How to Clean a Leather Jacket (Because You Probably Haven’t Since You Bought Yours)
There are few items of clothing we depend on more than our trusty leather jacket. It’s warmer than a denim topper, cooler than a trench and has seen us through plenty of bizarre spring forecasts. But it’s not like you can just throw your leather moto in the washer and call it a day. Seriously, what’s a girl to do when she accidentally dips her sleeve into chipotle mayo over brunch? The horror!
So, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t look twice before reaching across the table for a handful of fries, or you haven’t laundered your coat since you bought it two years ago (it’s OK, no judgment!), we’ve gathered a few tips and tricks for keeping your favorite piece of outerwear in good shape.r in good shape.
What to consider before you clean a leather jacket
- The following applies only to finished leather, not nubuck or suede. If you’re not sure what type of leather you’re working with, check the care or fabrication label.
- If a stain on your jacket was caused by any kind of dye or bleach, take it to a leather professional, ASAP. In those two cases it’s unlikely they’ll be able to entirely repair your jacket, but they will have a much better chance than you ever would at home.
- Opt for a leather expert over your regular dry cleaners as they have the expertise necessary to deal with finished leather. If there are no specific leather treatment services in your area, you can try a shoemaker. They will definitely be used to cleaning and treating leather, albeit leather shoes, and will be able to help.
How do I get smells out of my leather jacket?
If there are no noticeable stains or marks on your jacket but you’ve started to notice a lingering odor, you can use one of the two methods below.
1. Vinegar Spritz
What you’ll need:
- White wine vinegar
- Spray bottle
- Optional: leather conditioner
- Combine ingredients. Mix equal parts water and white wine vinegar in a spray bottle.
- Spray away. Lightly spritz your jacket with the solution. At no point in time should your jacket be wet, or even damp. A light spritz is all you need. Hang your jacket on a sturdy hanger to dry.
- Repeat as necessary. Allow your jacket to air out for a few hours before double-checking the smell. If the bad odors still remain, repeat the process.
- Optional: Condition the leather. Vinegar can dry out leather, so if you’re using this method with a particularly old jacket or find that you have to repeat the process multiple times, consider applying a leather conditioner like Cadillac ($10 at Amazon) or Leather Honey ($16 at Amazon) to help your jacket look good as new and stay that way.
2. Kitty Litter
What you’ll need:
- Fresh, unscented cat litter
- Soft cloth
- Leather conditioner
- Bury your jacket in litter. Cover your jacket in fresh litter and leave it be for 24 hours (you can check it after 12 if the odor is light). Seriously. This might feel like a ridiculous process, but one of the main things expected of kitty litter is that it absorbs all sorts of stinky odors.
- Brush off any excess dust and treat with leather conditioner. Use a soft cloth, like an old T-shirt or microfiber cloth, to remove any traces of litter before applying a leather conditioner to return your jacket to prime, unscented condition.
How do I remove stains from my jacket?
If it’s only a small stain you can likely get it out yourself using one of the below techniques. That said, if you spilled a huge glass of red wine on your white leather or were splashed with a muddy puddle as a bus drove by, your best bet is likely to take your jacket to a leather-care specialist (not necessarily your regular dry cleaners). You’ll also want to defer to a professional if the stain was caused by any glue, oil, paint or heavy-duty makeup. They have specific cleaning products and use tools and techniques that will be impossible to replicate at home. Plus, they have years of experience and will know exactly how to tackle intense stains.
1. Saddle Soap
What you’ll need:
- Saddle soap
- 2 soft cloths
- Dampen both of the cloths. The key word here is damp, not wet. You don’t want any excess water getting near your leather or it might end up causing a stain of its own.
- Rub one of the cloths on the surface of the saddle soap to lather. Again, nothing dramatic here—you want a small lather, not an overflowing bubble bath situation.
- Gently rub the cloth over the stain. Work in a circular motion, being careful not to press too hard. Use the secondary clean cloth to wipe away any residue as you go.
- Allow the leather to dry completely. This shouldn’t take too long, as it shouldn’t really get that wet in the first place, but don’t freak out about lingering marks until it’s been at least 2 hours (maybe longer if the area you treated was particularly large).
2. Gentle Blotting
What you’ll need:
- Mr. Clean or another gentle all-purpose cleaner
- Soft cloth
- Dilute the cleaning agent. Mix one part Mr. Clean to 20 parts water (oh, yeah, we’re getting very diluted here).
- Dampen your cloth. Once again, it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t want the cloth to be wet, just damp.
- Lightly blot at the stain. Starting from the center of the mark, gently blot it away. If you find that you have to apply quite a lot of cleaning solution, we suggest working slowly, allowing the leather to dry completely before tackling the stain again. This will prevent the cleaning solution from creating its own stain (a risk if you apply too much at once).
Methods You Should Not Do to Clean Your Jacket
A few final words of wisdom on what not to do to your beloved leather jacket (besides panic, that is).
- Don’t use club soda. Ironically, while this method is often employed for getting stains out of other fabrics, like cotton or polyester, it can actually make leather stains worse.
- Don’t dunk it in water. Too much water will stain your leather jacket and you’ll be left with a whole slew of new marks to deal with.
- Don’t wait to deal with it. As with any stain, the sooner you treat it the better the results will be.
- Don’t be afraid to hand it off to the pros. No stain or smell is too small for a professional cleaner to treat. This is what they do for a living. If you don’t feel up to the task yourself, unburden yourself and trust in the pros.