It's not difficult to clean and care for your holster, so it's shocking that people may not take the time to perform holster maintenance regularly.
Even if you don't carry your holster every day, it still gets dirty/dusty/dry or gunky. Carrying a firearm is an important responsibility so treating your holster with care to maintain its functionality is important, too.
Here’s a little advice on how to keep your holster, especially those concealed holsters, in tip-top condition.
You clean your guns, your dishes, your pants, and even your car, and a holster is no different than any of them. It’s more like clothing than anything else, it’s exposed to your body and the elements.
Like everything else, a holster can get dirty and grimy - even smelly. IWB holster designs in particular are exposed to a lot of sweat and grime, so they need to be cleaned simply from a sanitation standpoint.
And, since your holster and firearm are intimately connected, you wouldn't want to put a clean gun into a dirty holster.
The good news is you don’t have to clean your holster every day like you would your teeth or face. (or at least I hope you are!) I typically give my holster a general cleaning every two weeks or so, wiping it down inside and out.
Every few months, or as needed, I break everything down and give it a good once over with the proper leather and saving cleaning techniques. If I feel my holster start getting stiff or if it’s particularly sweaty and hot, I perform a more in-depth cleaning and oiling but that's a matter of personal preference.
A general clean is easy: grab a rag and give it a firm wipe down inside and out to clean out dust and debris that could cling to my firearm.
For deeper cleans, just use warm water and rag and give it a good cleaning. If warm water and elbow grease don't cut it, use saddle soap. Saddle soap is pure glycerin soap and leather friendly but remember, less is more with saddle soap so use sparingly, no more than a dime-sized amount.
Gently rub the saddle soap into the leather slowly, applying it evenly over the holster. Allow it to dry completely before moving on to the next step.
Once the leather is clean, you'll want to condition it with oil. The conditioner should contain gentle ingredients and should be applied only to the gun side of the leather with a minimalist approach. The backside of the leather will be conditioned with the natural body oils from your skin and no further treatment is needed.
Although there are lots of oil options out there, Saddle Butter is a great choice and works perfectly for all leather holsters. If you don’t like the smell of saddle butter, you could also use Fiebings 4 Way Care.
A great option for horsehide backed holsters is 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil. Neatfoot oil is a component of saddle butter, but saddle butter is a little more complicated and better suited for cowhide.
You want to rub in your oil of choice gently and again, less is still more here - rub a very small amount into the front side of the holster. Gently apply it under the kydex and evenly across the leather portion of the holster.
If you own a holster with Founder’s Series leather, you already have a small bottle of CrossBreed Saddle Oil that will last you the entirety of the life of your holster. It can't be said enough: use sparingly because less is more when it comes to leather conditioner and oils!
The Kydex portion of your hybrid holster simply needs to be wiped down. The glory of modern polymer is its incredibly low maintenance. Wipe it down with a slightly damp rag. Do this inside and out of the holster and call it a day.
Cleaning is just part of proper maintenance, you're also going to want to closely inspect all the parts of your holster.
IWB metal clips should be inspected for rust and to ensure their general integrity. Make sure they still fit tight and close firmly around your belt to maximize retention. CrossBreed's high-quality clips are built to last but accidents do happen - I’ve had a holster clip get caught on the armrest of a chair too small for my butt and it got bent out of shape. The clip, not me. (Side note friend suggested using a piece of tight MOLLE webbing to reform a clip if bent as a temporary fix.)
Inspect any washers, screws, or other small components. If they're even remotely rusty or compromised, order a new set and give your holster a little tune-up to ensure it keeps running. While inspecting, tighten anything that needs to be tightened and observe for any fit issues.
Holster Maintenance is critical and shouldn’t be ignored but the good news is that it’s pretty commonsensical and easy to perform.
PRO TIP: Don't forget about your open carry holsters! They may not be pressed up against your skin on a daily basis but they do get dirty, too.
Set yourself up for success by scheduling out EDC maintenance like anything else - your car's oil change, a haircut, or semi-annual trip to Gunsite. Remember, a little attention can go a long way in maintaining your gear so make it count!
What about you? How often do you clean your everyday carry gear? Is there a product or routine that works best for you? Sound off in the comments, we want to hear from you!
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. Travis has trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army.
He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and pursues a variety of firearms based hobbies.
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