Cowhide leather should be cleaned to remove dust, dirt and other debris that can damage the surface. Tanned cowhide leather consists of many fibrous strands, much like a sponge. The fibers are so tightly compacted they aren't apparent until the leather is ripped or torn. According to a Government of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development publication, once leather become dirty and dry it becomes dry and brittle. Proper cleaning helps maintain healthy, moisturized leather.
Hair-on cowhide leather is treated with natural oils or chromium to keep a soft and flexible texture to the leather. Cleaning should be kept at a minimum to protect the hair on the hide. Gentle cleaning can remove dust, debris and stains.
Cleaning Tanned Leather
Gently brush dirt and dust from the leather using a soft brush.
Dip a clean, white rag in warm water. Wring out excess water.
Rub the rag on a bar of saddle soap. Work up a light, sudsy leather.
Scrub the surface of the leather with a light touch. Work in small sections. Rinse immediately after each section with clean, warm water.
Rinse the rag completely between each section, switching to a new rag if it becomes soiled. Dirty water or suds can cause leather to stain.
Once the leather is 7/8ths dry, use a clean, white rag to apply a light coat of leather conditioner.
Cleaning Hair-On Leather
Vacuum the cowhide. Use a hard-floor setting, a shop vacuum or a hand vacuum. The rotating brushes on a regular vacuum setting may pull the hairs.
Add a squirt of dish washing liquid to a small bucket of warm water.
Use a clean, white rag dipped in the soapy water to blot any stains gently. A fine-toothed comb can help remove any mud or loosen dried, crusty stains. Always move with the direction of the hair growth.
Blot with a clean, white rag and clean water to remove the soap.
Allow the cowhide to dry thoroughly. The hair may be brushed with a soft brush once dry to remove any clumping of the hair.