We sell more leather motorcycle jackets than almost anyone out there in the world, and we love that our customers keep coming back to us for our guaranteed lowest prices and best-in-class customer service. But, now that you have your new leather jacket how do you go about cleaning it when the time comes? Well, we’re here right now to help you figure out the basics of what you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to taking care of your new favorite motorcycle accessory…your leather jacket!
1.) Read the Tag!
This may sound like a “duh” thing to say, but all too often we get people who don’t read their specific jacket’s tag before they start applying cleaners or dropping it off at the laundry mat. Your tag will tell you what temperature (if any) to wash your jacket at, what types of solvents to use (if any) and how best to dry it. But, don’t worry, we’re not going to tell you to read the tag and just let you figure the rest out for yourselves. We just want to make sure that before we start telling you to do anything else, you know what your jacket’s manufacturer thinks is best for its own jackets. We tend to agree with them 99.9% of the time ;).
2.) Wipe it Down!
Don’t use any cleaners for this step, just a clean, damp (but not soaking) rag. Microfiber will work, but we tend to just enjoy using soft workshop towels that are available at your local auto-parts store on the cheap. This step isn’t meant to get your jacket sparking clean, so don’t worry about spending too much time on the initial wiping phase. You mainly want to just get most of the dirt, grime and bugs (eww) off before doing anything else.
3.) Begin the Deep Cleaning!
This part will vary by your jacket, its age and they type of stains or dirt you’re working with, but this is the time to get down and dirty (pun intended) with your jacket. We definitely don’t recommend using sponges or anything with any kind of abrasive surface. Even your common carwash sponge can get hard and damage some thinner jackets, so stick with very soft cloths.
During this process you can use a specialized leather cleaner from a specialty store, or you can do like us and use a little bit of kitchen products, save a little money and not have to worry about reading a lot of reviews and hype. One of the ways we love to treat our leather jackets is with a little olive oil (no need for extra virgin) and white vinegar.
4.) Oil it Up!
To start off take some olive oil on a clean cloth (not one you’ve used to wipe down your jacket like in step two) and begin applying the oil-slick rag to the stains or spots you want to clean. Rub the oil in nice and good for a few minutes on each spot, but do so very gently. There is absolutely no need to be rough and tough here. Think more like buffing a car, not scrubbing dishes. After a couple of minutes of oil being rubbed the spot/stain should lift up.
5.) And Now for Some…Vinegar?
At this point get another clean cloth (yes, another one) and apply a few dabs of white vinegar to the cloth. Rub the spot(s) you just cleaned with olive oil with the vinegar-touched rag and just go over them for about 20-30 seconds each. This adds a layer of protection and deep cleans the jacket down to its pours.
6.) Mix and Match!
Now, fix equal parts olive oil and vinegar in a mixing bowl or small bucket. Get one more clean rag and rub the new vinegar/oil solution over the whole of the jacket. You don’t have to spend a lot of time on this step, but doing this is kind of like putting wax on a car. It will recondition old, tired leather and keep it from cracking and splitting, as some older jackets are prone to do. Just give the whole jacket a quick wipe and then you’re ready for the last part!
7.) Puttin’ on the Polish!
Finally, get one last (we swear!) clean rag. You just need a dry, soft rag and you’re just going to go over the whole leather jacket and rub very softly and slowly until the jacket is bone dry. It may smell a little bit like olive oil and vinegar still, but that’s OK. You can just leave it outside in a garage or in a laundry room if the smell bothers you or your loved ones too much, but it really only lasts a couple of hours at the most. And, polishing the jacket will go even further to making sure the jacket doesn’t really smell, but is instead extremely protected and ready for whatever you’re going to throw at it next.
8.) (optional) The Professional Route
This last step is reserved for if you want to take your jacket to a dry cleaners. Again, you’ll want to read your jacket’s label before you do ANYTHING other than wipe your jacket down, but if you do choose to go the professional cleaner route what we recommend is: Ask Questions! Don’t just blindly trust any dry cleaner to take your beloved motorcycle jacket and do as they please with it. If you really love your jacket (and you should!) you will ask your dry cleaner what processes they use to clean leather jackets, what cleaners and solutions they use, what temperature they dry them at, etc. Make sure that what they say goes along with what’s on your jacket’s tags, but also just ask to make sure they have an answer for you! If your dry cleaner is taking your favorite jacket, but can’t answer your questions about how they clean leather…run! Take your jacket, get back on your bike and peel away as fast (and legal) as you can!
There are lots of leather cleaners out there, and there are lots of TV commercials for things that will claim to clean your jacket better than anyone. We’ve literally tried them all, and for our money we simply like the more natural (and cheaper and easier) route of using olive oil and vinegar, along with a great big helping of clean cloths and water. The oil gets soaked up into the jacket, keeping it fresh and flexible, and the vinegar gives a nice deep clean that you just can’t beat. Some people will use a really mild dish soap in place of vinegar, but with literally hundreds of different types of hand soaps out there, all with different chemicals and dyes and scents, why not just skip all that fuss and use a $2.00 bottle of white vinegar instead?
Until next time, stay safe out there, and we’ll see you further down the road!