leather jacket

How to Clean a Leather Jacket

A leather jacket’s tough. No, not just in that it’s hardwearing.

Leather jackets are tough in that when they get dirty it’s not always easy to know what to do with them.

And it can be the case that leather jacket wearers almost make a point of getting them dirty.

Take motorcyclists—oil and the grime of the road are what they’re all about. What about Indiana Jones? And don’t get us started on World War 2 US pilots.

If you wear a leather jacket it’s the rule that you need to go looking for some mess to get yourself mired in.

Don’t despair, however. We’ve got the solution to all your jacket strife. By the end of this, you’ll have the whole thing zipped up.

So, in the spirit of Indy, let’s cut to the chase with whipcrack speed. How do you clean a leather jacket? Here’s how.


General Cleaning

clean leather jacket with washing up liquid

Here’s how to give your leather jacket a general clean:

First, dissolve some washing-up liquid in warm water. About one teaspoon of washing-up liquid to two litres of warm water should do it.

Next, grab a soft, clean sponge and dunk it in the bubbly solution. Then wipe all over the jacket.

Pay special attention to collars and cuffs, and give the whole thing a really proper going over.

However, although you need to be thorough, don’t scrub at the leather.

This is because, as tough as leather undoubtedly is, it’s a bit of a softie when it comes to sustained rubbing, and will display the evidence of your hard work in patches of discolouration and scuffing.

Don’t soak either. Leather’s a bit iffy about this too.

Next, get yourself another clean, soft cloth and go over where the bubbles have gone. Wipe all over to ensure no washing-up liquid residue is left in place, as it can be very damaging to leather over time.

When you’ve finished, you need to leave the jacket to dry, ideally outside.

Then you can give your jacket a little treat by applying a coat of leather conditioner to keep it supple and soft. Leather Honey is a good choice, and you only need to use a little for excellent results.


Removing Mould and Mildew

remove mould on leather jacket with rubbing alcohol

It’s all too common that a leather jacket gets stored away somewhere, while the owner gets on with other stuff, like lecturing on ancient civilizations at Marshall College. And then, when the jacket’s retrieved – oh no! – it’s covered in mould or mildew.

If this happens, try a little rubbing alcohol in an equal quantity of water, gently applied then wiped off. That should take care of that. Great – the dig’s back on!


Removing Stains

remove leather jacket stains with toothpaste

You can use toothpaste (regular, not gel) on stains that won’t shift otherwise.

Pop a little on a finger and rub gently in a circular motion. Leave it for 20 seconds, then clean it off with a damp microfibre cloth.

In truth, toothpaste’s great for getting stains out of clothes in general. By gum, toothpaste’s good.

If some grease from your motorbike or Smith and Wesson has got onto your jacket, you can use a little bicarbonate of soda or talc, dusted all over the patch.

Leave it to soak up the grease for a couple of hours, then wipe off with a clean, dry cloth.


Dealing with Smells

remove smells from leather jacket with white vinegar

Sometimes, washing-up liquid alone won’t cut it. If the jacket wearer’s been busy getting supremely dingy in archaeological digs, all sweaty in furious punch-ups and generally becoming overcome by downright disarray, you need to apply some heavier-duty solution.

For these times, you can use a white vinegar solution in exactly the same way as the washing-up liquid method.

Dilute one part vinegar with two parts water. Never use neat vinegar as the acid can attack the leather. Remember to wipe it off at the end.

Then leave it to dry. Again, do this outside if you can. The longer you can air it like this, the better.

When dry, give it the nasal once over. There’s nothing to stop you giving it another vinegar treatment if you still haven’t removed all of the smell.

Another route is to use a proprietary leather cleaner. This can give great results, especially if you pick one with deodorising power built-in, like this one from Dirtbusters.


What Happens If You Put a Leather Jacket in the Washing Machine?

leather jacket in the washing machine

So, you’re bound to be asking: Why do you have to go to all this special trouble?

Why can’t you put your leather jacket in the washing machine like any other grubby garment?

The answer is simple. You will ruin it.

This is because what makes a leather jacket special is the oils that give it suppleness and character.

A quick tumble in a washing machine will soon rob it of all of these secret ingredients and leave it limp and dull. What’s more, it may even crack as it dries. A very sorry state you’ll look.


Should You Ever Dry Clean a Leather Jacket?

Dry Clean a Leather Jacket

OK, you’ve tried everything, and your leather jacket still isn’t clean. Can you dry clean it?

The answer is a qualified yes. But the crucial thing is this: you have to take your hide-based friend to a specialist leather cleaner.

A standard general dry cleaner will not necessarily be a good bet. They should tell you this and send you to somebody more suitable.

If they don’t, and your garment ends up ruined, you’ll probably be left with nothing but the memory of a good jacket, together with a copy of the cleaner’s T’s and C’s warning you that you leave clothing with them at your peril.


Leather Weathers

leather jackets

The great thing about leather is that it doesn’t need a lot of care to look good.

Left pretty much to its own devices, it ages terrifically well.

However, there are times when it needs a bit of a sprucing up, and hopefully we’ve given you some pointers on what to do when this happens.

With the application of a little knowhow, your jacket will be back to its best and looking good enough to get the full AYYYY treatment from Fonzie. Happy Days.