How can I wash oil/grease out of my leather gloves?
March 10, 2009 4:09 PM   Subscribe

How can I wash oil/grease out of my leather gloves?

About a week after I bought a really nice pair of leather motorcycle gloves, my bike broke down on the road and I spent 45 minutes fixing it, getting my hands absolutely filthy in the process. By the time I was done it was raining pretty hard, and I decided that it would be unwise to tempt fate by riding the rest of the way bare handed. As a result, the inside of my gloves are very, very dirty.

The tag on them says simply, "Do not wash." Is there anything I can do to get them clean that won't ruin them? I'm not even sure if I can turn them inside out, because they have plastic impact armor on the knuckles.
posted by autojack to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have found Simple Green to be amazingly effective getting grease and oil out of / off of most everything without any ill effects.

HOWEVER, I would suggest finding something made of a similar leather, putting oil and grease on it, and then testing that for yourself with whatever remedy you ultimately decide to try.
posted by robverb at 4:20 PM on March 10, 2009

I was going to ask a similar question about leather winter gloves with fleece lining a few days ago, but more along the lines of natural hand oils and accumulated germs picked-up before the gloves are put on.

The first time I washed my bike gloves, in the sink with soap, tons of the black dye came-out. They were still black afterward, but a lighter shade. They are kind of cheap though, but still, maybe as suggested above some Simple Green or maybe a citrus-based product sprayed inside then a quick rinse with water will minimize the dye removal.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 6:51 PM on March 10, 2009

If they were mine, I would consider first fillling each glove with natural porridge oats; place directly in a warm airing cupboard for about an hour. Warmth will draw towards the (cooler) drynesss in the centre, drawing oils back into glove not through the skin.
When warmed right through, remove from cupbaord and squish glove gently like a beanie toy, working the oil into the oats.

Refresh the oats as often as possible, depending on the level of soiling (using the principle of partition coefficient - each 'rinse' of oats absorbing a max n%; of n%; of...). The aim being to extract as much of the oil, while not simply spreading it around.

Next, use the hand to coat the soiled area with a layer of the simple green suggestion, or possibly a specialised solvent, rest it for a few minutes to work, then fill glove with a *damp* (not wet) mixture of oats and solvent. squish again to extract. Repeat as many times as patience will allow.
To avoid water completely, a final fill with fresh *dry* oats, and dry like that in airing cupbaord. When completely dry discard oats, brushing out insides using fingers. Unlilkely to look very clean, but will have little 'damage'. Will still feel somewhat fresher to wear
Fill and rinse out in luke warm water, avoid scrunching and wringing. Dry quickly but gently.
posted by helenelle at 8:28 PM on March 10, 2009

the first post is correct. A soak in a warm 50-50 simple green solution followed by a soak in clean, running warm water will do wonders. BUT be prepared to spend a few hours on this project.

Once the rinse water runs clean you must - (I am not making this up) - put them on and wear them until they dry. Like probably for 5 - 6 hours.

Do normal stuff while wearing them (to the extent your lifestyle permits normal stuff while wearing soaking wet smelly leather gloves) and occaisonally flex your hands.

If you let them dry without having worn them they will shrink AND expand in different places depending on the grain of the leather.

Once they are dry then lubricate them well, inside and out, with a good leather preservative.

Understand that after all this:
A) They will stain your hands for the next XX years when you wear them in rain or hot weather AND
B) They will always smell like a semi-dead wet horse.

My BF has a FAVORITE pair of gloves that have had this "help" and he can't bear to part with them. As long as I'm upwind when he wears them it's all good.
posted by bloggerwench at 9:42 PM on March 10, 2009

I've used saddle soap (the brand I used was Kiwi[?, iirc] - the same brand that makes shoe polish and stuff... you might be able to find it with it's brethren).

Rub rag in the tin, rub dab into oil stain, work. Rub with clean rag. Rub with clean moist rag. Repeat as necessary. Rub with clean dry rang. Takes a bit of work, but it sucked the grease out of the leather without ruining the colour or the texture of the leather.

This has ranged from bicycle chain grease on a friend's beige-coloured boots to car-grease on a brown leather jacket.

Oh - inside your gloves... maybe just wash them well with degreaser then regenerate the insides of your gloves with mink oil or something to restore the 'natural moisture' that you took out with the grease that you took out using harsher methods?
posted by porpoise at 11:07 PM on March 10, 2009

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