I am asked this question often.
My quick answer is, the leather lining will require some care, cleaning and oiling, to stay soft and supple. The carefree lining will not require extra care beyond rinsing with water sometimes.
But what exactly do I mean when I say the leather lining will require some care? Leather will crack and get hard if not properly cared for. We use a very high quality American-made leather for our harness lining which improves timeline for needing cared for, but it will still require a bit more than the carefree lining will.
I have the russet leather lining on my Comfy Fit harness, but I also love cleaning my harness. Once a month, whether it needs it or not my harness gets cleaned. ALL of my harnesses get cleaned. I put on a good movie and spread out on the living room floor with towels, warm water and my leather cleaner/conditioner.
How to clean your harness
First I take my harness completely apart. I take the bit off the bridle and unbuckle every single buckle. I clean the bit at this time as well (even though I usually rinse it in a bucket of water after driving) and check over each buckle and strap as I undo everything. This is also the time I check all the stitching on my harness and make sure none of the straps have any extreme wear.
Then I go over the entire harness with warm water and a washcloth. I scrub and scrub all the dirt and grime off this way. If there is some stubborn dirt then I’ll sometimes soak that part in the warm water to soften it and then scrub it off with the washcloth. I don’t recommend using a scratchy sponge for this as you can scratch the leather, though you can use a scrub brush on the soft strap and Brahma web.
Next I dry all the parts of the harness with a towel.
To make my soft strap shine I will often use a mixture of vinegar and water to just rinse it quick.
Then I go over the leather parts of my harness with the leather conditioner/cleaner. My favorite is Absorbine Horseman’s One Step Cream Leather Cleaner and Conditioner.
I thoroughly rub the cleaner/conditioner into all the leather parts of my harness, making sure to get all the creases and edges. Then I polish it a bit with a soft dry cloth.
To condition or not to condition?
Something to keep in mind is, if you use an organic cleaner/conditioner on your soft strap and Brahma Web the cleaner/conditioner can start to mildew. The soft strap and Brahma Web will not mildew or rot because it’s not an organic material. So if you do see some mold on your harness on the synthetic parts, just wipe it all down and get the organic cleaner off. Then wash with soap and water. To bring out the shine in the synthetic parts of your harness you can use a mixture of water and vinegar instead of a conditioner.
So the Carefree lining is just that – Carefree!! It doesn’t take much in the way of cleaning to keep the 100% synthetic harness clean. If you are like me and want that bit of leather, then you will need to do some conditioning to keep in that like-new condition.