Leather Jacket Staining White Shirts
April 8, 2013 7:07 PM   Subscribe

I've had a black leather jacket for four or five years, and the jacket itself is probably twenty years old. I never had it stain anything until I began wearing white button-up shirts to work, but now I have a bunch of shirts with dirty collars that don't wash out. What can I do?

As long as it's not too warm outside - at least five months of the year - I wear the same jacket most every day, or every day I go to work.

The stains are black and concentrated on the crease of the collar, with a only a little scuffing on the flat surface. They aren't bad enough to not wear the shirt a regular day at the office, but they don't look great. I do sweat in the shirts, but even if they look stained at the end of the day that comes out in the regular wash. The shirts are ordinary cheap white button-up suit shirts with sewn-in stays. I wash them cold (no hot water in my washer) in net bags and just hang them to dry indoors. I have used collar-cleaner as well as spot cleaners - the spot cleaners had an effect but a very limited one.

I'm not 100% certain it's the leather jacket that's doing the staining, but I'm pretty sure shirts bought in the summer weren't stained until it got cold again, and the color of the stains - like black scuff marks - make me think it's the jacket. However, collared shirts I wear outside work (polyester, denim, other materials and in different colors, some pale but not white) have never had a staining problem. In college I wore colored shirts with collars with the jacket every day for months and never noticed stains.

1. If this isn't the jacket, what could it be?
2. If it is the jacket, can I treat it or something to prevent it from happening?
3. Is there a particularly good spot cleaner I can use, or should I just take all the shirts to be professionally cleaned?
posted by 23 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total)
Best answer: or should I just take all the shirts to be professionally cleaned?

Not just the shirts - the jacket as well. I had this problem with a brown leather jacket, and a good professional leather cleaning did wonders.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:31 PM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Might be the jacket, especially for the scuffing, but your description of the stains is bog-standard white-collar grunge. I just dropped my dress shirts off a the cleaners today for the same issue. The stain might be in part from your jacket, but it's definitely also from the oils in your skin and hair. That munge will show up no matter what your outer wear is.

The good news is that those types of stains aren't readily noticeable unless you're looking for them.
posted by carsonb at 8:16 PM on April 8, 2013

Take the jacket to a dry cleaners that cleans leather. The jacket's probably just grimy from rubbing against someone's neck for 20 years.
posted by Kololo at 8:40 PM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Collars get dirty. White ones especially. That's why they used to be detachable, so they could be washed.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:55 PM on April 8, 2013

3. Squeeze lemon juice on the collars and leave out in the sun for a few hours.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 12:01 AM on April 9, 2013

I don't think it's the jacket. If it was, your skin would be stained a bit wherever the jacket rubbed against it, and your shirt would be stained anywhere the bare leather rubbed against it, like at the wrist cuffs. Often, unfixed black leather dye leaves greenish or bluish streaks on whatever it rubs against--the dye does not usually run straight black. (If you've ever ruined white socks by puddle-jumping in Doc Martens, you may remember the off-color stains at the heels and toes.)

Also, leather usually sheds color when it's newer, and tends to bleed less over time, much like denim.

But for science, since it's an old jacket, you could do a patch test on an out-of-the-way section by dampening it with a little water and pressing a white cloth to the area, observing if much dye lifts.

Good luck!
posted by sunusku at 5:44 AM on April 9, 2013

My ~6 year old leather jacket does the same thing to my shirts. Doesn't stain my skin; just my collared shirts. I haven't gotten around to it yet, but I've been told to take the jacket to be profesionally cleaned. I've beaten the hell out of that jacket over the years, so I'm sure it needs it.
posted by Urban Winter at 7:16 AM on April 9, 2013

Yeah. I agree with others who are saying that this jacket sounds too old to be bleeding dye. If you don't have hot water in your washer and wear a lot of white shirts, consider soaking them in bucket with hot water from shower or stove. Also - and I never thought I'd recommend any product from an infomercial before - I started using OxiClean to clean my whites about a month ago. It took 6-years of cumulative cuff-and-collar stains out of my best shirts.
posted by voiceofreason at 8:21 AM on April 9, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! It never occurred to me to have the jacket cleaned - I did think it was too old to be the dye coming off, but it makes sense it could have built up something else. I'll take everything to the cleaners and see how it goes.
posted by 23 at 6:18 PM on April 9, 2013

Response by poster: Just got the shirts back from the cleaners. They tried stain remover and it obviously had an effect but there's still traces. They said they couldn't do any more without damaging the fabric. They said it was some kind of oil, probably just from sweat, that had worked its way into the fabric.

So, might be too late for these shirts, but at least now I know to look out. Thanks!
posted by 23 at 5:13 AM on April 15, 2013

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