Reviewed & updated: October 19, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA
A leather jacket is a great addition to any wardrobe. They’re timeless, effortlessly cool and easy to pair with just about anything. But while a good leather jacket is tough enough to last a lifetime, they can also be notoriously high-maintenance.
Few things look cooler than a good leather jacket, but few things look less cool than a stained jacket. With that in mind, here are some tips for making sure that your jacket stays in top condition for as long as possible.
Check the Label
Probably the most obvious piece of advice we can give, but it’s still worth remembering. Not all leather jackets are created equal. The type of material used to make the jacket – whether it’s cowhide, sheepskin, buckskin or even antelope – will make a big difference when it comes to what you should and shouldn’t use to treat your jacket. When in doubt, trust the judgement of the people who made it. Check the label, and see if they have any specific advice or instructions for you to follow. They know what they’re talking about.
Keep it Clean
There are countless tips online for keeping leather clean, but most of them should be taken with a pinch of salt. Old wives’ solutions like olive oil and white wine vinegar supposedly lift dirt out of the material, but they also run the risk of staining it further. The washing machine might sound like a quick and convenient fix, but there’s also a big chance of discolouring or even shrinking your jacket. Only do that if you’re fully confident that your jacket is resistant enough.
How to Clean a Leather Jacket
There are some methods that may be worth trying. Talcum powder is great for absorbing grease stains, while ink stains can be removed by rubbing them very gently with an artist’s eraser.
A simple solution of warm, soapy water is usually the best option. Wipe the jacket with a damp sponge before drying it with a soft cloth. Always test it somewhere inconspicuous, like one of the cuffs – if the water gets absorbed straight away, stop immediately.
How to Wash a Leather Jacket
There’s nothing better than the feeling of finding a leather jacket in great conditions in a remote rail of a vintage shop. It fits great and the price is reasonable so it’s a no brainer: you must have it. However, even if you wipe your jacket with a cloth, you won’t necessarily be able to get rid of that musky vintage shop smell. What to do then? It can be risky but leather jackets can be washed. However, this procedure will only be successful with real leather jackets! Also, avoid doing this with particularly shiny jackets with a polished finish because the coating will be more likely to crack.
By the time you jacket will be out of the washing machine, it’ll have that perfectly lived-in look. Follow these easy steps for the ultimate vintage yet clean effect.
- Throw your jacket in the washing machine zipped and inside out with a few socks, jeans or T-shirts. Those garments will absorb some of the water that your our leather jacket will naturally tend to soak up in great quantity.
- Use your usual laundry detergent and opt for a cold wash at a delicate cycle.
- When it comes to drying the jacket, throw in some drying sheets and go for medium heat. Make sure that your jacket is fully dry before taking it out. In case you’re worried about shrinking, take the jacket out a couple of minutes beforehand and flat dry it to make sure that it won’t take the shape of the hanger.
- Your jacket now will have a great lived-in look without any smell.
Keep it Dry
In an ideal world, you would never have to take a leather jacket out in the rain. Water is one of the things that can cause the most trouble when it comes to leather. Once leather gets wet, the natural oils in the material seep to the surface. When things heat up the oils can evaporate, leaving you with a jacket that’s dry and brittle.
Of course, the best way to keep the water from ruining your jacket is to give it some extra protection. A good leather conditioner will make your jacket more water resistant, as well as keeping the leather strong and looking like new.
But Turn Down the Heat
It can be tempting to throw your jacket in a tumble dryer, or even try and use a hairdryer, but too much heat will only make the problem worse. If you don’t want to take that sort of risk, stick it somewhere room temperature that’s well-ventilated and let it dry slowly. If you want to stop it from going stiff while it dries, put it on for a minute or two and move around in it. A good leather conditioner is another great way to keep the cracks from showing.
Make sure the jacket is completely dry before it goes back in the wardrobe, or you run the risk of mildew.
Hang it Well
Wrinkled leather is not a cool look. Try to avoid folding your jacket wherever possible. Always look for a wide, padding coat hanger to put it on, and store it in a cool, dry place. If you’re carrying it around in a garment bag, make sure you choose a bag made of a breathable material like nylon to keep the jacket fresh. Try and keep it out of direct sunlight – the heat will dry out the leather, while the bright light may cause discolouration.
How to Soften Leather
With time and use, leather will tend to get stiffer. In case your jacket has been through some rough times and you’ve been somewhat lenient with your taking care of the leather, it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s tough as hell. There are many different ways to bring back some moisture and softness, one being rubbing baby oil or petroleum jelly on the fabric. However, when it comes to softening leather it’s always useful to use products specific for this material.
Leather Jacket Conditioner
In order to get the best leather jacket treatment out of the softening process, it’s always good to invest in a leather jacket conditioner. This product is also especially useful if you don’t have the patience to naturally break your new men’s leather jacket in by wearing it.
Best Leather Conditioner
The best and easiest way to apply your leather conditioner is in spray form. As opposed to wipe-on softeners, you’ll be more likely to have more control over the quantity you actually end up putting on the jacket. Remember to rub the spray leather conditioner with a cloth so that the product can really penetrate the leather at a deep level.
Once you complete the process, dry your leather jacket with a blowdryer at a medium heat and at a safe distance so that you’ll seal the moisture of the conditioner in. Once again, you’ll have to be extra careful when drying your jacket with direct sources of heat. Too much or too little heat could be seriously detrimental to your beloved jacket. Here’s a quick tutorial to make sure that every step will go as smoothly as possible.
Take it to the Professionals
Home care is all well and good, but you can’t beat a professional cleaner. Taking your jacket to a professional dry cleaner once every year will make your job of caring for it day-to-day so much easier.
Your Quick Guide on How to Care For a Leather Jacket
- Leather jackets are possibly the coolest thing you’ll ever own. Thanks to them, even if you’re not cool, you’ll trick everyone into thinking that you are.
- Not one jacket is the same so, as obvious as it might sound, remember to check the label before you do anything.
- There are plenty of different artisanal ways of keeping a leather jacket clean. However, if you’re not feeling particularly adventurous, a bit of soapy water and a clean cloth will do.
- Machine washing a leather jacket often sounds like leather death. However, if you bought your jacket from a vintage shop, that musty smell is hard to get rid of. Plus, washing it will give your jacket a lived-in look without destroying it. Check out the simple steps above for the full procedure.
- When it comes to drying your men’s leather jacket, make sure that you’re not exposing it to extreme sources of heat. Using a blowdryer can be risky but as long as you keep it at a safe distance at medium heat, you shouldn’t cause any damages.
- Remember to hang your jacket on a padded hanger so that it won’t take a funny shape. Also, don’t forget to store it in a cool and dry place and avoid direct sunlight at all costs as it will dry and discolour the leather.
- Leather jacket conditioners are a great way to breathe new life into an overly beaten up jacket. A spray conditioner is your best option when it comes to applying it.
On That Note
Leather jackets are a cardinal piece of outerwear in any men’s wardrobe. For that reason, they deserve the best treatment they can get. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing cooler than a worn leather jacket. However, you can preserve that vintage look whilst keeping the leather in good conditions. With our guide on how to take proper care of this key piece of outerwear, you’ll never run out of ideas and techniques on how to do so. Just in case your jacket can’t be saved, don’t forget to have a look at all the latest arrivals in our shop. The perfect leather jacket for you is just one click away.
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