Did you just buy a new leather football only to realize they are slippery, hard, and nothing like you see on tv or in college games?
Follow these steps below, and you will have a ball that's ready for gameday in no time!
Why should you break in a leather football?
Breaking in footballs for example the Wilson GST Leather football or the Official NFL football is important because leather balls that are brand new come with a coating of orange dye on each football that causes the football to feel very slippery, and they are hard as a rock due to no conditioning of the leather.
By breaking in your game football it will not only soften the leather but it will provide you with additional accuracy, increased throwing distance, better ball protection and added grip. It will also make the football last longer due to the conditioners and wax products you use. Lastly, it will turn the football that dark brownish color that you typically see in football games on tv.
Do all footballs need to be broken in?
If your football is an actual leather football then yes it is highly recommended to break in the football. Think of this as a baseball glove for a baseball player. Baseball players go through many processes in order to break in their baseball gloves so they can perform at the highest level during games.
This is the exact thinking when it comes to a leather football. Once you have a broken-in football and compare it to a brand new football you will absolutely be able to see why players go through this long-break-in process.
Does this process work for official NFL footballs?
Absolutely! In fact, most professional teams have an equipment manager who breaks in NFL Footballs with a very similar process.
A lot of times these equipment managers break in many NFL footballs months in advance before they ever even hit the practice fields.
The one additional step that we do recommend for NFL footballs is a mudding process. Usually, after you have wiped down the football with your hot wet rag you will want to apply a special football mud to the entire football and let it sit for about 24 hours.
After you have let the ball sit for 24 hours you will want to use a wet rag again to wipe off the mud and use your brush on each panel to remove the excess mud. After that continue with the normal steps listed out below.
Why would you apply mud to the NFL football?
By applying the special football mud to your NFL football, it will help to run your football that dark brown color that you typically see from the footballs during NFL games.
This also helps to weatherize the football and condition the leather so when you are out on the field during a rainy day and the football gets wet it actually will continue to have grip.
Can I buy a football already broken in?
Actually yes you can! Here at Ball Breakers, we cut out the break-in process for you.
If you have ever broken in a leather football in the past you know how long the process can be, let alone how sore your arm can get. So our mission at Ball Breakers is to completely eliminate you having to go through that break-in process and have our team do all the work for you.
Every football that is purchased starts off as a brand new football just as if you went out and purchased it yourself. From there it is put through a full break-in process which ensures that the day you receive your football it will be ready to use straight out on the field.
Items you will need to break in your football
- Bucket/Bowl with warm/hot water
- Towel or rag that you don't mind getting dye on
- Wilson Brush or shoe polish brush
- Wilson leather conditioner, Neatsfoot oil or any leather conditioner you want to use. (If you end up using a different condition than the Wilson conditioner, make sure to try a small amount first to see how it reacts on the football leather before applying to the entire football)
- Wilson Tack bar that comes with the Wilson Brush. If you order through Wilson Sporting Goods or through Amazon it should be a kit that comes with both the brush and wax bar.
- Optional: You can also purchase the Wilson tack spray if you want to add on a bit more tack at any point. However, we personally don't use this as we find the tack spray leaves an oily feeling on your hand when throwing which can really hinder your accuracy.
- Optional: Lena Blackbourne Baseball Mud if you decide you want to apply mud to your football.
- Optional: Barbasol shaving cream
8 Step Process For Breaking In A Leather Football
Step 1: Dye Removal
- Get the new football wet. How you do this is up to personal preference, but we recommend using a wet warm towel and scrubbing each panel of the football approximately 2-3 minutes per panel.
- We recommend getting a bucket or bowl with warm/hot water and making sure to get the rag thoroughly wet multiple times for each panel of the football as this will help to fully remove all of the dye.
Step 2: Drying
- Let the football dry or use a blow dryer to speed up the drying process.
- Complete this process 1-2 times to ensure all of the dye is completely removed from the football.
Optional Step: Shaving Cream
- Some people use shaving cream which helps to pull out any excess dye on the football. If you go this route, just apply shaving cream (Barbasol brand) all over the football then use a long bristle brush on each panel to remove the shaving cream.
- The reason we don't personally use shaving cream is we found it leaves a filmy residue on the football that we felt didn't allow the conditioner to soak in as much as we liked.
Step 3: Time To Brush
- Using any shoe polish brush or the Wilson-approved football brush, brush each panel of the football with a firm grip until each panel has turned a darker color (approximately 2-3 minutes per panel). Be careful using the brush over any logos as it can scuff the logo designs.
Step 4: Apply Conditioner
- The GST football comes with composite-style pebbled laces which have great grip already so make sure to NOT add any conditioner to the laces or the white composite stripes.
- Apply a small amount of conditioner (about the size of a dime) to one panel of the football and rub it thoroughly with a rag. Continue this process with each panel of the football.
Step 5: Dry For 24 Hours
- We recommend letting the game football sit and dry for 24 hours just to ensure the conditioner really soaks in and has time to moisturize and soften the leather.
Step 6: Repeat Step Three
- Simply repeat step three, which is to brush each panel of the football with your shoe polish brush or the Wilson brush. Thoroughly apply pressure when brushing each panel and once again be careful when going over any logos as the brush can scuff the logos.
- The reason we like to add another brush step here is so we can prep the leather to add the waxing process in the next step and to ensure the wax holds to the leather better.
Option Step: Applying Mud
- Once you have applied the conditioner to your football, one option that works really well if you want to have the end result of a very dark brown colored football is to apply Lena Blackburne Baseball Mud.
- Although the mud does turn the football that nice dark brown color and also helps to soften the leather a bit more there are a few downsides you must be aware of.
- The mud can definitely take a toll on your shoe brushes so make sure to have a separate one just for removing mud. Also removing the mud with the brush can scuff the logos quite a bit so be careful when going over foil logos.
Step 7: Wax On!
- Our recommendation is to use Wilson's leather wax bar. You will want to apply the tack bar to the football directly and slide the bar up and down each panel of the football 2-3 times per panel. For extra tackiness, use the bar more on each panel.
- Once you have applied the tack bar to each panel, you will want to go back over each panel with your brush to thoroughly brush in the wax. This will also help to turn the football an even darker brown color while also adding additional tack.
Step 8: Go Play With It
- Once you have completed all the steps above, your football should be nicely conditioned, have a good amount of tack, and overall ready to start using out on the field.
Bonus Tip: How To Keep Tack On Your Football
Over time while using your football out on the field you might notice it might start to lose some of that tackiness. The best way to prevent this is every 2-3 games apply the wax bar to your football pregame as you did in step seven and use the brush the wax into your ball. By doing this it will continue to keep that added tack to your football.
Are there other methods to break in leather footballs?
Even though we have listed out our step-by-step process, we know that this is not the end-all-be-all process for breaking in a leather football.
Many people have different strategies of their own when it comes to breaking in a leather football. Whether that is throwing your football in the dryer with towels (We don't recommend this) or throwing your football at a brick wall to try and break up the leather and soften the tips or any other strategies people have tried in the past.
If you were just looking for the easy step-by-step process on how to break in a new leather football, we definitely hope this has helped narrow down the process better for you and answered a few questions you might have had.
However, if after reading this, your arm, shoulder, or wrists are already starting to hurt just thinking about going through this process then head on over to our Ball Breakers and pick up a broken-in football today!