You just spilled coffee on your favorite tan leather jacket, and now there’s a huge stain. Because of leather’s comfortable, durable, and versatile nature, leather clothing items are expensive so just tossing it and buying a new one isn’t likely an option. So, what’s next?
First thing’s first, don’t panic! While cleaning leather is a bit trickier than cleaning other fabrics, it’s still possible to restore stained leather to like-new condition. Here are a few of the best ways to clean a leather jacket, as well as things you should avoid doing to prevent further damage.
How to Clean Leather
1) Act Fast
Like other fabrics and materials, it’s essential to treat a stain on a leather jacket as soon as it happens. Letting the stain dry and set in will make it more difficult to remove.
2) Before You Clean
How you clean your jacket depends on the type of leather. Finished leather (treated leather) has a protective coating, unlike unfinished leather or suede that does not. For example, using soap can be okay on jackets made of finished leather, while it can further damage unfinished leather or other sensitive leather types.
3) Blot Away
The best way to lift stains from leather is by blotting with a soft, dry cloth to lift as much moisture away as possible. Then dampen a soft cloth with warm water and use it to dab the stained area. You can also use a leather cleaner for this step, more on those below. Of note, if you’re using a product that comes in a spray bottle, spray it onto the soft cloth, not directly onto your leather jacket. Next, blot again with a soft, dry cloth.
Before you try to treat a large stain – especially if you’re using a leather cleaner – and you’re not sure how the leather on your jacket will react, test on a small, inconspicuous area first so that you do not damage the material.
After cleaning the stain, use a leather conditioner to prevent cracks or damage to the material. Gently rub it onto your jacket in a circular motion with a soft brush, sponge, or microfiber cloth.
Seek Help From a Professional Leather Cleaner
If the stain is particularly difficult to remove and doesn’t come out after you spot clean, or you’re worried about causing further damage, you may want to seek professional help. Take your jacket to a dry-cleaner or other professional leather restorer. This is especially true for grease stains, ink stains, and makeup stains.
Protect Against Future Damage
To prevent future stains, regularly wipe away dirt and grime from your leather jacket. Depending on the leather type, your jacket may benefit from a waterproofing spray to keep liquids from seeping into the material.
What to Avoid When It Comes to Leather
Don’t Use DIY Cleaners
Popular “home remedies” for lifting stains out of leather, like baking soda, white vinegar, lemon juice, or cream of tartar, can make the stain worse or permanently damage your leather – you’re better off just using water. If water won’t do the trick, it’s worth the extra cost of buying a product made specifically for cleaning leather.
While it feels instinctive to scrub out a stain in your clothes, this is a bad idea for leather products. Rubbing in the stain can push it deeper into the fibers of the material – making it harder to lift, cause it to spread out and become a larger stain, or lead to additional water stains in the material.
Avoid Storing Leather In Direct Sunlight or Damp Places
Proper storage is key for stain and damage prevention. Storing your leather jacket in direct sunlight or a humid environment can lead to mildew stains and discoloration. It’s best to keep leather jackets in a dust bag and hang them on sturdy hangers so that they stay looking new.
Best Leather Jacket Cleaners
Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner
This kit is one of the best leather cleaner options, as it works on most types of leathers and comes with a cleaner and conditioner. The cleaner is pH balanced for efficient cleaning to penetrate and lift the stain while preserving the material’s appearance. It works on tough-to-lift stains like dirt and oils. This kit can also help your leather jacket smelling new. The cleaner is colorless and odorless, while the conditioner provides a subtle leather scent and is made with vitamin E to keep your leather looking soft and smooth and prevent further damage.
Leather Master Mold Cleaner
If you’re looking to clean mold off of leather, this mold cleaner is specially formulated to lift mold and mildew out of leather. The detergent contains a special wetting agent to deeply penetrate and remove the stain without damaging the material. It can also help eliminate any odor caused by the mold.
Hobo Leather Cream
Made with all-natural ingredients, this rich conditioner is excellent for applying after you lift a stain and help worn leather look like new. It’s crafted with beeswax to naturally protect against liquids and wear and tear. Use only on treated leather. Avoid using on suede, velvet, or other untreated leathers.
Stained leather jackets are a pain, but it’s possible to clean them! With the right tools and precautions, you can lift the stain without causing any damage to the material. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that with leather, time heals all wounds. It’s a durable material that will absorb and fade the stain over weeks or months.