How to Clean Leather Jackets?

You may be the proud owner of a cool leather jacket. Perhaps even owning many leather jackets, including suede or some other style, such as leather motorcycle jackets. Yet it hadn’t dawned on you until now or quite recently, as to how to clean leather jackets. Ultimately, allowing you to continue enjoying the style and benefits of having a leather jacket that’s as good as new.

While there are countless leather care websites and channels that offer quick tips, smart tricks or the famous DIY to give you clean leather jackets in no time is, for many of us; a bit too good to be true. In this post, we cover the following simple, yet very effective ways to clean your leather jacket and more. We’ll be covering:

  • How to Clean Leather Jackets
  • How to Eliminate Bad Smell from Leather Jackets
  • Cleaning Leather Jacket Lining
  • Leather Jacket Cleaner and Conditioner
  • Dry-Cleaning your Leather Jacket
  • Points to be Aware of
  • A Few FAQs Answered
  • Bonus Tips


How to Clean Leather Jackets?

1. Check the Labels

Before jumping into this important subject, it would be wise to check the labels inside your leather jacket. Very often you will find care instructions and many times, detail cleaning pointers that can be positively useful.

Often times, many of us don’t really know the exact type of leather we have, the processes or treatments that have been used and so throwing caution to the wind when dealing with cleaning could be a bad idea for some. That’s when care labels and instructions save the day.

With that said, cleaning your leather jacket by hand is not only easily possible, should you choose to do so yourself, but is very cost-effective and time-saving as well.

2. Know the Type of Leather

leather types

First off; it is important to know the type of leather you are about to clean. This helps you in choosing the appropriate cleaning products and methods best suited to the particular type of leather you have. It is, therefore, a good idea to ask for details regarding the leather jacket at the time of purchase, or after; if the supplier is easy to contact.

Natural or untreated leather does not have any protective coating, however, treated leather products do. A useful tip that can help you is to feel the leather and notice if it is soft, this means the leather is untreated. If it is not or has a coating that feels a bit like plastic that means it is treated leather.

It is also important to remember that treated or coated leather is much easier to clean as natural or untreated leather have a tendency to change color after they are cleaned. This is why you are required to be especially careful when cleaning any natural leather.

3. Dust the leather


You can begin by dusting the leather product using a soft cloth or brush and wipe away any dust or oil buildup. You must wipe over the entire surface of the product especially the corners that tend to be dustier. You must use a circular motion so as to prevent any form of damage to the product.

Many people forget to dust their leather earlier on, which is why dust tends to seem more noticeable over time which makes cleaning later on all the more challenging.

4. Apply Leather Cleaning Solutions

Leather Jacket Cleaning Solutions

On a soft rag apply a leather cleaning solution based on the type of leather you are about to clean. For instance, to clean leather shoes you could use saddle soap. It is important to remember to read the instructions on cleaner packaging for further confirmation as to whether the solution is best suited for the type of leather you are about to clean.

For antique leather, methylated spirits are a great idea, whereas for bags and jackets a mild soap and water solution works best, which you can use sparingly and in a circular motion, over the surface of the leather product.

5. Condition the Leather

Next, you would need to completely condition your leather jacket until you feel it’s soft and supple. Be sure to go for quality when purchasing a leather conditioner.

Aside from cleaning your leather jacket, leather conditioner can also be used on occasion of rain or snow getting on your leather jacket that you can condition to prevent damage and enhance softness.

Before you give this a try, do a color test to check the colorfastness of the leather, using a clean, white cloth on an interior spot of leather. If color transfers to the cloth, the dye is NOT stable on the leather. Therefore you should not proceed.

How to Eliminate Bad Smell from Leather Jackets?

Dealing with any type of bad odor in your leather jacket can be easily dealt with using vinegar. Again, caution is to be reinforced. What may work for one type of leather jacket or several, may not be best for another, so conducting a spot test would be advisable.

If the area does not discolor, fade or get destroyed in any way, you can proceed. Using equal portions of vinegar in a spray bottle or mixture that is dabbed onto a soft, clean cloth. This is to be gently rubbed onto the exterior of your leather jacket.

