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How to Clean a Leather Jacket at Home Properly

Jennifer L. Betts
Woman cleaning leather jacket

Whether you have a vintage classic leather jacket, one with a designer label or a prized motorcycle style, they all get dirty. Find out how you can clean your jacket at home to get rid of smell, dust and even ink. Get tips for keeping it clean, and when it's time for the cleaner.

Leather Jacket Cleaning at Home

Always be sure to do a spot test before using any cleaning materials on leather to make sure the leather will not be damaged. Do this by applying a small amount of the cleaner on an inconspicuous area of the jacket and let it sit for approximately 10 minutes. Check to make sure there is not any damage to the area.

Materials You'll Need

Before you dive right into cleaning your leather, you're going to need your tools. Be ready for any situation by having these materials on hand.

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Clean white cloth
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Leather cleaner
  • Castile soap
  • Linseed oil
  • Non-acetone fingernail polish remover
  • Leather conditioner

How to Clean Mold or Mildew Off a Leather Jacket

Removing mold or mildew from a leather jacket is a simple task using a solution of ½ rubbing alcohol and ½ water.

  1. Apply the mixture to the area of the mold or mildew using a clean white cloth or put the mixture into a spray bottle and spray the area.
  2. Coat the area with a light coating.
  3. Use another clean white cloth and dry the area thoroughly.
  4. Repeat the process as necessary.
  5. Allow the jacket to dry completely before placing it in direct sunlight.

How to Clean a Leather Jacket That Smells

When it comes to a smelly leather jacket, it's probably the liner that has the musty smell. To remove it, you'll grab the vinegar or baking soda and spray bottle. This method also works for liner stains.

  1. Turn the jacket inside out.
  2. Fill the spray bottle with vinegar.
  3. Lightly mist the inside of the jacket.
  4. Hang to dry.
  5. If the vinegar didn't cut it, sprinkle baking soda on the inside of the coat.
  6. Fill a spray bottle with water.
  7. Spray the baking soda with water to make a paste.
  8. Allow the paste to dry.
  9. Shake out the coat.
  10. Leave outside to air out.

If the actual leather smells, mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle. Lightly mist a clean cloth and wipe down the leather with the solution. Let it sit outside to dry.

How to Clean a White Leather Jacket

White leather is very susceptible to stains, scuffs and marks. Cleaning white leather is going to take more than just a quick vinegar and water wipe down. To clean stains and scuffs from white leather, you'll need the leather soap like saddle soap. You can also make a leather soap using Castile soap, linseed oil, vinegar and water.

  1. To make your solution mix 2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons Castile soap, 1 teaspoon vinegar and a drop or two of linseed oil in a spray bottle.
  2. Put the homemade soap or commercial leather soap on a cloth.
  3. Clean the entirety of the jacket, paying attention to heavily soiled areas.
Saddle soap

Removing Road Salt, Dirt and Dust

If your favorite leather motorcycle jacket has stains from road salt, mix a solution of ½ white vinegar and ½ sterilized water. Rub the solution over the jacket using a clean white cloth.

Removing Ink From a Leather Jacket

Getting ink on a leather jacket can be a very upsetting experience. But there is a way to remove the ink stains from the leather using a non-acetone nail polish remover.

  1. Scrub the ink spot for approximately 45 seconds with a sponge dampened with hot water.
  2. Dry the areas well with a clean cloth.
  3. Apply the non-acetone nail polish remover using a cotton ball. Rub the area with the cotton ball using a medium amount of pressure.
  4. Dry any remaining nail polish remover from the area.
  5. Recondition the area.

Alternate Method of Removing Ink From Leather

Another method of removing ink from leather is using rubbing alcohol, which is called isopropyl alcohol.

  1. Dip a cotton ball into the alcohol.
  2. Rub the area using a circular motion until the ink is removed.
  3. Dry the area with a clean cloth.
  4. Use a good leather conditioner or moisturizer to restore the moisture content to the leather.

Tips and Warnings for Cleaning Leather

When it comes to cleaning leather, there are dos and don'ts that you'll need to follow. Since you don't want to ruin your jacket, keep these tips in mind.

  • Leather is a sensitive material. Commercial dish soaps and cleaners can leave a residue that can damage the leather.
  • Never submerge leather in water. The natural oils in the leather can get drawn out, turning it brittle. Therefore, you don't want to put it in the water or submerge it in a sink.
  • Leather is not made for the dryer. The high heat will make it dry out and crack. Always hang to dry or put it out in the sunlight.
  • When it comes to tough stains, try a commercial cleaner made for leather. Alcohol, vinegar and baking soda can also be used in a pinch. Just remember to condition it after cleaning.
  • A popular product called Lexol is used for automobile leather. This product can also be used on leather jackets. It works to loosen dirt and condition the leather at the same time.
  • Always hang a leather jacket up on a wooden or padded hanger. Using a wire hanger or a thin plastic one can cause indentations or damage to the leather.
  • Folding the jacket may cause creases to form in the leather. If your jacket does have creases from being folded, hang it in the bathroom and run a hot shower. The steam will cause the creases to relax. Do not hang the jacket under the spray of water from the shower.

When It's Time for a Professional Cleaner

If you've tried the methods above and the dirt and stain still persist, it's time to call a professional. It isn't worth ruining your jacket. Additionally, some materials can actually stain the leather itself like red wine or mustard. In this case, you'll want to get it to the dry cleaner as fast as you can.

cleaner talking on smart phone

How to Clean a Leather Jacket

Leather jackets are amazing. They can last forever. However, they can be a pain in the neck if a spill happens. Knowing how to clean your jacket at home with materials in your pantry can save you a trip to the dry cleaner. But remember it's also important to know when to throw in the towel.

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How to Clean a Leather Jacket at Home Properly