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How To Wash a Leather Jacket – Tips From a Leather Crafter

You’re wearing your favorite leather jacket to a meetup with your friends, and you spilled coffee down the front.  Now, what do you do to fix it?  I’m going to discuss how to wash a leather jacket so you can remove that coffee stain and keep your leather jacket looking nice and new.

How to wash a leather jacket is a process of removing dirt and stains without damaging the leather’s fibers or protective finish. Mild cleaners, baking soda, and even toothpaste can be easily used to remove everyday wear, stains, and spills to help maintain your leather jacket.

Do you have a leather jacket that has some spots or stains that need cleaning?  Are you unsure how to clean a leather jacket without damaging the material? How to wash a leather jacket is a simple process that can help keep your jacket looking clean a new.

What is How to Wash a Leather Jacket 

How to wash a leather jacket is a fairly simple process of cleaning dirt and debris from leather without damaging the leather. There are various methods for washing a leather jacket depending on the stain and the type of leather you are trying to clean. Properly washing a leather jacket is necessary to prevent shrinking, damaging, or even ruining it. 

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Leather Jackets

Uses for How to Wash a Leather Jacket  

When you wear it over time, a leather jacket can pick up dirt and debris and even catch some spills.  These can contribute to stains, cracks, smells, and even mold.  It’s a good idea to wash a leather jacket when spills occur, or it’s been a while since the last cleaning.  Uses for how to wash a leather jacket include the following:

  1. Everyday wear
  2. Spills
  3. Stains
  4. Water damage
  5. Mold
  6. Scuffs

Types or Variations of How to Wash a Leather Jacket 

According to researchers Barros, Cardoso, Rodrigues, da Silva, and Zille, there are enzymatic processes used to tan and dye leather, and incorrect washing methods can further shrink and ruin a leather jacket. There are a few different ways to wash a leather jacket correctly.  The first type is through soap and warm water. 

You can use mild dish soap, like Ivory or Dove soap, or even a gentle laundry detergent diluted in water.  Wipe off in one direction with a clean and damp cloth, then wipe with a dry cloth to absorb excess moisture and allow to dry.

The standard option is a good leather cleaner to remove dirt and stains from a leather jacket.

Another method to wash a leather jacket is using toothpaste to clean up stains.  Regular toothpaste (no gel) can be rubbed in a circular motion with your fingertip to cover the stain.  Let it sit for about 10 seconds, then rub off the toothpaste with a damp microfiber cloth or old t-shirt and allow it to dry.

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Two removal options include baking soda and cornstarch if you have a grease stain on a leather jacket.  Sprinkle either one of these on any grease spots, then lightly rub it in with a damp microfiber cloth or old t-shirt.  Allow the baking soda or cornstarch to set for several hours, then rub off with a clean, damp cloth.

Pat dry with a towel. The standard option is a good leather cleaner to remove dirt and stains from a leather jacket.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and the instructions on the care label inside the leather jacket.

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Microfiber Cloths

Tools Needed for How to Wash a Leather Jacket 

Leather is naturally exposed to humidity, warmth, and moisture with everyday wear, which affects the material’s moisture level, according to faculty researchers Mihajlovski and Bahchevandjiev of Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje.  This moisture can lead to other things like mold that must be addressed and washed to keep a leather jacket looking great.

There are only a few necessary tools when you’re preparing to wash a leather jacket.  One of the most important tools is a couple of microfiber cloths or old t-shirts.  These fabrics are soft and will not scratch leather jackets.  Also, select the mild soap or other cleaner discussed for the type of cleaning or stain removal you plan on performing. 

You’ll also need a large bowl and warm water to mix the soap and prepare your cleaning solution, should you choose the soap and water method.  The last and most important tool you’ll need is a leather conditioner to moisturize and protect your leather jacket after cleaning and drying.

 Using the right products and not too much water, plus following up with leather conditioner, is the epitome of the skill level for washing a leather jacket.

Skill Level of How to Wash a Leather Jacket

You don’t need an advanced degree or even special skills to wash a leather jacket.  There are a few things to consider to wash a leather jacket properly and keep it looking good.  Leather is complex and held together with tiny fibers, and strong detergents and cleaners will interfere with those connections. 

A mild soap will not disturb those fibers, which keeps the material looking soft and clean.  Also, test any product you decide to use in an inconspicuous spot, like the inside of the cuff or collar, for any color change.  Using the right products and not too much water, plus following up with leather conditioner, is the epitome of the skill level for washing a leather jacket.