The acid in the vinegar cuts down the odor until you find no bad smell lurking around at all. The smell of vinegar will fade as well.

For the interior of your leather jacket, such as the lining, you can use baking soda. Being a safe ingredient, use baking soda that is sprinkled generously into a pillowcase or spacious zip-lock bag and place your leather jacket into this and close.

Leave overnight or for 24 hours. When the time is up, you can remove your leather jacket and clean with a cloth from any baking soda residue. If the odor is no longer present, good job! If not, repeat the process.

Cleaning Leather Jacket Lining

inner lining of leather jacket

When dealing with any kind of odor on the inside of your leather jacket aka the lining, you can use the following options. Firstly you could try airing out your leather jacket. Keeping it away from sunlight or any type of heat source and allowing it to just… air out naturally.

Another option would involve, using baking soda. Start by sprinkling some baking soda on the lining of your leather jacket and then use a lukewarm water spray to mist the areas that the baking soda is covering.

Leave for about 20 minutes and check. If the baking soda is dry, simply take a clean, damp cloth and dust-off the baking soda residue. Leave to dry some more before you check if the odor has gone or not.

As always, conduct a test spot before proceeding. Cleaning your leather jacket lining would require some mild detergent that works for most types of fabrics and jacket liners. After mixing a bit of mild, laundry detergent with some water until the powder dissolves, dip a clean sponge into the solution.

Double-check for any excess liquid before applying to your leather jacket lining. To make it easier to work with, have your leather jacket, flat inside out in front of you. Sponge down the lining, especially the underarm areas and any place you think would need some cleaning. Keep an eye out for stains or spots.

Once you are done, properly rinse out the sponge that you used and replace the solution with clean, plain water. Now you can use the sponge to rinse the areas of the lining you sponged down.

When this is complete. Hang your leather jacket on a padded hanger or a strong wooden hanger and leave to dry naturally. Keep away from sunlight or any heat source in or out of the house.

Leather Jacket Cleaner and Conditioner

Leather Jacket Conditioning

This point may not have any special DIY, tip or trick nor any magical products to market. Just simply added to highlight the importance and benefits of a good quality cleaner and conditioner for your leather jackets.

There is a multitude of different sources that mention the use of leather jacket cleaners and conditioners, yet few actually know how valuable the use of these products are separately or combined in one effective product.

Just as your leather jacket requires a good cleaning, it also requires protection for it to last you a good number of years.

If that’s not enough to convince you, there are now 2 in 1 and 3 in 1 product that offers you leather jacket cleaner and conditioner and more.

Going for quality products, not only help in keeping the durability of your leather jacket up-to-par, but it also prevents it from weakening and eventually self-destructing as perhaps using olive-oil as a conditioner would do in an instant.

So yes, get a good quality jacket cleaner and conditioner and maintain your leather jacket for a longer time.

Dry-cleaning your Leather Jacket

Drying Leather Jacket

For a dress shirt or a suit, a dress or a coat, dry-cleaning is an effortless way to get your apparel cleaned and pressed and looking as sharp as ever. However, the same does not necessarily apply to leather jackets or any leather products for that matter.

Reason: leather jackets or leather products had undergone a series of numerous processes and treatments to achieve the color that your leather jacket has, to the feel and even the look.

While giving your leather jacket for dry-cleaning may get it cleaned, it is not the first option or choice many would take, especially those who love and prize their leather jacket as a valuable possession.

Dry-cleaning would just clean your leather jacket, but also undo all the treatments and processes that it underwent to give you that particular look and feel. So those opting for dry-cleaning should expect a color change, a different feel almost mimicking a leather jacket that belongs to someone else.

Many types of leather will also shrink after dry-cleaning and by no fault of its manufacturers.

It is for this reason that leather jacket owners are advised for professional help and assistance when dealing with leather jacket care and maintenance. If they are unable to do so themselves.

Professional help here doesn’t mean dry-cleaning but individuals who are highly skilled with the ins and outs of leather and which types of leather require which cleaning routine.

Hence, going to a leather professional for any kind of assistance including cleaning would be a great activity to enhance the durability of your leather jacket.

Points to Beware of

By now it may appear to be a relatively simple task, cleaning your leather jacket. Yet it may be a good idea to also share a few factors that many may be unaware of, regarding the cleaning of your leather jacket.

