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How to take care of leather jackets: cleaning and caring tips

Read on to discover our simple guide for how to wash your leather jacket in simple steps to savor your style staple.


how to clean leather

Key steps

  • Avoid using a washing machine to clean your leather jacket.

  • Warm water and a drop of soap will clean nappa leather.

  • Dust once a week and use an aniline cleaner for aniline leather.

  • Use a nubuck leather cleaner, degreaser or sanding block for cleaning and removing stains on nubuck leather.

During the cool weather of the dry season, a leather jacket is a go-to style staple. Learn how to properly care for yours with this trusty toolkit of ideas for how to wash your leather jacket and condition it. Savor this style staple by keeping it looking and feeling its best for years to come!

Whichever type of leather your jacket is made of, from nappa to aniline, the most important step is protecting your jacket with a conditioner or spray after cleaning.

How to clean a leather jacket: Your guide to cleaning different types of leather jackets

Wondering how to care for your leather jacket? How to wash your jacket is easier than you think with our guide to cleaning by leather types.

  1. Instructions for cleaning a nappa leather jacket.

    • Washing a nappa leather jacket is best done at home instead of at a dry cleaner.

    • Do not clean your nappa leather jacket more than once or twice a year.

    • To clean, use a drop of mild washing-up liquid in warm water.

    • Dip a soft cloth into the soapy water.

    • Rub the cloth across the jacket in a circular motion.

    • You will only need a small amount to clean the entire jacket.

    • Pay extra attention to stubborn stains or soiled areas.

    • Use a dry, clean cloth to dry the surface of your nappa jacket.

    • Don’t forget to condition the leather after cleaning. If you’re wondering how to condition your leather jacket the rules are simple: always taking care to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

  2. Instructions for cleaning an aniline leather jacket.

    • This is the most natural-looking leather type, so it’s one of the most important materials to keep clean.

    • Use a soft brush to dust the surface once a week.

    • Spilt something on your leather jacket? Dab at the stain with a clean cloth to clean it up. Rubbing could push the stain further into the fibers, so always dab!

    • Never use household cleaners as this could do more harm than good.

    • Use a specialized aniline leather cleaner. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

    • Once clean, apply an aniline protection cream.

  3. Instructions for cleaning a nubuck leather jacket.

    • The first step is to use a nubuck cloth to wipe away loose dirt on the surface.

    • Use a soft brush for more stubborn dirt and dust.

    • Use a nubuck liquid or spray cleaner, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

    • Use a leather degreaser for tough stains, or in the case of set-in stains, sand the surface of your nubuck leather jacket.

    • Spray the surface of your nubuck jacket with a protection spray at least every 6 months. This will keep it looking its best for longer.

  4. Wondering if you can use your washing machine for a quick clean? We recommend against this due to the following risks:

  • The leather could crack.

  • The jacket could shrivel or dry out.

  • The jacket could shrink up to a whole size.

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From nubuck to aniline, you’re good to go. Step out in well cared-for style with this simple guide for how to take care of a leather jacket. For more leather care advice, check out these tips for how to clean a leather bag.

Do you want to learn which household cleaning tasks cause the most stress?  Then read our Heated Household data analysis. 

Frequently asked questions on cleaning leather jackets

Why do different types of leather jackets need to be cared for differently?

Different types of leather jackets demand different care because of the unique features that make them different to one and other. Some cowhide leather is much tougher and rougher, but needs to be treated as carefully as others. The difference in leather type also means differences in how thick the material is, and even how absorbent it is to water: sheep leather may stand up slightly better to rain than other leather jackets, but you still do not want to get it soaked.

Can you intentionally use a washing machine to wash a leather jacket to give it a more 'lived-in' look?

Machine washing leather jackets has a number of detrimental effects on the fabric, however, it isn't uncommon to read sources online that suggest that washing leather jackets in this way can give them a more 'lived-in' or 'worn out' look. Though possible, it isn't recommended, as it is difficult to control the 'damage', and you could be left with a number of unwanted effects, such as shrinking, cracking, and shriveling, which could render the jacket unwearable.

How do you clean a leather jacket made of synthetic leather?

Faux leather, artificial leather, pleather... what you call it doesn't matter: how you wash it does. Despite being made of synthetic fibres (such as PVC) layered on other natural fabrics, clothes made of faux leather should be washed in the same way as leather - preferably by hand with a mix of detergent and warm water. They are subject to the same risk of cracking as real leather, so avoiding a washing machine remains a good idea.

Originally published