Ultimate Guide to Cleaning a Leather Jacket at Home

Leather jackets are one of the ultimate fashion icons of the century, providing a cool and effortless boost to your appearance no matter what you look like. From the biker jackets of the 50s to tight European racing cuts, leather jackets have changed the world of fashion in a dynamic and exciting way that is unparalleled by any other singular article of clothing. However, caring for them is a unique challenge that must be done right, otherwise, you risk permanently damaging your precious and valued jacket. 

The first thing to understand, for those who aren’t familiar with the specifics of cleaning expensive and unique items like a leather jacket, is that you can’t simply throw it in the wash with your other clothes. Exposure to the kind of moisture and harsh chemicals found in your typical laundry load will turn the leather dry and brittle and cause it to lose its beauty and durability. This means that you’ll have to come up with different ways to keep a leather jacket clean, but luckily, there are many different ways to accomplish this.

Usually, a simple home cleaning once a year or so should be plenty to keep yours looking pristine and fresh. Try to avoid spilling food or oily substances on it, but if it happens, there are some simple and easy solutions available to you.  

Dish soap and warm water

This is a basic cleaning method for leather of any type or function that will serve well to get most stains out. Begin by laying out two rags and a towel, and prepare a solution of about 5 parts warm water to 1 part dish soap.  

Use the first rag to soak up a little of your solution, and gently wipe down the stain, trying to avoid scrubbing too hard and causing abrasive damage to the leather. Once you’ve wiped and lifted the stain, use the second cloth to wipe the spot down with just water, with no soap. To finish, pat-dry the leather with the towel, and see how it looks once it dries completely.  

This method should work well for a generalized cleaning routine on your jacket to keep it looking shiny, fresh, and new. If you find yourself needing to do this more than once a month or so, you may want to consider if you are being too hard on your jacket, or if there is a way you can keep it from getting so dirty in the first place. However, if you have a one-time stain that isn’t removed by this method, there are some more tricks you can use that should lift any stains or spots on leather.  

Vinegar and water

If the dish soap didn’t do the trick, try creating another solution with about the same ratio of water to white vinegar. White vinegar is renowned on cleaning and home improvement sites for its ability to quickly and effectively clean most stains, while not being too harsh on different materials or the environment. 

Vinegar works especially well on dirt or mineral stains, so this can keep your jacket looking fresh even when you’re on a hike, riding, or anywhere else you can get dirt on it. Like dish soap, vinegar and water is an excellent choice for basic maintenance and upkeep of the jacket, performed once a month or so to keep it looking new.

Specific Stains

Let’s say you have an oil stain on your jacket, whether motor oil, grease from hot food, or any other kind. This will require a slightly different technique but is still easy to accomplish at home.

Start by sprinkling baking soda on the stain and rubbing it in with a damp cloth. Let this sit overnight, and wipe the stain down the next day, drying the leather afterward. Baking soda breaks down oils and grease exceptionally well, so this method should work for the tough stains that the dish soap and vinegar aren’t touching.

Another common stain that you might have to deal with is ink. Ink can be a difficult stain to remove, but don’t panic. Begin by gently swabbing the area with nail polish remover, but don’t scrub it too hard or you risk damaging the leather.  

Try to lift or swab the stain out with the nail polish remover, then wipe it clean with a damp cloth. Women clean leather jackets easier. As always, dry the area thoroughly with a towel when you are done, and repeat the process as necessary. This should take care of any ink stains that are hurting the appearance of your leather jacket.  

The nice thing about leather is its durability and the vast knowledge we have about taking care of it. Leather is an ancient and well-understood material that, when properly taken care of, can last a lifetime. Treat your leather jacket well and you will not only have a fashion icon in your wardrobe, you’ll also have a treasured heirloom that you can even pass down to your kids someday. 

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