How to Wash a Leather Jacket

By this point, I hope you’re feeling more confident about washing a leather jacket on your own.  If you’re ready, here’s the step-by-step on how to wash a leather jacket:

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1.     Clean off any debris or dust with a vacuum or soft-bristled brush.

2.     Identify if you’re working with unfinished or finished leather.

3.     Mix a teaspoon of mild soap in 2 cups of warm water, working up some suds.

4.     Test the mixture on an inconspicuous area like the inside of the cuff or collar for colorfastness.

5.     Dampen an old t-shirt or a microfiber cloth in soapy, hot water.

6.     Wipe (don’t scrub) the leather jacket surface with the dampened cloth.

7.     Avoid getting the leather too wet.

8.     Use a dry cloth to wipe off any excess soapy water.

9.     Allow the jacket to air dry.

10.  Use a leather conditioner to moisturize the leather jacket.

Tips for How to Wash a Leather Jacket 

 For the best results for how to wash a leather jacket, keep the following tips in mind:

  1.  Never soak a leather jacket or wash it in a washing machine.
  2.  Use mild soap rather than harsh chemicals like alcohol or bleach.
  3.  Always apply a leather conditioner after washing and allowing a leather jacket to dry.
  4. Consider consulting with a leather care professional for difficult stains or if you’re uncomfortable with washing a leather jacket.

How to Get Better at Washing a Leather Jacket  

How do you get better at washing a leather jacket?  All it takes is practice and using the right products.  Know what type of leather your jacket is made of and if there’s a protective coating. 

Become aware of what leather cleaning products are available and how to use them appropriately.  Then learn from your mistakes because we all make them.  That’s why we suggest testing products on inconspicuous spots like the inside collar or cuff.

How Real People Remove Stains From a Leather Jacket 

I asked friends and family who own a leather jacket about the worst stain they’ve had on a leather jacket and how they removed it.  Here is a table representing the percentages of their responses and what I learned from the poll about how to wash a leather jacket.

Stain Removal MethodTimes Selected
People who had a horse drool stain on their leather jacket and did not remove it  9%
People who had a coffee stain on their leather jacket and removed it with soap and water27%
People who had a hairspray stain on their leather jacket and removed it with soap and water18%
People who had a soda stain on their leather jacket and removed it with leather cleaner18%
People who had a chocolate stain on their leather jacket and removed it with soap and water19%
People who had a beer stain on their leather jacket but did not remove it9%
How To Wash a Leather Jacket

Examples of How to Wash a Leather Jacket 

  1. For any spills, wipe off any excess moisture and clean ASAP to prevent any stains.
  2. Use the right product for the right spill.  Powders for greasy spots, nothing abrasive.  Cooking oil, motor oil, lotion, etc. can be cleaned up with baking soda or cornstarch.
  3. Never soak leather; use the minimum amount to clean without leaving residue to prevent stains.  Coffee, soda, and other drinks should be dabbed with a dry cloth immediately, then washed with soap and water and dried with a dry cloth.

For more tips on washing stains from a leather jacket using a cleaning product, check out this helpful video.

Related Insights

Can you put a leather jacket in the washing machine?

No, putting a leather jacket in the washing machine will remove the oils that make it soft and pliable.  This will lead to cracking of the leather, which is difficult to repair.

Can a leather jacket be dry-cleaned?

A leather jacket should not be dry cleaned through standard methods but by specialized leather treatment.

Can you soak a leather jacket in water?

A leather jacket should not be soaked in water.  This will lead to the drying of the natural oils and stains.

Should you wash a leather jacket?

Yes, a leather jacket can be washed by hand by wiping it with a damp microfiber cloth or an old t-shirt.

How often should you wash a leather jacket?

A leather jacket should be cleaned and conditioned about every six months if worn once weekly or more often.  This can help remove and prevent stains and keep the leather looking nice.

Is it OK to soak leather?

Leather should not be soaked in water.  Soaking ruins leather when nothing is done about it.

Final Thoughts 

If you were unsure about how to wash a leather jacket when you started this article, we hope you’ve found the answers you were looking for to do it on your own.  Leather jackets are designed to withstand many things and last, and stains and spills can certainly gather over time. 

Use mild soap, don’t soak the leather, always test products in an inconspicuous spot, and condition the leather when you’re done.  It’s a fairly easy practice, and keeping a leather jacket clean and conditioned can help it last and look great.

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