsing and letting them dry. Dying chaps a darker color might also help even out the color of suede. I have been pretty happy using the washer to freshen up suede chaps.
On the grain leather, Lexol soap is a good cleaner, does not darken light colors. I use a natural bristle vegtables brush for the scrubbing part on smooth leather side. Clean the seams well. Try not to totally soak the leather. Rinse clean with cold water, hang to dry. Might take a couple days. Then condition. Lexol cobditioner is good, darkens leather until it fully dries. Polish with a dry cloth. May take a couple coats to reach desired softness. Other conditioners will also work but may leave sticky residue even after polishing with a dry cloth.
Good idea above for suede chaps. If they are the heavier smooth leather, they can be dipped like harness --they will be oily for awhile, wear over old jeans --but really flexible and soft.
I hate dipped leather’s feel. Just like rubbing 3-in-one oil between your fingers! The oil used is not nice like tanners’s oil, takes forever to quit leaving oil on things the leather touches, like my nice light-oil Western saddle, non-black English saddle and my SKIN!
That dip oil does not wash out of clothing, they look like you changed car oil in them. Chap leather is thin, should not be difficult to condition with products to soften leather quickly by hand. I would consider dipped chaps to be “ruined.” Nothing I would want to own.
Agree machine will work on suede.
For smooth leather, I restored a pair of DH’s that had sat for 10yrs+ using Murphy’s to clean, then Stubben Hamanol conditioner applied liberally. If you can’t find Hamanol, any cream-type conditioner should work, Locally Black Rock is popular & I have used on harness with success.
This is a pretty good article on washing chaps. I have had success before using their instructions. Good luck!
That article covers a lot of washing details! Should be very helpful in reviving chaps.
We used to wash chaps smooth and suede leather chaps back in the day. We added a bunch of fabric softener to the final rinse. Maybe 4-5 capfuls.
The real problem occurs when the stitching holding the zippers starts to rot from age.