Leather jackets used to be the quintessence of cool and a symbol of a free spirit. Today, they are hotter than ever, and have absolutely no limits. Pair them with anything you can think of and you’ve got yourself a unique look. However, leather jackets do tend to pick up a lot of dirt and being such a delicate material, you can’t just use any old soap to wipe stains and dirt off, unless you want to end up with a misshapen and discolored jacket. Fortunately, we are packed with leather cleaning tips so you never fall out of options!
1. Read the Instructions
Yes, this may sound a bit naive. I mean, we are stating the obvious here. Well, you’d be surprised how many people never look at the instructions on the label of their favorite leather jacket. Going through the care instructions will give you a pretty good idea as to whether there is a special requirement you should be considering before you start the cleaning process. That way, you’ll know the temperature the jacket needs to be washed at, and, sometimes, the substances you can use on it, so you know the needs of your jacket. How else can you keep it clean if you don’t know what it asks for?
2. Wipe the Spots
Wipe the jacket (just a quick one) with a baby wipe or a damp cloth (well wrung-out) before you use any cleaner on it. This should clean any visible dirt; don’t be surprised if you find out that wiping your jacket with a good wipe is all you will ever need to remove marks, grime, and dirt.
Basic wiping will get rid of food, dust, and mud stains, but be careful not to RUB the stains (especially bright or spice ones); otherwise, your jacket may discolor. Instead, use a leather stain-removal spray according to the type of stains you’ve got there.
Note: No sponges (e.g. washing up or bath sponge) or rough cloths should be used to clean leather, to avoid scratching it.
3. Using a Detergent
A mild liquid soap-lukewarm water solution and some gentle hand washing is ideal, as you are not using harsh chemicals that could damage your delicate leather piece. In a small tub of water, just soak the part of the jacket that is dirty or has a stain, and add a couple of drops of the washing-up liquid. Always in a circular motion, rub the stains gently until removed, and then allow to dry completely.
4. Using Olive Oil
Vegetable oils and olive oil have a dual effect on a leather jacket. They can both clean and feed it.
• Dip a cloth (microfiber is also excellent) into a generous amount of olive oil (preferably; however, any oil will do).
• Rub the oil coated cloth over the dirt mark or stain of the jacket until they are completely lifted.
• With a different cloth, rub the spot with white vinegar and then leave to dry.
• To condition the leather jacket, mix olive oil and white vinegar (equal parts) and rub the solution over the leather with another clean soft cloth.
• With a clean cloth, polish it and should look like brand new again!
5. Using the Washing Machine
No…don’t worry. Your leather jacket won’t come out of the washing machine looking just like a miniature!
That noted; I know a few people that have used the washing machine to clean their leather stuff and they all work in the fashion industry so I guess we could also give it a try. However, just to be on the safe side, it’s best to trial with a cheaper leather jacket first, before throwing your pricey leather piece in the washing machine!
- 1. Add 2 tablespoons of laundry detergent to your washing machine.
- 2. Zip the jacket up (make sure the pockets are cleared).
- 3. Turn it inside out, and add it to the washing machine.
- 4. Cushion it with some dark clothing (soft), such as dark pants and socks, and start the cold water (most delicate) cycle on the smallest load setting.
- 5. Remove and stretch the sleeves (if needed).
- 6. Leave it to air dry or place it in the dryer (medium heat setting) if it is full-grain leather. Spin dry, and remove after 10 mins. When it is dry enough, turn it inside out and stretch the sleeves (if required). Try it on and then turn it inside out again and return it to the dryer. Do the same thing a few times until completely dry.
- 7. Condition it with a leather conditioner or saddle soap.
Tip: You could skip the dryer and let the jacket dry over the bathtub in a warm bathroom if it has a shiny finish.
6. Revive to its Old Glory
Over time, leather jackets deteriorate. But, they CAN be saved. So, if you have inherited a cool leather jacket from gramps, here is how you can relive its glorious days.
- Mix 3 parts of boiled linseed oil with 1 part of white vinegar in a small bowl.
- Dampen a clean soft cloth into that solution and rub it over the jacket, with a focus on the dry areas that seem to be thirsty for some moisture.
- Use a soft cloth to polish the leather jacket and that’s about it. The solution will moisturize the jacket as it soaks into it.
7. Wash it with Leather Detergent
First brush off any debris. Pick a clean container that will fit your leather jacket easily and add 2 parts of leather detergent (e.g. Leather-Clean) to 1 ½ gallons of lukewarm water. Mix for about 60 seconds and submerge the jacket in the solution. Massage (gently) for a good 5 minutes and with a soft brush, scrub the soiled areas, always with very delicate movements.
Let the solution to permeate the jacket for 10 minutes. This will also allow the ingredients of the solution to clean and maintain the leather’s natural properties, making it look like you have just bought it.
Get rid of the solution left in the container and fill it again with clean water, before you submerge the jacket in it. Massage for a couple of minutes and remove promptly. Let it dry in a shady area (must be ventilated well).
8. Clean the Liner
It’s not just the outside that needs cleaning; it’s also the inside of your leather jacket, to look in mint condition overall. So, start with gently vacuuming the liner (better have the jacket hang or spread out on a flat surface) to remove dirt, dust, and odors (e.g. smoking).
Now, think: How badly does your liner require to be cleaned? If vacuuming has cleared things up pretty well and everything looks alright, then you can spray it with a refreshing product (e.g. Febreeze) or just allow it to air out, and you’re done.
In any other case, a light washing is your next step.
- Fill a bucket with warm water and add laundry detergent (just a small amount will do). You could also add ½ a cup of vinegar or a small amount of baking soda to remove persistent odors.
- Mix the laundry detergent well (until you see suds forming) and dip a sponge in the water.
- Wring it out and wipe the liner with it. With a dry cloth, remove the excess moisture. Don’t rush it though; instead work in small sections at a time until all the liner is clean.
- Moisten a fresh sponge with plain water and wipe over the liner and wipe out with a dry cloth.
- Repeat if needed.
- Now you just let it dry completely in an open area (always hang).
9. Apply a Leather Protector
This is a great thing to do just before you wear the leather jacket for the first time. A leather protector will create a shield against oil, water, and dirt stains. Such products also come colorless and odorless. Feel free to use one every once a year to always wearing a leather jacket that looks as if you have just bought it!
10. Store it Properly
Keep your leather jacket in top condition by storing it properly when not wearing it. How? Hang it up on a wide shoulder-shaped coat hanger (a large one) to avoid dent shoulder marks. The place you should hang the jacket has to be dry and cool as direct sunlight or heat can damage it.
If you have stored it away, use clothes storage bags (breathable not air tight) and NEVER ever store a damp or wet leather jacket.
Final Notes: Always test any cleaning product on an inconspicuous area before you use it, just in case.
Also, pay attention to your leather jacket when soaked in linseed oil as it there is possible flammable danger. So, before you dispose of your jacket first remove the oil by soaking it or even washing it.