Depending on where in the world you live, there’s a chance you haven’t seen your baseball glove in a few months — do you remember where you left it? It could be sitting at the bottom of your equipment bag, out in the garage, or next to your cleats down in the basement. Wherever it is, you may not have touched it since your last game — whenever that was. Soon, though, you’ll be playing again. If you’re in a warm weather region, practice will be starting soon; if you’re in a cooler climate, indoor workouts and/or weekend camps begin in January (if not already). Once you find your glove, you may discover it to be stiff, dried out, and not quite “game ready.” If so, you may want to treat it with a conditioner to get it into game shape. But what to use?
Start off by cleaning dust and dirt from your glove by shaking it and wiping it with a damp cloth — ideally, one made from microfiber. If you have some particularly difficult spots of dirt or marking you’d like to remove, you can try a dab of rubbing alcohol on the cloth; if there’s mold or mildew, soak a rag with vinegar and use it to wipe it away (for really tough grime or mold, try using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser). Now leave the glove to dry completely before applying the re-conditioner.
Once dry, get another clean, damp cloth (again, microfiber is best), and LIGHTLY apply your cleaning and conditioning agent to the entire glove, inside and out, and let the glove rest next to your bed, where it will remind you that baseball season is coming. But wait — what about that cleaning and conditioning agent? Which one you choose is up to you, but I’ll go over a few options.
For over a hundred years, ballplayers have applied saddle soap to their mitts to keep them ship-shape. It makes sense — saddle soap is made for, well, leather horse saddles (as well as leather boots), and baseball gloves are made of leather, so, there you go. Boot lovers, horse people, cowboys, and others who live with leather swear that Fiebing’s Paste Saddle Soap
is the best you can buy (click the link or the image to buy from Amazon); Meltonian and Kiwi are also popular. Whichever you choose, it’s going to be a paste, so you’ll want to make sure your rag is damp — add more water to the rag as necessary and work it into the soap until you get a nice lather that can be applied to the glove.
Mink oil is another traditional substance used for centuries to keep leather preserved and pliable. As the name suggests, it’s made from mink fat, and it is very good for replacing the natural oils lost by leather, as well as for making leather water-repellant. However, I don’t recommend it for baseball gloves, because it will make the glove heavy and too greasy to the touch, and it may rot the stitching. Mink oil is best used for leather work boots, horse saddles, motorcycle saddle bags, and other heavy-duty items.
Along similar lines to mink oil, neatsfoot oil is another application that’s been used by baseball players for over a century, but isn’t necessarily the best thing to put on your glove. I’m not going to get into where it is derived from, as you may not want to know. Short story, it is another animal fat, and as such, it’s going to make your glove attract dirt, too heavy, darker in color, possibly too soft, and smell absolutely awful. My recommendation is to avoid it.
NOTE: I think there is some neatsfoot and/or mink oil in some saddle soap formulas. However, neither is the primary ingredient, and I wouldn’t use either oil in its pure form on a baseball glove.
The modern leather conditioner, and my favorite, is made by a company called Lexol. I extolled its virtues in a previous post titled How to Break In Your Baseball Glove. I’m not sure what ingredients are in Lexol, but it works well — as long as you apply a very light coating. Lexol and saddle soap are my two top recommendations for keeping your glove clean, pliable, protected, and light. Buy it at Amazon: Lexol Leather Conditioner
What have you used to preserve and maintain your baseball glove? Let us know in the comments section.