How to Clean a Leather Jacket the Right Way

This pro-approved method will keep your jacket looking like new.


Westend61/Getty Images

Leather jackets aren't cheap, so if you've invested in one, you'll want to keep it looking like new for as long as possible. Besides avoiding spills and tears, your first line of defense is to learn the right way to clean a leather jacket, and learn what to do in case serious spills do happen. To find out the dos and don'ts for how to clean a leather jacket, we reached out to the leather experts at Leathercare USA, a company that provides leather cleaning, alterations, and repair services through the mail. The company's owner, Jeff Schwegmann, shared his secrets for spot-cleaning stains on a leather jacket at home, how to freshen up the lining, plus when it's best to leave the task up to a professional. Follow the steps below to clean a leather jacket, starting with the mildest cleaning option and working your way up.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Soft sponge
  • Soft cloth


  • Mr. Clean or liquid dish soap
  • Leather cleaning wipes (optional)
  • Leather conditioner


Considerations Before You Start

Before you get started, check what you're working with—suede, nubuck, and vegan leather all have different care instructions that should be followed.

How to Clean a Leather Jacket

  1. Wipe it regularly with a soft cloth

    A quick wipe with a soft, dry cloth regularly can help remove surface dirt and keep your leather jacket looking great.

  2. Use water and a soft sponge

    "Less is more when working on leather. You can always reapply or retry something, but once you apply it, you can't go back," Schwegmann says. For a first pass, lightly blot your leather item with a damp sponge, working from the center of any stains and feathering out the edges so a ring doesn't form. Do not rub the leather.

    If you develop a ring in your leather when you're cleaning, rewet the area and softly feather the edges to avoid creating one.

  3. Try a mild cleanser

    Use a highly diluted detergent—such as one part Mr. Clean to 20 parts water. (Schwegmann recommends Mr. Clean, but a liquid dish soap can work as well.) Dampen the cloth or sponge slightly in the soap solution, and lightly blot the jacket.

  4. Consider leather cleaning wipes

    If stains or spots remain after using the mild cleanser, break out specialty leather cleaning wipes to see if they can help lift the stain.

    If mild cleansers or cleaning wipes can't clear your stain, it's time to find a professional leather cleaning company to do the job.

  5. Rinse away the cleanser

    Use a damp cloth in clean water to remove any remaining detergent.

  6. Help your leather jacket dry quickly

    Use a soft, dry towel to gently pat away remaining moisture, then hang your coat in a well-ventilated area (preferably in sunlight) to dry thoroughly.

How to Clean a Leather Jacket Lining

  1. Check the care label

    That should have instructions on how to care for your leather jacket lining. The steps we've outlined are for cleaning a polyester lining, but rayon, cotton, or silk should be left to a professional.

  2. Create your cleaning solution

    Dilute one 1 part Mr. Clean to 20 parts water. Using a soft sponge, clean the stained areas.

    Soap can actually attract dirt, so minimize the amount you use.

  3. Rinse with a clean, damp cloth

    Use a damp cloth to rinse away any soap residue.

  4. Dry inside out

    Turn your jacket inside out, and place in the sun to speed drying.

How to Clean Stains from a Leather Jacket

To help reduce the chances that any stain becomes permanent, get to work on any spills as soon as you notice them. Try these tips to clean up some common leather jacket stains.

  • For food stains

    Blot away any excess food, then dampen a clean towel and blot the stain. Luckily, most finished leather has some stain resistance in the finish. Let it dry so you can see what is left of the spot. If needed, re-wet the area to prevent a ring from forming.

  • For ink, makeup, oil, glue, or paint stains

    Consult a professional for these stains.

  • For salt, alcohol, hair products, milk products, and urine

    Bring these to a pro, according to the Professional Leather Cleaners Association. You'll also want to let the cleaners know what the stain is so they can properly pretreat it.

  • For grease stains

    Dab the stain with a clean cloth to remove excess, then sprinkle on cornstarch and let it sit overnight, according to Molly Maid.

How to Condition a Leather Jacket

Conditioning helps keep your jacket soft and supple, and should be applied after you clean and dry your leather jacket. Test the product on a small, inconspicuous spot before you put it on the entire jacket. Apply it lightly (more is not better in this case!) in long, even strokes.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • 1. Should leather jackets be dry cleaned?

    Standard dry cleaning may dry out your leather jacket. If you want to get it professionally cleaned, look for a cleaning company that specializes in cleaning leather products.

  • 2. Can I put my leather jacket in the washing machine?

    The short answer: Only if you want to ruin it. Letting it sit in water and detergents for an extended period will strip away all the oils and conditioners that have been used, so it will dry out your leather jacket.

  • 3. What are the best cleaning products to use on a leather jacket?

    The gentler the cleaning product, the better it is for your leather jacket. Schwegmann is a fan of Mr. Clean, but liquid dish soap can also work. You might want to look for leather-specific cleaning products, conditioners, and wipes, such as Leather Honey or Guardsman, which are specifically made for leather care.

Related Articles