How to Clean a Leather Jacket the Right Way (and 3 Mistakes to Avoid)

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

How to Clean a Leather Jacket the Right Way
Photo: 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. Plus, 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, starting with the mildest cleaning method and working your way up.

How to Clean a Leather Jacket

What You'll Need:

Follow These Steps:

1. Before you start, check to make sure the jacket is finished leather, not suede or nubuck. The steps below apply to finished leather.

2. Start with the mildest method: using water and a soft sponge, lightly blot (don't rub) the stain, working from the inside of the stain to outside. As you work, be careful to feather out the edges so there is no ring. If a ring is created, re-wet the spot with water and feather out the edges.

3. Let the jacket dry out completely. Test out a small bit of leather conditioner in an inconspicuous spot. Once the jacket is completely dry, lightly apply leather conditioner (more is not better in this case!) in long, even strokes.

4. To clean food spills: Blot any excess, 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.

5. If water doesn't work: Step up the cleaning power. Dilute one part Mr. Clean to 20 parts water, then blot the area again and allow to dry.

6. If the stain persists, try leather cleaning wipes on area. No luck? It's time to call in the pros.

How to Clean a Leather Jacket Lining

What You'll Need:

  • Mr. Clean
  • Soft sponge
  • Clean cloth

Follow These Steps:

1. Check the care label. These steps are for polyester lining, but rayon, cotton, or silk should be left to a professional.

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

3. Soap actually attracts dirt, so don't use too much product and rinse thoroughly with a clean, damp cloth.

4. Turn the jacket inside out and leave it outside in the sun to dry.

The Dos and Don'ts of Leather Jacket Cleaning:

  • Do start with the mildest solution first. "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.
  • Do help the jacket dry as quickly as possible by leaving it in the sun or a well-ventilated area.
  • Don't attempt to clean ink, makeup, oil, glue, or paint stains yourself. You'll need to consult a pro.
  • Don't use club soda—it may make the stain worse.
  • Don't forget to feather when you blot, or the stain will simply be replaced by a water mark.
Was this page helpful?
Related Articles