How to … wash a leather jacket

As you know, we’re big fans of charity shops but I am quite fussy about cleanliness (Ha ha, Mr Jane Makes would say, obsessional more like!).  Anyhoo, this does mean that I subject charity shop clothing purchases to a close inspection and sniff before I buy them and everything goes straight in the wash when we get home.  Mr J-M is less fussy and has been known to wear something immediately without sanitisation!

I’d been looking out for a black leather biker jacket for ages and when I spotted one in the Cancer Research shop I grabbed it straightaway, despite a slightly stale whiff.  When I took it to the dry cleaners the following day I discovered it would cost £50 to clean it.  I’m not that keen on dry cleaning at the best of times and I balked at spending that much with no guarantee of a good result.

I remembered I’d once had to handwash some leather gloves after they fell into a muddy puddle in a car park and weren’t discovered until I returned to the car several hours later!  I decided to throw caution to the wind and wash the jacket.  I found and ordered this product online.  It was cheaper on Amazon but seems to be currently out of stock.  It does say it can be used to wash leather in the washing machine but I decided that was a risk too far.

The bottle that arrived was a good deal smaller than I was anticipating and the instructions said to use between a third and half the contents for one wash.  I ignored that and just used a couple of generous squirts in a sink full of tepid water.  I swished the jacket around for a few minutes, giving the lining a good scrub.  The water turned a very murky shade but I think (hope) that was the colour coming out of the leather rather than dirt!

I gave it a couple of rinses in fresh water.  Again I ignored the instructions which said to rinse once to allow some of the conditioners in the shampoo stay in the leather.

Not surprisingly the jacket was soaking wet and impossible to wring out so I hung it on a plastic hanger in the garden overnight.  Once it had stopped dripping  I transferred it to a warm room for a day and finally popped it into the airing cupboard for a few hours.  The aim was to ensure that it dried slowly to avoid it turning crispy!

Once it was completely dry I put it on and performed a few contortions to stretch it back into shape.  The final step was to use some of this to feed and soften the leather.

We’ve been using this balsam on shoes for years.  It worked really successfully on the jacket.  The leather is lovely and soft and the smell has gone.

The shampoo was expensive but I’ve now passed it on to my sister who has three jackets to wash so the cost per wash will work out considerably cheaper than dry cleaning.  To be honest, now I know it is possible to wash leather successful I’d be inclined to use a gentle wool wash next time which would work out much cheaper.

I’ve also bought a new pot of balsam but the previous one lasted years so it’s pretty good value.

21 thoughts on “How to … wash a leather jacket

  1. Good to know. there are proper products. I once washed out a friends red leather jacket using
    baby shampoo! It was after she’d decided to go for a drunken swim in the sea and she thought her jacket would be ruined with salt stains. That turned out okay too. Her’s dried out in the bath on a fluffy towel!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent! There is just one step I’m not sure to understand: the airing cupboard. Do you mean the drying rack we can place in the tumbler of the dryer? Thanks for these useful tips!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah! Sorry – the airing cupboard is the cupboard that houses the hot water tank so gets nice and warm for drying clothes! If you don’t have that facility I would just hang it in a warm place away from direct sunlight.


  3. Thanks for these tips. I’ve got a lovely leather bag that’s looking pretty dirty on the straps so I don’t use it anymore. I’ll definitely give this a try – nothing to lose if I’m not using it anyway! I love your jacket, what a good find!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve washed leather handbags in the washing machine before with success, We use Renapur balsalm in the charity shop where I work and it cleans leather shoes to make them look like new.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s definitely worth a try if it means you will get some more use out of something. I’ve not tried a bag yet but I can’t see it would be much different


  5. Thanks for conducting this experiment for us, Jane! Personally I am not a fan of dry cleaning because of the yucky chemical odour. Leather seems such a tricky textile to wash and yet it’s so hardy. I LOVE my laundry and am an avid washer lady every Saturday for my family of six. I am very fussy about how things get washed but I also like to take the no-fuss approach. I am a complex being in the laundry. But I DO wash most of the knits and delicates in my front loader (which I love more than my husband) with great success so I would have been very tempted to use the washing machine on your jacket. But by hand washing you have more control and can take evasive action if things start to turn for the worse. Looking forward to seeing the jacket on!


    • Sounds like you have a lot of washing to do Kerry! I tend to put most things in the washing machine – although I’ve had a couple of disasters with woollens in the past when they’ve emerged somewhat smaller than they were when they went in!


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