Leather Jacket Care and Maintenance

February 26, 2021 6 min read

Leather Jacket Care and Maintenance

Leather jackets have been classic apparels. Since their advent in early 20th century for utilitarian purposes they are still very popular. They are a fashion staple and will continue to lead the fashion game for a long time ahead.

To make sure your leather jacket has a long way to go and remain classic, you must clean and care for it the right way.

How to clean a Leather Jacket

Before going ahead with cleaning your leather jacket first, you need to be clear aware what type of leather you are dealing with, like if the jacket is suede or lambskin.  Also be sure to check the labels to know the material from which the lining is made. Avoid immersing your leather jacket totally in water. Conditioning and wiping it regularly is crucial as it prevents the build-up of dirt and grease on it. For doing so you can gently blot it with a damp cloth. Do not rub it hardly and also avoid over-wetting the leather. Let the leather dry naturally but at the same time remember that it does not remain damp for long. The same can be done to remove light stains.

Below are answers to some common questions related to the cleaning and maintenance of leather jackets

Can a Leather Jacket be cleaned in the washing machine?

Leather is a natural organic material and is supple due to the natural oils within it.  Washing a leather jacket in a washing machine will rob off the natural oils and this will cause your leather jacket to dry out. This can lead to the development of cracks.  hence it is a big NO when it comes to cleaning a leather jacket in a washing machine.

Is dry cleaning good for your Leather Jacket?

Dry cleaning a mens leather jacket is not the best way to clean it and should be used if the jacket is very filthy.  Dry cleaning eliminates the natural oils from leather and hence these oils need to be replenished after the process of cleaning.  Usual dry cleaning is unapt for a leather jacket, only a dry cleaner who specialises in cleaning leather. 

Will a Leather Jacket shrink in the dryer?

Yes, a leather jacket will shrink it in a dryer.  Besides shrinking, it will also dry out the natural oils and cause it to wrinkle and crack. 

How to protect a Lambskin Leather Jacket?

Lambskin leather is a highly durable material and with appropriate care it will last a lifetime.  Whilst a lambskin leather jacket is water resistant, you should avoid wearing it in heavy rain.  Avoid long exposure to intense sunlight.  Heavy rain and exposure to sun will dry the natural oils from the leather, and result in cracking or wrinkling.  Use a conditioner once a year, depending on the use of the jacket.  Always hang your jacket appropriately so that it does not lose shape.  Store your jacket in a cool dry place, away from direct sunlight and avoid wrapping it in plastic as this will cause it to dry out.

Can a Leather Jacket be ironed?

Ironing will most probably ruin your jacket rather than removing wrinkles.  Precaution is better than cure and hence hang it properly in a padded hanger to avoid wrinkles.

How often to condition a Leather Jacket?

The frequency of conditioning your leather jacket will depend on the frequency and type of use.  If your jacket is worn rarely, then once a year should be good, however, if your jacket is exposed to rain or intense sunlight, the natural oils should be replenished once every three months.

How to polish a Leather Jacket?

UV light causes immense damage to your leather jacket just akin to the damage caused to our skin and prolonged exposure to sunlight will rob off the shine of a leather jacket and make it dull.  Though shoe polish to restore the shine will seem as a feasible option, it should be avoided. Shoe polish will cause clogging of the surface of your leather jacket, and the leather will dry out and may even lose the colour.  Make use of a specialist leather balsam to reinstate its shine.

How to soften a Leather Jacket?

Do not try to soften your leather jacket by putting it in the washing machine, the damage caused will be irreparable. It will lead to shrinking.  Your jacket will soften naturally with time, but the process can be assisted with a leather conditioner with a high lanolin content.

 What should be done when Leather Jacket is affected by mould?

Mould and mildew can both affect leather stored in damp or humid conditions.  Mould is green or black and slimy, whereas mildew is white, grey or yellow and is fluffy and powdery.  The growth of both is unwanted on your jacket. Make use of a damp cloth soaked in a strong solution of vinegar to take off the mould and then let the jacket dry naturally.  Never store your jacket wrapped in plastic. And remember when dealing mould and mildew, wear a face mask and gloves as they can be harmful and cause health problems.

Leather Jacket is dry

The natural oils in leather dry out with time and this process is speeds up if the jacket is exposed to intense sunlight or other heat sources.  The oils can be replenished by the application of a leather conditioner using a soft cloth.

Leather Jacket is peeling

If stored in a proper way, full grain leather should never peel, although the finish or sealant may.  Cleaning leather with products containing solvents will result in peeling. Also, avoid the use of baby wipes, as the chemicals contained will break down the surface of the leather.  With good quality leather an application of conditioner should help restore the surface, but bonded leather will always peel ultimately and there’s nothing that can be done.

Leather Jacket is flaking

Quality leather will not flake but if the surface has been cleaned using solvents the finish coating or sealant may do so, in this condition an application of conditioner should help solve the problem.  Bonded leather will always peel or flake in the long run.

Leather Jacket is stiff

The more you wear your leather jacket, the more supple it will become, however, if the natural oils in the leather dry out, the leather will lose its elasticity.  To prevent this, apply a leather conditioner to your jacket at least once a year or more often if it has to face exposure to sun and rain repeatedly.

Leather Jacket is wrinkled

It is best to protect your jacket from wrinkling in the first place by hanging your jacket on a proper hanger possibly with shoulder pads and condition your jacket when needed.  If your jacket does wrinkle, try to eliminate it gently and patiently.  Pull the jacket tenderly. If this does not work, hang your jacket in your shower area where it will get the steam but not wet and then take a warm shower.  Dry the jacket with a paper towel and stretch the jacket again tenderly. Apply a conditioner and then wear the jacket.  

Leather Jacket is cracking

Dryness and dirt cause your leather jacket to crack and once it has cracked, although you may do your best to repair the leather, it is irreparable.  So, it is crucial to ensure that you maintain your leather jacket by storing it on a sturdy hanger in conditions which are not either very humid or very dry and pamper the jacket with timely conditioning.

Removing Odours

Leather Jacket smells like smoke

Leather is a natural, permeable material and as a result will absorb smells.  To eliminate the smell of smoke from your leather jacket mix equal parts of water and vinegar and apply with a damp sponge.  Condition the leather after cleaning.

Leather Jacket smells like sweat

It is probably the lining which is the problem rather than the leather if it smells like sweat.  Avoid washing your jacket in the washing machine, it will destruct the leather and probably shrink the jacket.  Read the washing instructions for cleaning the lining. Silk or rayon will require cleaning by a specialist but a cotton lining can be washed by hand.  Wash the affected areas with a hand wash detergent but be heedful that you do not soak the leather.  Dry the lining using warmth, avoid using strong heat.

Can a Leather Jacket be altered or tailored?

Leather jackets for women and men can be altered, but it is not easy and can be done by an expert in leather craft. The design of the jacket, cross body zips, flaps and pockets could add to the complexity of the procedure.  The difficulty of the process will also depend on the type of alteration needed.

Can a Leather Jacket be folded?

You can fold your leather jacket but it is best avoided if possible because keeping a leather jacket folded for long periods will lead to creasing.  If it is essential to fold your leather jacket for transportation, then try to do so with the minimum of folds and try to fold it along the seams.