Leather jacket cleaning & care guide

The leather jacket is a clothing item famed for its longevity, which is why most blokes are willing to fork out hundreds if not thousands of pounds for a good quality one.

Seen as an intelligent investment – it’s the sort of jacket you plan on wearing to the grave; a jacket that’ll grow old gracefully with you, no matter how fat and withered you become.

Better yet, it’s one of the few clothing items that age like a fine wine, becoming more fashionable and more enigmatic the older and more distressed it becomes – much unlike yourself.

However, these sentiments are only true of leather jackets which are well-cleaned and cared for on a regular basis.

Although it might look heavenly to you, leather is not a miracle product and so while it can survive plenty of wear and tear over the years, it can still pick up a heck of a lot of grub and grime over the course of a few months.

That’s why when it comes to cleaning, it needs to be treated in a delicate manner, as one trip in the washing machine is as good as a death sentence for a leather jacket in the prime of its life.

So to help you get the best out of your cowhide costume, we’ve put together this definitive cleaning and care guide.

How To Clean a Leather Jacket

Before attempting to clean or wash a leather jacket yourself, you should always check the label of the jacket to learn what its proper care instructions are.

This is because most leather jackets request professional cleaning only, meaning a standard spin in the wash will most likely damage or affect the quality and longevity of your coat.

However, taking your jacket down to a specialist cleaning service every month is a bit drastic, as well as expensive.

While this kind of service will do your jacket wonders every so often, there are plenty of home-cleaning methods you can follow to lessen the burden on your wallet and get the shine back on your jacket.

Here’s how:

Day to Day Jacket Cleaning Maintenance

If you wear your jacket pretty much everyday, it’s bound to pick up some of the dirt and dust of everyday life, which can quickly become unsightly and grubby over time.

Keeping on top of this is therefore a good way to keep your leather looking fresh and stylish.

For cleaning simple areas of dirt, it’s safe to apply very mild, soapy water to a sponge and then lightly dab the affected spots. The idea is to simply try and wipe away these bits of build up and you should be careful not to soak the leather.

You can do this weekly, fortnightly or monthly depending on how visibly dirty your jacket seems to get.

Once done, wipe off excess water with a dry cloth and leave it to dry naturally – don’t use artificial heat like radiators or hairdryers, as this can affect the feel and look of your leather!

To give your leather some love, it’s then also recommended you add some wax, spray or other treatment to enhance your leather’s look.

Tackling Tougher Stains

While the method above should keep you out of trouble, one day the inevitable is going to happen… a big, fat unsightly stain that turns you from Marlon Brando-look alike to the resident town drunk in seconds.

We’ll be real with you here, a really nasty stain on a leather jacket is always tough to get out, which is why a professional cleaner is often your best bet with particularly tough messes.

That being said, there are still plenty of different home remedies for tackling all sorts of different stains, so if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative home remedy, consider trying some of these…

Liquid Stains

Great news! These are by far the easiest to clean up, provided you attempt to do so almost immediately after any spillage has occurred!

Simply use the standard method of dabbing soapy water and drying with a cloth until the stain begins to lift, repeating the process until it’s removed.

To prevent this from occurring in the first place, it’s also recommended you treat your leather jacket with waterproofing sprays.

Grease Stains

To remove grease, you’ll need to find a product that can decolourise or remove oil without tarnishing your leather.

A kind of clay called Fuller’s Earth is currently one of the most popular methods, as is using baby powder. These are to be placed on the stain for an hour or so until they have soaked up the oil, then lightly brushed off.


Best removed when still wet, ink is of course a bit of a nightmare if you get it on your leather jacket.

There are leather ink removal products available and saddle-soap for horses is also recommended. However, there is always a risk of discolouration when removing ink and you may end up having to rectify this with leather colour restoring kits, in spite of any successfully removed stain.

Cleaning The Inside Of A Jacket

While the inside of your jacket isn’t going to get grimy any time soon, it might start to whiff if you go too long without washing.

To clean the inside, simply turn your jacket inside out and then lightly sponge with soapy water and pay particular attention to that armpit area, as this is where you’re most likely to have odours and dirt build-up!

You can then leave it to dry naturally and spray with some deodoriser or air freshener to keep it smelling nice.

How To Care For A Leather Jacket

As well as keeping things clean, you’ll also want to ensure your leather maintains it’s fine quality for as long as possible.

This mainly comes down to what precautions you take to protect your jacket.


We’d recommend treating your leather jacket with some waterproofing spray as a minimum precaution, as this can give some protection if you’re ever caught out in the rain, as well as act as a barrier against liquid stains!

If you’ve had your jacket for a long time and it’s starting to dull and lose some of it’s shine, there are also plenty of specialist leather waxes and creams designed to revive the material!

Restores & Repairs

Although leather jackets are fairly robust creatures, you may over time notice more and more repair jobs popping up, problems which can usually be easily fixed with the right products and know-how.
Naturally, we’d recommend taking any big jobs to a local clothing repairs store to tackle anything out of your comfort zone, but provided you’re confident there’s no further damage to be done, you might be able to solve the issue yourself without paying extortionate repair fees.

Tears & Rips

Any small cuts in your leather can be sewn or glued shut – provided you use a suitable glue or sew with thread matching the colours of your jacket.

This obviously won’t remove the blemish, but rather just cover it up.


If you’re not into the distressed leather look, scratches on your jacket can be a common annoyance!

These can be solved by using conditioning leather spray on smaller marks or using leather filler on quite large gashes.

If using conditioner, be sure to clean and dry the area first, as this will enhance the effect of the conditioning spray.

Storing Your Jacket

While you might leave the rest of your coats lying around the house or hung up on the bannister, this is no way to treat a leather jacket.

If you don’t wear your jacket daily, it’s especially important to keep it in a moisture-free area, away from sunlight to maintain its colour and prevent mould.

Dealing With The Weather

One of the leather jacket’s great enemies is rainwater and so if you get caught in a monsoon, you need to take precautions when you get back into the dry. Allow it to dry naturally and avoid hanging up in the wardrobe until it’s completely free of moisture, as otherwise, you’ll risk mould build-up.

While a lot of these steps might seem like a faff, they’re often the difference between your leather jacket lasting just a year or several decades, so be sure to follow them if you want to give your leather jacket the longevity you crave!