by Jennifer Smith May 28, 2018 8 min read

There's no season for leather jackets. You can wear them anytime, any day. In fact, a quality leather jacket never goes out of style. You can pair it up with your casual outfits or wear them fancy. With frequent use, you cannot prevent your leather jacket from getting dirty. So, learning how to wash a leather jacket is important.

As much as you love your leather jacket and want to keep it clean and shiny, you can't always protect it, especially if you wear it too often. This heavy-duty outerwear needs proper cleaning between seasons. And while everyone will tell you to take assistance from a professional, there are many ways you can keep your beloved leather gear tidy and nice by yourself.

How to Wash a Leather Jacket the Right Way

Follow these steps to clean your leather jacket:

  1. Warm water and vinegar mixed in equal parts are safe and effective to wash your leather jacket. Alternatively, you can mix some mild dish soap in water. 
  2. Take a soft microfiber cloth and dip it into the cleaning solution. Rub the jacket with this cloth to clean it, but make sure to wring it well.
  3. Now with a dry piece of cloth, swab off the jacket well to clean it further.
  4. Lastly, use a towel to dry the jacket.

Complete Guide to Cleaning a Leather Jacket

You do not necessarily have to spend a fortune to wash or clean a leather jacket if it's stained or dirty. However, you do need to take special care when washing your leather jacket to keep it from getting ruined. Unlike your other clothes, you cannot just dump your leather jacket in a washing machine and do the deed. This could crack, shrink, and even damage your luxury leather jacket beyond repair.

Before you seek professional help and spend a lot of money, here are some simple yet effective ways that you can use to treat and clean a leather jacket without ruining it.

Wiping off the Dust

Wipe Dust from a Leather Jacket

As a general routine and before any sort of wet cleaning, it is important to wipe off the dust that accumulates on the leather jacket. The best way to remove dust is by wiping the jacket with a clean microfiber cloth. Avoid scouring or scrubbing as that would cause damage to the surface and color. Suede jackets or nappa leather jackets can be dusted off with a soft bristled brush.

Make a Mild DIY Cleaning Solution with Soap and Water


Just grab an open-faced container and fill up with some warm water. Add a mild liquid dish detergent into the container and stir to dissolve. Two teaspoons of detergent will be perfect for a few ounces of warm water. Just make sure the solution is mild and gentle so it does not damage your jacket.

Wiping the Jacket with a Damp Cloth

Dip a soft sponge or a clean towel into the mild soap solution and wring the excess water. It should only be damp. You don't want the leather to soak in the extra liquid and saturate. Also, it is important to use a soft sponge or fabric, so it doesn't scratch out the leather.

Start by wiping the leather jacket with your damp fabric. Use long gentle motions instead of scrubbing it. Focus on cleaning the dirty parts first. To clean completely, you may have to dampen the towel a few times.

Next, dip another clean, soft fabric in clean, warm water and wring it off to make it damp. Use this to wipe off the soap.

Drying the Jacket

Next, use a dry towel to pat the jacket dry.

Do not hang the jacket in the sunlight to dry. Direct heat can damage leather, especially if it was previously moisturized. Also, avoid placing it in the washing spinner. Simply hang it in your closet and let it dry naturally.

Stain Removal from a Leather Jacket

Your jacket can get stained by liquid spills, food spills, oil, grease, ink, mold, or something else. If you want to know how to clean a leather jacket in case of staining, try the following ways.

With Saddle Soap

Many people vouch for ruin-safe results of saddle soap on jackets made of sturdy leather. You can try to clean leather by rubbing a bar of saddle soap on it, but make sure you don't attempt it on thin leather.

With Toothpaste


If you have prominent stains on your leather jacket, you can use toothpaste to get rid of them. All you need to do is use non-gel toothpaste and rub it on the stain using your fingertip.

Make gentle circular motions to cover the entire stain. Let it sit on the stain for ten seconds and then use a soft cloth to rub the toothpaste off gently. You will be surprised to see how the stain lifts. Use a clean cloth to wipe off toothpaste completely. Let it completely dry.

With Nail Polish Remover

Nail polish remover

Dip a cotton swab in nail polish remover and use it to blot the stained area. Nail polish remover is perfect for getting rid of scuffs and ink stains from leather fabric.

Avoid rubbing the cotton swab, or it could discolor the leather or spread the ink stain. Merely blot it on the stain. Keep doing it until you can no longer see the stain. Use a dampened cloth to wipe and clean. Gently rub it with a dry towel to dry it down.

