How to Clean a Leather Jacket

It’s very possible to clean a leather jacket at home, even if it’s stained. If you have one that needs cleaning, don’t rush to the dry cleaners before you’ve tried these cleaning tips.

Closeup of clean blue leather jacket

And yes – all of these tips apply to any kind of fake or vegan leather, too.

Leather jackets are a stylish and timeless addition to any wardrobe, and they don’t need a lot of maintenance. But over time, they can collect buildup from skin or hair products, or just skin cells themselves.

Choosing the Cleaning Products for Your Leather Jacket

You can clean a leather jacket with simple baby shampoo. Or you can buy a leather cleaner and follow the instructions on it. But the baby shampoo works just as well in my experience. 

Preparing Your Leather Jacket for Cleaning

Before you start cleaning your leather jacket, there are a couple of things you should do.

Remove any loose dust and dirt

Using a microfiber cloth, gently dust the surface of your leather jacket to remove loose dirt and debris. If you have something caked on, like mud, you can use a brush, but very gently. 

Test any cleaning products on a small, inconspicuous area

Not all leather is the same, so it’s always a good idea to test any cleaning products on a small, hidden area of your jacket first. This ensures it won’t cause any damage or discoloration. This is especially important if you’re using a new product or if your jacket has any unique or delicate features.

Just apply a small amount of the product to the area, and then wait a few minutes to see if any adverse reactions occur. If you notice any discoloration or damage, stop using the product immediately and try a different one.

Never Wash a Leather Jacket in the Washing Machine

Putting a leather jacket through a washing machine is never a good idea. It can remove the natural oils that keep the leather supple. That can lead to cracks and a damaged finish.

Removing Stains From a Leather Jacket

Accidents happen, and sometimes your leather jacket can get a stain or spot on it. 

  1. Blot: If you spill something on your leather jacket, immediately blot the area with a clean, dry cloth to absorb as much of the liquid as possible.
  2. Spot Cleaner: For stubborn stains or spots, use baby shampoo or a specialized leather spot cleaner. 
  3. Apply: Apply the baby shampoo or spot cleaner with a clean, soft cloth and gently rub it into the stained area. Avoid rubbing too hard as this can damage the leather.
  4. Getting it Dry: After applying the spot cleaner, let it sit for a minute or so. You can just buff it off, which is safer since water can hurt the leather, or you can use a damp cloth to remove it. If you use water at all, use very little and let it air dry.
  5. DO NOT USE A HAIR DRYER, SUNLIGHT or any other heat source to dry the jacket. That could cause cracking.

Cleaning the Entire Leather Jacket Safely and Effectively

Now that you have spot-treated any stains or spots on your leather jacket, it’s time to clean the entire jacket to keep it looking its best. 

NOTE: I have jackets I’ve never cleaned entirely. If spot cleaning is enough to make your jacket look great again, that’s all you need to do. But if you want to clean the whole jacket, here’s how:

  1. Apply a small amount of leather cleaner to a soft cloth.
  2. Gently rub the cleaner into the surface of your jacket, working in small sections at a time.
  3. Buff the solution off.

How to Clean the Leather Jacket Lining?

Check the label to see if your lining is a washable material. If not, it needs to go to the dry cleaner. And be careful to find one that is qualified to handle leather.

If it is washable, take it to the kitchen sink. Put a drop of dish liquid on a damp cloth and rub it gently into the dirty areas of the lining. If you’re doing the whole lining, do it in small sections.

When you’re done, wipe the lining with a damp cloth. Hang up the jacket to dry.

Conditioning Your Leather Jacket to Keep It Looking Great

After cleaning your leather jacket, it’s important to condition it to keep it soft, supple, and moisturized. Conditioning also helps to prevent cracking and stiffness, and can extend the life of your leather jacket.

This will also make it easier to clean in the future.

Choose a leather conditioner that is specifically formulated for the type of leather your jacket is made of to ensure the best results. Apply a small amount of conditioner to a soft cloth and rub it into the surface of your jacket in circular motions. Be sure to apply the conditioner evenly to avoid blotches or streaks.

Leave the conditioner on your jacket for the recommended time specified by the product instructions. Generally, it will take a few minutes for the conditioner to absorb into the leather. After the waiting time has passed, use a clean, dry cloth to buff away any excess conditioner residue from the surface of your jacket.

Repeat this process as often as needed to keep your leather jacket looking great and feeling soft and supple. However, be careful not to over-condition your jacket, as this can cause the leather to become too soft and lose its structure.

Drying Your Leather Jacket Properly After Cleaning

Properly drying your leather jacket after cleaning is crucial to avoid damaging the leather. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Gently blot any excess moisture or water from your leather jacket using a clean, dry towel. Do not rub the leather, as this can cause damage and discoloration.
  2. Hang your jacket in a well-ventilated area to air dry completely, away from direct sunlight or heat sources that can damage the leather.
  3. Make sure that your jacket is not hanging in a damp or humid area, as this can cause mold or mildew to develop on the leather.
  4. Using a fan or dehumidifier can help speed up the drying process and ensure that your leather jacket dries evenly.
  5. Avoid using a hair dryer or any other heat source to dry your jacket, as this can cause the leather to shrink or crack.

Following these steps will help ensure that your leather jacket dries properly and stays in great condition for years to come.

Storing Your Leather Jacket in a Safe, Dry Place

Proper storage is essential to keep your leather jacket in good condition for years to come.

  • Store your leather jacket in a cool, dry place to prevent any moisture or humidity from damaging the leather.
  • Avoid exposing your jacket to direct sunlight or any heat sources as this could potentially cause the leather to dry out and crack.
  • Use a breathable garment bag or cover to protect your jacket from dust, dirt, and other elements that can cause damage or discoloration.
  • Avoid folding your leather jacket as this can cause creases that may become permanent over time.
  • If possible, hang your leather jacket on a padded hanger to help maintain its shape and prevent any stretching or damage.

By following these storage tips, you can ensure that your leather jacket stays looking great for years to come.

Tips and Tricks for Maintaining Your Leather Jacket Over Time

  • Regularly clean and condition your leather jacket to keep it looking great.
  • Use a leather protector spray to protect your jacket from water damage or stains.
  • Store your leather jacket in a cool, dry place to avoid mildew, mold, or any other damage caused by moisture.
  • Do not hang your leather jacket on a wire hanger, as it can cause the leather to stretch and lose its shape.
  • Use a leather balm to restore the natural oils of your jacket and prevent it from drying out. Apply it every six months or as needed.

Enjoy Your Clean Leather Jacket

I’ve cleaned my own leather (and fake leather) jackets at home for years, and you can, too. Remember to always check the label for specific instructions, and stick to baby shampoo or a leather cleaner and conditioner designed for your specific jacket’s type of leather.