How to Make a Leather Football Tacky?

Photo of a Wilson leather football with the NFL logo. How to Make a Leather Football Tacky?

If you’re looking to do a bit of prep on your beloved leather football, one of the most valuable things to focus on is the tackiness of your leather. Here’s your guide on how to make a leather football tacky!

Making your football tacky is part of a prep process that you should do in the correct order and without skipping steps — for the best protection of your football. These steps include:

  1. Brushing your leather football;
  2. Deflating it to 8psi and mixing your conditioner and tack spray 2:1;
  3. Coat the ball evenly and let it sit for 5 minutes before you check it for any missed spots or glops that you can remove by lightly brushing your football;
  4. Next, apply a heat gun or blow dryer on a medium setting to help the leather absorb the mix;
  5. Next, apply more conditioner;
  6. Then use football mud to apply a thin and even coat around your football;
  7. Let it dry for 1 hour at least;
  8. Brush the mud into the ball, condition it one more time, inflate the football to 13psi again, and brush it for one last final touch.

That’s a lot of information, so I’ve gone over it slowly and in more detail below to help you!

What does tack spray do?

First, let’s take a moment to understand what a tack spray does for your football. As you might be able to guess, it helps improve the grip and also break in the ball safely. It will also promote better adhesion and absorption of the conditioner into the ball. This is essential for keeping your football healthy for as long as possible.

Reasons to make a leather football tacky

Shouldn’t footballs just come ready to toss around and enjoy a tacky grip? They do, ideally, but you’ll still have to keep it tacky over time and increase the tackiness when you notice it starts to fade. It isn’t just a “one and done” situation with anything made from genuine leather; care is essential!

A football’s tackiness determines how it actually reacts in your game. It increases friction and grip, and having a ball that is too tacky or not tacky enough will cause fumbles and inaccurate throws.

Having the tackiness just right allows for easier control over the ball’s movements and overall comfort of use. This is one of the most important things in both casual and professional games!

Making a leather football tacky step by step

Now that I’ve talked a bit about the importance of a football’s tackiness let’s take another look at the long list of instructions to help you accomplish your goal effectively.

  1. Brush your leather
  2. Deflate the ball to 8psi
  3. Mix your conditioner and tack spray
  4. Apply a heat gun or hairdryer
  5. Apply a second coat of conditioner
  6. Apply a thin layer of mud
  7. Condition a third time
  8. Inflate the ball to 13psi
  9. Brush one last time

Let’s break some of that down so you can better understand what to expect in this seemingly complicated process.

The various brushing stages you see prime the leather for the next stage of care. If you skip them, you’ll find that the next stage won’t work either, and it also means that the previous stage won’t set in as effectively as it should.

Deflating the ball to work on it keeps the pores from getting overworked and stressed out, which helps you slow down the natural wear and tear of your leather football. Remember that the ball will naturally go through a lot of abuse, which is more important than you might realize and understand.

Don’t linger on any part of your leather when using the heat gun or hairdryer. While leather itself isn’t flammable, you can quickly dry out your leather by using too high of a heat for too long, and it’ll prematurely age your ball. Not only does this impact the football’s lifespan, but it also impacts the tackiness.

If it’s your first time using football mud, resist the urge to cake it on like you would on a spa day! You have to apply it evenly and lightly so that you can easily see all of the features through the mud layer. It should go on as lightly as possible while achieving your goal of full and even coverage.

Regardless of the stage you’re working on, you’ll want to avoid the lace area of your leather football. Since this will be an essential stress point, don’t put more pressure on it than you have to! It can eat away at the laces and stress out the ball, regardless of whether you’re applying conditioner to mud. Use a careful and steady hand when applying the treatments around this area!

Best types of leather for a tacky football

Starting with the right ingredients for your leather football will be essential to the tacky level it naturally has. Contrary to popular belief, the LA Times explains that footballs aren’t made from pigskin. They’re made from cowhide. This is a great leather choice for its natural tackiness.

The other feature to focus on is that it should be of high-quality, full-grain leather. You’ll need to treat it with oil or wax designed specifically for footballs. This maximizes the tackiness without making the ball too slippery by mistake.

How to care for a leather football to keep it tacky

Now that you’re familiar with the general instructions to follow for getting your football, let’s figure out how to keep it that way so that you don’t need to repeat this process more often than you have to! 

Firstly, follow the instructions I mentioned above as closely as you can. These will help you get your football tacky using the right detailed approach. Other than that, you’ll want to focus on these tips to guide you in future care between these more detailed cleanings:

  • Break your football in properly
  • Brush your ball before each game to ensure its surface is clear
  • Keep water away from your football
  • Invest in a proper leather football brush rather than a standard leather brush
  • Use only football polish, not classic leather polish

As well, Ball Breakers Inc suggests that you wax the ball properly every 2-3 games. This helps keep the ball’s surface as strong as possible for as long as possible. But this isn’t an excuse to avoid brushing or cleaning your leather ball regularly!

It turns out that there is a lot to know about how to make a leather football tacky. For a thorough approach, you’ll want to start by brushing your leather football. Then deflate it to 8psi to keep from stressing out the pores. Mix your conditioner and tack spray 2:1 thoroughly before coating the ball. After it sits for five minutes, brush off any excess conditioner.

Next, help the leather absorb the mix using a heat gun or blow dryer in a medium setting. After that, you’ll put on another coat of conditioner. After this, you’ll apply football mud in a thin and even coat. After that dries, brush the mud into the ball and condition it one last time.

Lastly, inflate the football to 13psi again, and give it a final light brush. This should create the proper overall tackiness! Remember that how you care for your ball dramatically impacts how it stays tacky, so remember to learn about that, too!

Know a football fanatic that is going to love learning how to keep their ball tacky? Share this with them and see if it changes their game!

Andre from

Andre is a passionate leatherworker who spends his spare time working with leather. He loves the smell and feel of leather, and he takes great care in selecting the right pieces of leather for his projects. Read more here.