With Baking Soda/Cornstarch

baking soda

Both cornstarch and baking soda have quite a reputation for removing grease stains. If that's what you suspect stained your leather jacket, sprinkle one of these two items on the spot. Use a damp, soft cloth to rub it on the stain.

Let sit overnight or at least a few hours. The starch or baking soda will completely absorb the oil. Use a slightly wet cloth again to rub it off completely. Next, use a dry towel to pat dry the leather jacket. The oily stain has gone forever!

With Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol has some amazing uses. It's one of the best things you can keep at home. Use rubbing alcohol to get rid of mold growing on your leather jacket. However, do not apply directly until you have diluted it to keep your jacket from ruining.

Mix half-a-cup of rubbing alcohol with an equal amount of water and dip a soft cloth in the solution. Use the damp microfiber cloth to wipe the affected area in gentle motions. You will see the stain becoming lighter with every stroke. Once it's clean, use a clean, slightly moist cloth and wipe off the alcohol altogether.

Using Leather Cleaner on a Leather Jacket

Another interesting option to invest in is a special leather cleaner from a store. These are uniquely designed to help you remove the stains and dirt from your leather garments. The cleaners also usually contain oils to keep your leather jacket healthy and shiny.

Applying the Cleaner

Squirt a small amount on a clean cloth and gently rub it on the affected surface. You can clean the entire jacket using this solution, as it also conditions the jacket and improves its life. Always start with a small amount and apply more if needed.

Massaging the Cleaner into Leather

With the help of a soft and clean cloth, massage the cleaner into the jacket surface using gentle, circular strokes. Doing so lifts the dirt from the leather, also removing any water stains along the way.

It is recommended to massage the leather cleaner till it is absorbed. Leather cleaners or upholstery wax for leather furniture are formulated to soak into leather, so you don't need to wash it off.

Wiping Off the Product

After making sure the leather cleaner has been worked in properly, you should use a clean dry cloth to wipe off the excess cleaner from the jacket. This gives a nice finishing luster to the jacket, making it soft and supple like new.

Applying leather cleaner definitely adds years to the life of your jacket. Using it once is adequate to give a new look to your jacket, but you might need to repeat the procedure if the jacket is soiled.

Using Leather Conditioner

You can apply a good leather conditioner once or twice a year to keep your jacket's surface clean and shiny. Conditioning does not only leave it flexible and soft but also defends it from moisture which leads to splitting and cracking. Apart from formulated leather conditioners, you can try using mink oil on the jacket.

Maintenance Tips for Leather Jackets

So before you stress over how to wash a leather jacket, know how to take care of it, so you don't have to get it washed or cleaned again and again. Here are some tips:

  • Read the manufacturer's label inside the jacket for instructions. The label may even include the recommended cleaning method.
  • Store your jacket by draping it on a hanger in your wardrobe. Using a garment bag to store your leather jacket is best if you do not wear it too often. This will keep it in good condition for years.
  • Avoid permanent staining by cleaning the spills on the leather jacket immediately.

Leather Care Professional to the Rescue

Taking your leather jacket to a leather care professional is the standard option to get it cleaned safely. Professionals specializing in leather cleaning make sure that your jacket is thoroughly cleaned without stripping off the natural oils or ruining the texture. Handing the jacket to them also saves you from the worry of shrinking it.


Is it safe to wash a leather jacket in a washing machine?

Leather is basically raw animal hide with natural oils that give it its smoothness. If you wash a leather jacket in a machine, it can dry out the previously finished leather, leaving it cracked upon drying.

How can you remove the smell from a leather jacket?

The musty smell of even the most favorite leather jacket can be annoying, but you can easily remove it. Fill a spray bottle with one part vinegar and four parts water. Spray a light mist over the jacket and wipe it off with a soft towel. Let it completely air dry to take the unwanted smell out of it.

Can you dry clean a leather jacket?

Dry cleaning a jacket is a safe option as it protects the texture and color of the leather as well.

How frequently can a leather jacket be washed?

Wash a leather jacket or leather coat twice a season if you wear it frequently. Giving it once for dry cleaning will be enough if you use it sparingly.

How to clean the inside of a leather jacket?

Some leather jackets come with a removable lining, which can easily be hand-washed. If the leather jacket lining is fixed, it is better to get it dry-cleaned. You can turn the jacket inside out and wipe off the lining with a slightly damp microfiber cloth dipped in soapy water. Make sure you wipe it thoroughly with a dry cloth before hanging the leather jacket properly to dry.

Final Word

A leather jacket is forever. Made from sturdy material, it is your best friend if you like to punk up your outfits. Regardless of the color or style, you can surely count on your leather jacket to save the day. Make sure you follow the guidelines mentioned above to clean your leather jacket.

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