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How to clean a leather jacket


Happy couple wearing a brown and a black leather jacket

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Owning a lovely “finished-leather” jacket feels so luxurious and can be expensive, but what happens when it gets dirty or stained? Cleaning a leather jacket sounds a bit daunting – so why not just take it to the dry cleaners?

Well, there are many good reasons for maintaining and cleaning leather jackets yourself at home, not to mention the cost savings! 

NOTE: Finished leather is smooth and sometimes shiny. Suede leather is unfinished and softer. We will be focusing here on smooth finished leather – most commonly used for leather jackets of all kinds.

Here’s what sources say you will need to clean a leather jacket yourself:

  • Leather cleaner or a very mild soap and water solution

  • Leather conditioner

  • A bowl of water

  • 2-3 very soft towels for buffing

  • Baby oil (optional)

#1 Clean your leather jacket yourself in five easy steps!

  1. LAY IT OUT: Lay the jacket out on a table where it is totally flat.
  2. TEST: Choose one small inconspicuous area of the jacket for a sample test to make sure the leather will respond properly. Put a very small amount of cleaner or mild soap on your hands and rub it in to the leather very gently in a circular motion. Do not pour the cleaner directly onto the garment – use your hands to make sure that you do not create any streaks. Do not scrub or use harsh brushes and avoid scratching the leather at all times. 
  3. RINSE: Lightly soak one soft towel in the bowl of water and gently wipe off the soap, rinsing the towel as many times as needed to get the suds off. 
  4. CLEAN: Given that the test is satisfactory, proceed to clean the entire jacket that may have dirt, grime, dust, oil, sweat and stains. Wash as above with the cleaner/mild soap—giving the stains a bit more attention, still using your hands to massage the entire jacket.  Rinse the same way as above. Pay close attention to the leather jacket stains around the collar and cuff areas as oil and sweat may have caused stains and cracking.
  5. DRY: Cleaning a leather jacket requires care with drying it. After you have washed and rinsed all areas of the jacket, take a soft dry towel to gently dry the entire garment. It will pick up any remaining dirt, water, or cleaner.

#2 Conditioning is part of cleaning a leather jacket

  1. CONDITION: While the leather jacket is still a bit damp, grab the store-bought leather conditioner and pour some in your hands for the same kind of TLC you used with the cleaner. Gently rub into the entire jacket, working the conditioner into each area thoroughly.
  2. BUFF: Take another dry, soft towel and buff the entire jacket in small, gentle, circular motions and you will see the leather come to life! Hang out to dry.
  3. SHINE: If you prefer an even greater shine to your dry leather jacket, rub on a coat of baby oil twice a year as it also gives it a second layer of waterproofing and protection.

#3 Maintaining and cleaning a leather jacket

  1. CAUTION: Skip the ammonia- or bleach-based cleaners to clean leather. They can damage the finish and cause the leather to get excessively dry or even crack. Use only a dab of water when cleaning, as too much can cause additional leather jacket stains.
  2. SPILLS: Clean spills on the leather jacket immediately with a soft cloth. Leather is porous and will absorb liquids, causing a stain to form. Leather can also scratch, so keep sharp objects away from it.
  3. WASHING MACHINE: Keep the leather jacket away from the washing machine. TLC is needed!

We hope you enjoyed our tips on how to clean a leather jacket yourself. Don’t forget to check out our other laundry and cleaning tips such as how to wash a wool jumperhow to wash trainers in the washing machine, and how to properly wash your denim jeans.