How To Clean a Leather Jacket

Leather jackets are a staple among motorcyclists. They have been the go-to riding jacket for decades, and it doesn't seem like that's changing anytime soon. However, leather, unlike other materials, cannot just be thrown in the washing machine. You need to treat leather differently than other types of clothing.

Here are a few tips for keeping your leather jacket looking like new. 

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Clean Spills Immediately

Leather is soft and porous, so anything left on the jacket will get absorbed and be much harder to clean down the road.  If you're out at a restaurant or bar, the best thing you can do is get a napkin to wipe of whatever you spilled. If you're at home and you have access to a soft cloth, use that instead. The softer the material, the less chance you have of scratching your jacket. If you have a heated jacket, make sure you remove the battery, or be careful not to get the battery wet. (Learn more about heated jackets.)

The best cleaning solution for leather is a mix of warm water and a small amount of dish soap.

Use These Materials For Set-In Stains

If you inherited an old leather jacket, or just missed a stain, all is not lost! You can still get it out and get your jacket back to looking fresh and new. To remove set-in stains, use any of the following:

For Basic Stains - Toothpaste

Using your finger, gently rub the toothpaste into the stain. Continue to work it in with a soft cloth until you see the stain lifting. Once you're done, use a damp cloth to wipe the toothpaste away. The texture of the toothpaste is what helps remove the stain, so make sure you're using a basic white toothpaste, not a gel.

For Ink Stains - Nail Polish Remover

Nail polish is excellent from removing ink stains from leather. Make sure you use a cotton swab to blot the stain away gently. Don't apply more than you need, and don't rub the nail polish remover in; otherwise, the ink/stain could spread.

For Oil/Grease - Cornstarch or Baking Soda

Baking soda is excellent for removing oil or grease stains. Add the baking soda to a small bowl and add a tiny amount of water until you create a baking soda paste. It should be about as thick as toothpaste and not be a runny consistency. Take a damp cloth and apply the mixture to the stained area and rub it in. Let this sit overnight, and the mixture will absorb the majority of the oil. Repeat this as needed until the stain is removed.

For Mold/Mildew - Rubbing Alcohol

If you've had your jacket in storage for a bit, it's not uncommon for mold to develop. To mitigate the moldy crud, mix 1 part water and 1 part rubbing alcohol in a container. Dampen a cloth with the mixture and wipe it along the affected area.

End Everything With Conditioner

After you've cleaned your jacket, make sure to apply any brand of leather conditioner. Washing your leather jacket can dry it out, and the conditioner helps prevent cracking.​

If you don't want to go out and buy some, you can make your own by mixing two parts linseed oil and one part vinegar.

Apply whatever leather conditioner you decide to buy, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes and then buff it with a soft cloth. 

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