How can I Care for my Leather Jacket?

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  • Originally Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2018
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Most leather jackets are very durable, but you can often extend the life of yours and keep it looking new through years of use by applying leather protectors, regularly conditioning the exterior with oils or specially-formulated solutions, and spot cleaning the surface with a brush and a moist cloth to remove dust and other debris. If you wear the jacket a lot, getting it professionally cleaned once a year or so is usually also a good idea. Garments that aren’t worn as often should typically be stored in a dry place away from sunlight to prevent fading or surface damage.

Leather Protectors

Most leather jackets are preconditioned, which means that they have been treated in the factory or fashion house with something that will protect the surface from drying out and, if the leather is dyed, from seeping its color onto other clothes or furniture. Different manufacturers have different standards for these treatments, though, and it’s often a good idea to apply a protector yourself before you really start wearing the jacket.


Many leather retailers sell weatherproofing and sealant products for leather, which are both good choices. These usually come as creams or thick liquids that you rub on a little bit at a time. Leather is naturally water resistant, but true waterproofing applications will make sure that moisture, whether from rain or humid air, doesn’t soak into the garment. When water gets in it can cause the jacket to swell and expand, leaving ripples and grooves once it dries. Most experts recommend stripping the leather protector off and applying a fresh, even coat about once a year. Look for products specifically designed for leather that do not contain waxes and oils that will clog the leather. These additives can prevent the leather from breathing properly.

Conditioning and Moisturizing

People often condition their leather coats, too. Leather conditioners often resemble protectors — they tend to be creams or oils that you apply directly to the surface — but their goal is a little bit different. Most conditioners are designed to maintain the jacket’s suppleness and softness rather than offering protection from the outside environment. Manufacturers usually recommend using a conditioner periodically, up to once a month for a jacket that is worn on a near-daily basis, and any time the surface feels dry or worn.

Regular Maintenance and Upkeep

One of the easiest ways to care for your leather jacket is to commit to taking regular care of it, which can be as easy as wiping it down after wear and making sure it’s completely dry and clean before hanging or storing it. If it becomes wet, dry it in a temperature-neutral area away from heat or fans. You may find that the leather will dry better if it is placed on a towel to absorb water. If you wear your jacket in the snow or in wintry weather, be sure to remove all of the salts and road chemicals that may have accumulated on the surface; if these aren’t removed, they can break down the fibers and destroy the garment over time.

Promptly taking care of spills and stains is also really important. Most experts say to start with a dry gentle brush to get the bulk of the material off, then gently sponge it with warm water and mild soap before air-drying. You should also periodically care for a jacket made from suede or nubuck by brushing it gently to keep the grain of the jacket smooth and even. It’s usually best to try to avoid scrubbing at persistent stains on any sort of leather, since this can actually make things worse in many cases. Not all stains will come out, and anything really stubborn should probably referred to a leather care professional.

Periodic Deep Cleans

You can also care for your leather jacket by taking it to a professional cleaner from time to time. The cleaner can treat your jacket with special equipment and tools designed specifically for leather, and may also have the ability to condition it with stronger products than you could readily buy to keep it flexible and looking like new. A professional can also fix any hem problems, re-sew torn linings, and perform other repairs as needed.

Storage Tips

Proper storage is also an important part of leather care. It’s usually best to hang your jacket on a wide, padded hanger, which will allow the garment to keep its shape. Professionals don’t recommend wrapping leather in plastic or other nonporous materials, since leather needs to breathe. If you must store a leather jacket in a plastic garment bag, it’s best to leave the bag open slightly for ventilation. It’s also not typically advised to fold leather jackets for storage; try to store then flat to avoid creasing and pressing. Over time, these creases can become permanent and change the overall look of the garment. Keeping them in a cool dark closet away from sunlight or lamplight is also a good idea, since most leathers are prone to fading.


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Discuss this Article

Post 28

The best thing to do with leather jackets are to air them out and wipe them down with a soft clean cloth. It just depends on what kind of leather your jacket is made of. Some are water resistant while others are not.

Post 26

I bought a leather jacket 10 years back. Now by mistake, I got some kind of stain on it. How do I remove it?

Post 25

How can I remove a nail polish stain from a leather jacket without damaging it?

Post 24
It's also a very good idea to keep leather away from sharp objects. Leather is a vulnerable material and will easily scratch and rip if it's placed with a sharp object like a needle or scissors.

Something else I never do is leather coat cleaning with water if it's dusty or dirty from rain. I use sesame oil. It not only removes the dirt, but it also strengthens and conditions the leather. It makes it shiny again.

Post 23

I never use conditioner on my leather jacket and that's why it's all cracked and looks old now.

I didn't even know there was such a thing as leather conditioner. But I should have guessed about this because I do regularly condition my leather boots. Why should this be any different?

Anyway, it's too late now I guess. I will definitely follow these tips when I buy another leather jacket.

Post 14

I have heard to store the leather jacket put some talcum powder in the jacket. Is that right?

Post 13

Several of us want to know how to take the packing creases out of leather when we bought them that way. They are new.

Post 12

How do I apply fabric [i.e. cut T-shirt] to my leather jacket. Should I stitch it? use metal studs? superglue it? What would you recommend?

Post 11

Very nice tips. Thanks for sharing with us.

Post 10

I recently found an old leather jacket of mine in a closet. It was stiff and smelled musty. I found a great leather conditioner online called Leather Honey. I wiped down the jacket with warm water and soap and then used the Leather Honey. It is as good as new!

Post 9

a few years i bought a leather "biker" jacket at a yard sale. i dint realize it needs to be conditioned. how is that done, professionally or can i do it? also what can i use to do that, saddle soap? thanks for your help.

Post 8

I also am having an issue with my 3/4 length black leather coat leaving black marks on my shirt collars. How can i prevent this from happening?

Post 7

My leather jacket smells like it's damp. Is there any way I can get rid of the smell?

Post 6

In response to "Posted by: anon23818

i would like to store my new leather jacket in a fabric storage bag, can i make one myself? any hints on what to use and how to make it?" =

I made a storage bag out of muslin cotton. This is highly recommended in the museum profession for the storage of rare and highly valuable textile objects such as uniforms. Therefore, I'd say it would be just fine for leather. It keeps out moisture for the most part (not fully), and allows the coat to breathe.

Post 5

i would like to store my new leather jacket in a fabric storage bag, can i make one myself? any hints on what to use and how to make it?

Post 4

how can i get the smell of smoke out of my jacket?

Post 3

My black leather jacket is leaving some black marks on the outside of my shirt collar. If I rub the inside collar of the jacket some black comes off on the rag. What is this and what can I do to keep this from happening?

Post 2

I bought a leather jacket at a department store. It has a lot of wrinkles in it [I presume from packing]

How do I remove these?

Post 1

I bought a leather jacket at Kohl's and i smell something that resembles a petroleum cleaner. Do you have any idea if is something that preserves it? I feel like it needs to be aired out. Any ideas?

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