How to clean a leather jacket without dry cleaning

Learn the best way to clean a leather jacket at home without ruining your pricey investment

Man wearing leather jacket and gray sweater
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Learning how to clean a leather jacket is an important part of looking after your pricey outerwear. Investing in real leather is worth the splurge but not if it gets ruined with the wrong cleaning methods. 

But don't worry, your Zara staple is safe as we've found some simple ways to get it looking as good as new. We asked the experts for some tips and tricks to clean a leather jacket at home without rushing out to the dry cleaners. 

See how easy it is when you discover how to do laundry the right way. And yes, laundry does include those neglected coats and jackets in desperate need of a clean.

How to clean a leather jacket

Once you've gathered all your laundry room essentials and the best cleaning supplies, you can get to work sprucing your leather jacket. Leather is hard-wearing but still needs cleaning regularly, depending on how often you wear yours. 

Leather can attract odors and stains just like any other material, plus the lining inside will accumulate sweat and body odor from continuous use. Give yours a clean at least once a month if you wear it every day.

Close up of leather jacket

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Step 1: Check the care label

Before you start cleaning a leather jacket, make sure to take a look at the care label on the inside to check the laundry symbol meanings. "Always check the material because you may not be working with 100% leather. The garment may be made with alternative synthetic materials which may require different washing methods," says Angela Rubin, a cleaning expert from Hellamaid.

Angela Rubin, cleaning expert at HellaMaid
Angela Rubin

Angela Rubin works at Hellamaid, a top-rated cleaning company in Canada. Hellamaid are industry experts specializing in residential and commercial cleaning services. 

Step 2: Wipe down

Next, wipe down the jacket with a soft cleaning cloth, such as the Amazon Basics microfiber cloths, to remove any debris from the outside.

"Remove surface dirt and dust by wiping down the jacket before you start. This will make the cleaning process a lot easier," says cleaning expert, Karina Toner.

Karina Toner, Operations Manager, Spekless Cleaning
Karina Toner

Karina Toner is a cleaning expert and the Operations Manager at Washington D.C.-based Spekless Cleaning. 

Step 3: Clean with soapy water

Fill a basin (this collapsible tub from Amazon is great for those with limited storage space) with warm water and a couple of drops of mild dish soap (classic Dawn dish soap is available on Amazon if you've run out). Soak a cleaning cloth or soft sponge in the soapy solution and wring out any excess water. 

"Use a sponge or cloth to gently dab the leather clean. Don't rub the water in or scrub too aggressively as this can damage the leather," says Angela. 

You can use the same method to clean the inside of the jacket, too. "Clean the lining with a small amount of soapy water to remove stains and odors." Angela says. "Pay attention to the underarms and lower back as these areas can attract sweat stains." 

Then, wet a cloth with clean water and wipe down the jacket to remove the soapy residue.

Step 4: Hang dry

Place your jacket on a hanger so it keeps its shape. Hang it to dry in a cool area and avoid exposing it to heat. "Leave the jacket to dry for several hours or overnight to ensure no moisture is remaining," says Karina. 

Try a retractable clothes line (such as this JOOM STORE retractable indoor and outdoor clothes line from Amazon) if you're drying clothes in a small space.

Step 5: Treat with conditioner

Once your jacket is completely dry, use a leather conditioner to restore its shine. 

Karina says, "Use a soft cloth to gently rub in your leather conditioner of choice. Use small circular motions to massage it into the material. The leather will feel a lot more soft and pliable, plus it will look polished and shiny."

We love this Leather Honey conditioner which is available on Amazon, with over 56k reviews.

While you may be a little concerned about damaging your precious outerwear splurge, it should be pretty easy to clean a leather jacket at home. As long as you avoid common laundry mistakes such as using harsh chemicals, or exposing it to too much water, your jacket will come out looking as good as new.

Emily Lambe
Deputy Editor

Hey! I’m Emily and I’m the deputy digital editor at Real Homes. I’m here to bring you the latest decor trends, inspirational ideas and the best budget-friendly buys. I live in a rented apartment, making the most of small spaces and using accent pieces to make things pop. When I’m not writing, I’m usually doing yoga, eating chocolate or working on my skincare routine.