When they come out of the factory, leather baseball gloves are stiff and difficult to use. You can soften your glove and help develop a good pocket for the ball with a wide variety of oils, conditioners and softeners. These substances penetrate the surface of the leather and make it more supple.
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Glove conditioners are specialty products made by many major glove and sporting goods manufacturers. Glove conditioners are different from regular oils because they contain additional ingredients that not only soften the leather, but clean it and protect it from absorbing moisture and dirt. Leather conditioners are the most expensive substance you can use to break in your glove, but they often work the best. Some leather conditioners are designed for use with specific types of leather, including top-, full- and premium-grain cowhide.
Lanolin oil comes from sheep and is found in many glove conditioners and glove oil products. Lanolin oil is good for leather because it softens, protects and preserves, allowing your glove to stay supple over time. Lanolin is the main ingredient in most glove conditioners, but you can use pure lanolin oil over glove conditioners if you want to avoid applying additional cleaning chemicals when breaking in your glove. You can purchase lanolin oil at most hardware stores and some sporting goods stores.
Shaving cream is an alternative to more traditional oils and conditioners. Shaving cream softens and moisturizes your skin to make shaving more efficient and comfortable. Shaving cream works on leather gloves the same way it works on skin, by softening and moisturizing. Avoid shaving gels and creams that contain added perfumes or use alcohols that may dry out or damage the glove. Use a standard fragrance-free foam shaving cream.
Vaseline is another substance you can use to break in your glove. Vaseline contains various mineral oils and moisturizers that are effective leather softeners. In addition, Vaseline is useful for sealing and protecting your glove from drying out in hot environments and from exposure to dirt and dust. When applying Vaseline, use it sparingly and work it into the surface of the glove completely before adding more. Too much can make your glove sticky.
No matter what substance you choose to break in your glove, follow the proper application techniques to maximize your glove's performance. Apply a small amount of the substance of your choice to a clean rag. Start in the palm of the glove and begin rubbing in the oil in small circular motions. Apply more of the substance as needed and work your way to the outer edges of the glove. Once the glove is coated, wipe off the excess with a clean rag, place a ball in the glove pocket and wrap a rubber band around the glove. Store the glove in a cool, dry place.