Leather jacket care?
December 21, 2006 1:05 PM   Subscribe

How to care for a leather jacket?

I have a black leather jacket I got a few months ago and have worn pretty much daily since. It's beginning to get a little dirty and I figure I should start caring for the leather before I damage it too much. I know nothing about how to do that, though. What do I need to know?
posted by raf to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
does the tag tell you anything?
posted by Sassyfras at 1:06 PM on December 21, 2006

I have had a couple leather jackets and I know they can't be dry-cleaned. They must be sent to a professional leather cleaner, whatever that is. I think some cleaners are set up to clean leather.

I have a leather couch and I just dust/wash it with a damp rag that has been dipped in warm water with a touch of mild dish soap. I read this tip from a cleaning manual and it works beautifully.

Be careful with leather products and "cleaners". I find that they often stain. Whether or not the leather stains will probably depend on how the leather was initially finished or treated by the manufacturer. My couch is pretty natural and "porous". If it were pebble-grained or some other texture it would probably take these oil-based cleaners better. I am pretty sure leather can dry out, so that is probably why they sell emollient oils and such to treat leather. I would do a test spot if you want to use these.
posted by LoriFLA at 1:21 PM on December 21, 2006

Response by poster: The care instructions on the tag just say "Dry clean by leather and suede experts only". But I'm also wondering if there are protective measures I should take other than occasionally getting it professionally cleaned.
posted by raf at 1:32 PM on December 21, 2006

A lot of people recommend letting tractor-trailers run over your new jacket, repeatedly. Others will insist on dragging you, in your jacket , back and forth along the ground. LA Guy at styleforum recommends:
At Queen's University in Canada, the engineering students would break in their leather jackets (called GPAs - Golden Party Armor) by going around campus hitting their jackets on the pavement and on the limestone buildings. The result: a jacket that looked like its been through years of hard living.
Personally, I found that just wearing every day was enough.
posted by Chuckles at 1:43 PM on December 21, 2006

If you have a Tandy Leather store around, ask them. If it's not suede, I'd think Lexol would probably suit you...
posted by baylink at 1:47 PM on December 21, 2006

Don't put keys in your jacket pockets. I speak from experience.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:09 PM on December 21, 2006

If it's the typical bomber jacket (smooth tanned leather with black dye): saddle soap applied per the directions will give it a soft gloss and will remove most grubbiness. If you want the coat very soft, use Lexol sparingly. Apply it with your hands, only , and really just try to moisten the leather. If you want it water-resistant use mink oil on it. Mink oil will make the leather very pliable but again, use it very sparingly because too much will make the leather sticky. Those three items are what I've been using to care for furniture, clothing and toys for years, and leather goods I bought in the 80s are still supple, glossy and clean.
posted by jet_silver at 2:13 PM on December 21, 2006 [4 favorites]

I have a Banana Republic leather bomber that is 21 years old. It's been one of my favorites for a long time. Once every five years or so I saddle soap it. I use Lexol sparingly on my favorite leather chair and ottoman, but they are in a sunny spot and seem to get sun-struck and dry pretty fast. The leather seems way different that 'jacket' leather. I use Armor-All leather wipes on my car upholstery. Proofide is good for leather saddles.
posted by fixedgear at 2:54 PM on December 21, 2006

I've had pretty good results with Uradon old and new leather. It's sold in a somewhat unorthodox way, but the best place to find it is a tack or shoe repair shop. In general, less is more when caring for leather: semi-regular light treatment is better than more sporadic heavy treatment.
posted by holgate at 3:00 PM on December 21, 2006

I'm a motorcyclist, and have a particularly nice, custom made leather jacket given to me by one of my friends. In the past, I have owned a leather jacket since I was a young'n of eight years old.

In all that time, I've cleaned them by dampening a cloth in warm water, and wiping it clean. Anything stubborn, I would use a tiny, tiny bit of soap, or just let the rag sit over it for a little while, after which, stubborn stains (big ol' bug, turned into bug guts, for example) loosened enough for me to lightly scrub them.

Once every six months, I condition it with Lexol, lightly, and if I'm doing a lot of riding in warm, dry weather, I'll do it a little more frequently (3 months, or a little more). While the jacket isn't softening quickly, it's very hard leather for biking, so that's not only not terribly surprising due to the thickness of the leather, but the fact that it doesn't wear that quickly, thanks to the cleanings I do.

Oh, and on zippers, a tiny bit of WD-40 on a cotton swab, or something similar, just to keep things clean and moving easily.

Wear it a lot, too, and move around! That helps break in the joints. Enjoy!
posted by thehusky at 3:00 PM on December 21, 2006

I was always told if you're not going to be wearing it for a while, hang it on a proper coat hanger (with the fatter ends), to keep the shape. Could be bunkum but I've always done so anyway.
posted by chrissyboy at 5:23 PM on December 21, 2006

At Queen's University in Canada, the engineering students would break in their leather jackets (called GPAs - Golden Party Armor) by going around campus hitting their jackets on the pavement and on the limestone buildings. The result: a jacket that looked like its been through years of hard living.

Having gone to Queen's, I can tell you it's not just (or really) a method of garment care. If you've never heard or felt the sound of hundreds of people dyed completely purple slamming leather jackets into the ground... let's just say that engineers across the continent have all sorts of ways to intimidate freshmen and generally cause havoc.

As for the jackets, they come out fine from such abuse if you are looking for a worn look. If you decide slamming your jacket is a good idea, be sure to cover the zippers with duct tape before you do so—that way you don't damage the zipper teeth or the pull tab.

If you're not going for the worn look, I never did anything so harsh with my jacket (not an engineer) but wear it for four years, and I've never done anything substantial to clean it. As far as I can tell, it's none the worse for wear.
posted by chrominance at 5:37 PM on December 21, 2006

My current leather jacket is about 13 years old. I give it a yearly mink oil treatment. That's probably not politically correct but I think the mink oil I'm using is older than I am anyway. The minks would've died of old age.

I've never taken it to a leather cleaner or had it cleaned. The mink oil seems to do a fine job of protecting the leather. It has a few spots that are worn, notably the cuffs on the sleeves but I figure that's just character.
posted by substrate at 6:17 PM on December 21, 2006

My leather jacket from Banana Republic has over 100,000 motorcycle miles on it, I use baseball glove conditioner on it, which is mostly lanolin. The hardest thing for my jacket is when it gets soaked with rain, then dries, it really dries it out and that's when I smear it down with the baseball glove conditioner.
posted by BillsR100 at 6:44 AM on December 22, 2006

I had some garments made by a leather designer and she gave me some saddle soap to clean the leather with. The same stuff horseriders use in stables. You work it into the leather and lay it flat overnight but not near a heat source.
posted by mycapaciousbottega at 6:55 AM on December 22, 2006

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