1. No to Ammonia and Bleach

First off, NEVER use ammonia or bleach-based cleaners and possibly even conditioners that may have these ingredients. These guys can damage the finish of your leather in no time, starting with excessively drying it out and even cracking.

Water too is not such a good idea as it can stain certain leather jackets. Thus the need to know the type of leather you have. Should you ever accidentally spill anything on your leather jacket, it is best you blot it and clean immediately with a soft cloth or else there will be major stains forming instantly.

With leather being porous you can’t imagine how easy it is for leather to absorb any kind of liquid.

2. Moisturizing aged leather

Conditioning and moisturizing aged leather is another point to beware of. This is because aged leather especially aged leather jackets by now have developed a distinct patina as well as an element referred to as ‘well-worn’ that can only be achieved with the passage of time.

This makes it unique in the truest form of the word and which requires a great deal of conditioning and moisturizing to continue on in developing this unique patina but beware! This should be done cautiously to protect not only its age but the existing patina it possesses.

3. The Red Rot

Finally, it’s time to touch base on Red Rot. Regardless of how clean and well-conditioned your leather jacket is, beware of Red Rot. Quite simply, a condition that leads to the breakdown of the structure of leather; especially aged leather.

This will typically look like peeling and cracking of the leather surface that may vary by degree and product type. No matter how much you clean or condition your leather jacket if your leather has Red Rot, there is nothing you can do to prevent it or allowing it to deteriorate.

What you can do is seek professional assistance which would be the only best thing you can do. Leather professionals will not only be able to tell you if it is or isn’t Red Rot but also will be able to tell you if your leather jacket can or cannot be saved.

If you’re in luck and your leather jacket can be saved, these professionals also have the correct tools to help solve this problem. Even though your leather jacket may or may not be able to look and feel exactly as it did before, it’s something that differs leather to leather.

A Few FAQs Answered

Can you take a leather jacket to the dry cleaners?

It’s advisable not to. You can take your leather jacket to the dry cleaners but be warned that dry-cleaning leather jackets are not always a walk in the park. You may get them cleaned but not without undoing any or all of the treatments undertaken to get them to look and feel the way they do.

How do you clean the lining of a leather jacket?

There are many ways to clean your leather jacket lining using plain old lukewarm water and detergent with a sponge among a few other ways.

How to clean leather jacket fungus?

Using a soft-bristled brush, you can dust away or remove easy and loose fungus and molding from your leather. For tougher fungi, you can use a soft cloth or sponge that has been dipped in water and a bit of petroleum jelly. Using gentle strokes, rub until you see the mold or fungus starting to disappear. This works especially well with Nubuck and suede.

Did you know? Bonus Tips

Did you know you can use toothpaste to remove stains from leather? Simply go for a non-gel toothpaste and gently rub a bit with a soft cloth over the stain. DO NOT scrub as you can scratch or discolor the leather. Wipe the toothpaste off with a clean, damp cloth.

Whether ink stains or most stains on leather, try using some nail polish remover by using a cotton swab dabbed into this solution and then applied on the stained area. NEVER rub vigorously or the stain can spread. Simply blot gently until the stain is gone. Wipe with clean, damp cloth or soft, dry towel.

You can remove oil or grease stains from leather by simply using baking soda. Sprinkle a bit of baking soda over the area and use a damp cloth to rub gently. Let it sit overnight or for a couple of hours before you wipe off excess baking soda powder with a soft, dry cloth or towel.

By now we’ve not only learned that cleaning leather jackets isn’t as daunting a task to achieve. The results are often always positive, when carried out correctly and handled with care. The only daunting elements to be wary of is to not fall for the many myths that get thrown about online. Especially the fact that leather jackets can be dry-cleaned.

Before you go…

The most important factor to always remember is that investing in good quality products for cleaning and conditioning your leather jacket will go a long way to give you durability as well as cleanliness. Whether you have to get rid of stains and blotches or eliminate odor.

You have it all down and ready to be tried and tested. Caution is always key when undertaking any type of cleaning routine and cleaning your leather jackets shouldn’t be an exception.

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