How to Clean a Leather Jacket So It Looks Like New

Leather jackets were in back then, and they are still in now. Let’s face it. They are a staple to any gender’s wardrobe while looking cool and keeping us warm. But leather is not cheap. That’s why taking care of it can go a long way. Even black leather can start to fall apart when you aren’t careful. The texture is different so throwing it in the wash simply won’t do. 

That’s why we have developed the ultimate guide to cleaning your leather jacket without ruining it. All leather jackets should look as cool as they did before the cleaning process when they are done. Let’s get started. 

Do Not Throw Your Leather Jacket in Wash

There are always two questions that pop into the minds of those looking to clean a leather jacket. 

  1. How do you wash a leather jacket without ruining it?
  2. Can you machine wash a leather jacket?

The funny thing is that the fastest way to ruin your leather jacket is to wash it in the machine. Not every type of clothing can go in the washing machine. So the first thing everyone should know is that you should not throw your leather jacket in the washer. There are a lot better ways to clean it. It all starts with knowing what type of leather you are working with.  

different types of leather

Know Your Types of Leather 

Not all leather is equal. Most know that there are different types of colors, but it’s worth noting that there are different types of leather. And that different types of leather need to be treated and cleaned differently. 

  • Nappa Leather – This leather type is considered the highest grade of leather. It is very soft and is full-grain or unsplit leather from lamb. Nappa is delicate, which means it will need the most delicate cleanings. 
  • Suede – Suede leather has a nappy finish but is different than the aforementioned. It is taken from the soft underside of a split-grain hide. Suede leather is one of the easiest to stain and must be treated very carefully if so. 
  • Nubuck – This leather looks similar to suede but is different in where the suede comes from. It’s taken from the top of the animal high and is actually buffed down to make it soft and offers a velvet finish. 
  • Aniline – Aniline is chemically treated and is a full-grain letter. This is common for most leather jackets because of its protectant application. 

So with that being said, we can learn how to clean different types of leather: Suede, Nubuck, Aniline, and Nappa.

leather jacket cleaning supplies

What You Need to Clean a Leather Jacket

The process will differ between different types of leather jackets. But generally speaking, modern leather, such as the leather used for jackets, will have a protectant seal over it. This makes it much harder for stains to set in. Natural products are the way to go when cleaning. 

We never want to use:

  1. Ammonia
  2. Bleach
  3. Acetone
  4. Harsh chemicals in general,

This is a quick way to ruin the jacket by burning through the material and ruining the texture and color or worsening the stain itself. The best approach is to use minimal products when handwashing a leather jacket. 

You can use: 

Sometimes other methods can include using other products such as

  • Vinegar
  • Cornstarch
  • Acetone-Free Rubbing Alcohol

It’s always better to start with the softer ingredients before moving on to something like rubbing alcohol. Having said that, sometimes you need a little more kick to your solution. Let’s talk about the basic handwashing of a leather jacket and then some scenarios you may face and tricky situations. 

how to restore a leather jacket

How Do You Clean and Restore a Leather Jacket?

It doesn’t matter whether you want to know how to clean a vintage leather jacket or how to clean a leather jacket from the thrift store. These two relatively have the same process as long as they are in OK condition. Maybe they just need cleaning because it’s been some time. Or if they have a few smudges, marks, and stains, it doesn’t hurt to try to do basic cleaning. 

How To:

  1. Clean your sink and put the drain in so it can hold lukewarm water. Ensure that the water is not too hot when you fill it, as it could damage the leather. 
  2. Add some mild laundry detergent to the sink. You only need a tiny amount. Mix well through the water, so the solution is spread out. 
  3. Dunk the leather jacket completely into the water. This is also how to clean the leather jacket lining. Everything should be underwater. Let soak for 10 minutes. 
  4. If there are any stains on the jacket, you can use a cloth or a very soft bristle brush to lift them from the leather. It’s important to never scrub too harshly as it can break apart the material. 
  5. After 10 minutes, lift the jacket out. Never wring your jacket! This can cause permanent creases. Simply change out the water for fresh water to remove the soak and gently squeeze the jacket. You made need to change the water a few times to get clean water and get rid of the suds. 
  6. Once the soap is gone, hang the jacket in an area where it can dry out of sunlight and away from heat. This may take a few days for it to dry. Do not throw it into the dryer.  Once dry, you may notice the texture is a little different. 
  7. Using a good leather conditioner can get it back to its original state

But not all jackets just need a clean, simple rinse. Sometimes we have to deal with unwanted things like mold. 

how to get rid of mold on a leather jacket

How to Clean Leather Jacket with Mold

This is where you need some of the stronger stuff. When it comes to mold, we recommend getting an acetone-free rubbing alcohol bottle. Even though we recommend this, it is still important to be extra careful not to ruin the coloring. 

The process is simple. You will want to dab a small amount of the rubbing alcohol onto a microfiber cloth. Never pour directly on the jacket. Without scrubbing too hard, dab the area with a damp cloth. Some people have the urge to try and scrub, but we don’t want to move the solution around the jacket. It is best to just keep it directly on the stain itself to minimize potential effects. 

Some people like to also use nail polish remover for mold and ink stains. This also needs to be completely free of acetone. Acetone takes the dye out of products and causes permanent damage. 

how to clean a leather jacket

How To Remove Stains From a Leather Jacket With Natural Products

No one would blame you if you didn’t want to use the chemicals listed above. It is usually better to try and work with objects you can find in your kitchen pantry. Vinegar happens to be one of the best options. When you are dealing with stains, mold, or areas that seem to be affected in one way or another, grab some vinegar and a damp cloth. 

For more delicate leathers, you can dilute the vinegar with one part water and one part vinegar. This is especially true if you work with salt stains on a leather jacket. Salt stains and oil stains also work well with cornstarch or baking soda. You can mix one part water and one part baking soda/cornstarch and let it rest overnight on the stain. 

Don’t Underestimate Preventative Care

Taking care of your leather jacket can be the first step in making sure you don’t have to worry about stains. Mold and mildew arise when you store your leather jacket in conditions where it may be humid. This could even be the closet next to your bathroom door, believe it or not. Using quality hangers and keeping them in a dry climate away from sun and heat is the best storage option. 

But, ultimately, stains happen, whether from being out in the rain or salt getting on your jacket during winter. Taking care of these small problems isn’t the hardest thing to do, as a deep clean in your sink with some mild detergent should do the trick. It starts to get tricky when you work with ink stains and mold that are tough to remove. This is when you can bring in an acetone-free product or try a more natural way, such as vinegar. 

With these tips and tricks, your leather jacket should look as good as new for many years to come! 

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