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How to clean a vintage leather jacket ?

If you wear any type of jacket or coat for long enough, it will eventually show signs of wear and start smelling a little musty so vintage leather jackets are no exception. However, unlike other types of clothing, you won’t be able to simply pop your leather jacket in the washing machine, since this can make it shrink, crack, and warp.

Leather — whether real, synthetic, or plant-based leather — should never be soaked in water during cleaning either. There are 5 different types of leather available because they come from different animals. Therefore, to keep your jacket in good condition, you’ll have to specially care for that specific leather material, so always check the care label before you start to clean any leather item for any special requirements.

Also, keep in mind that leather is not the same as fabric so the case is not as simple as getting out your needle and thread to patch treat when you have tears and holes in it. All the scratches that will appear on your leather jacket will be there forever.

Fortunately, you’ll be pleased to know that there are some fast and easy ways to clean and treat your vintage leather jacket that will leave it looking new for a long time to come, just simply follow these steps with care:

Step 1

Wipe down the entire surface of your vintage leather jacket with a damp washcloth and gentle-formulated dish soap. Alternatively, there are leather soaps and detergents available that are designed specifically for leather products. Alternatively, you can create a mixture of soapy water and use a soft, clean sponge to gently dab away dirt, dust, and debris.

Step 2

Pay special attention to the collars and cuffs wear most dirt usually collects.

Step 3

Use gentle circular motions to wash away the dirt remembering to avoid rubbing or soaking any stubborn areas as this can damage the leather. Try to be patient, persistent but still gentle with your dabbing.

Step 4

Once the dirt has been removed, use a new, clean, and dry cloth to wipe away any water.
If your jacket is looking a little dull, you can use a small amount of leather conditioner or upholstery wax with a soft cloth to buff out the leather.

Pro tip: When using new cleaning products on your jacket, test them out on a hidden section first to be safe.

How to clean a vintage leather jacket lining

To freshen up the fabric lining on your vintage leather jacket without damaging the outer leather, you can use ‘Day 2’ dry wash spray to lift odours and leave the fabric feeling soft and renewed.

  • Turn your jacket inside out and lay it out, inside-up.
    • Spray ‘Day 2’ evenly over the fabric.
    • Smooth the fabric out with your hands.
    • Hang the jacket up, still inside-out, for 15 minutes.

    A new challenge for you may be a wool lining on your vintage leather jacket. Whether this is a synthetic fleece or any type of natural wool, it’ll probably need to be freshened up now and again. You’ll just need to add a few extra steps to your leather jacket cleaning process:

    • Wool can easily shrink when washed. Be extra cautious adding liquid of any kind or instead use a still bristled brush to help remove dirt.
    • If brushing the wool alone is not enough, give the fabric a light spritz of ‘Day 2’ spray (following the same steps as above) to remove odours and leave it feeling fresh.
    • If there are any visible stains, you can use a very small amount of soapy water and dab this onto the wool.
    • Allow the entire vintage leather jacket to dry flat, out of direct sunlight.

    Damage disclaimer

    High-quality genuine leather jackets are naturally protected against damage. Although, they can still sustain damage when exposed to physical stress such as overused pockets, hanging your jacket over wooden furniture, or environmental stress from the elements of the outdoors. Therefore, you should take a few minutes to inspect your leather jacket for damage. Look around the seams for signs of frayed stitching or other forms of damage. If you discover any damage, you’ll need to repair it. Otherwise, it may spread while causing additional damage in the process.

  • Store dry

    To maintain and upkeep your leather jacket's cool and timeless appearance, you’ll need to keep it dry. Genuine leather is like a sponge. When it gets wet, leather will absorb and hold water. Normally, this doesn’t cause any issues because eventually, it drys out. However, if leather remains wet for a prolonged period, it may develop mildew - big problem!

    You can protect your vintage leather jacket from mildew, as well as other forms of water-related damage, by protecting it from the rain and storing it in a dry wardrobe after use. If you do manage to get caught in the rain, use a towel to dry it off as soon as you can. By keeping your leather jacket dry, you’ll promote a cleaner and more pristine style.

    A quality vintage leather jacket never goes out of style so what a shame it would be to have to pack it away simply for lack of knowing how to clean it. We hope you’re confident now on how to go about cleaning it successfully.

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