Leather jackets have been around for a long time. Though they were “invented” in the early 20th century for utilitarian purposes and further developed for the armed forces in WWII, they were popularized in the 1950s by none other than Hollywood stars looking to emulate that military look. Since then, they’ve become a fashion staple — whether they’re classic bomber jackets or modern bedazzled coats — and it appears that leather jackets are here to stay.
To make sure your leather jacket has that staying power in your own closet, you must clean and care for it the right way.
Caring for Your Leather Jacket
The best way to ensure that your leather jacket stays supple, soft, smooth and clean is to treat it like the valuable item that it is. The first step is to read the manufacturer’s label: there may be some specific care instructions for the leather, such as how often to waterproof or condition the jacket. There are also some general guidelines to keep your leather jacket in good shape:
- Keep your jacket dry. Avoid wearing your leather jacket in rainy weather. If it does get wet, make sure that you hang it out to dry immediately before putting it away.
- Hang your jacket correctly. Never leave your jacket folded for a long period of time, as this can encourage creases and cracks in the leather. Instead, hang it on a wide, preferably padded hanger in a well ventilated closet — never in the sunlight, as that can quickly discolor the jacket. This is particularly important for suede. Whatever you do, don’t store your jacket on a wire hanger. You’re asking for weird “bumps” in the shoulders. After you hang it, don’t shove it into your closet among dozens of other coats. Give it some space!
- Keep your jacket away from heat. Heat will dry out and cause leather to become brittle and crack. Never lay your jacket on or near a radiator or heating vent, and never iron or steam it yourself.
- Use a leather conditioner. Leather will always naturally lose some of it moisture, but using a reputable leather conditioner on finished leather can prolong its life.
Don’t clean at home. Unless you have the experience or aren’t worried about causing irreparable harm to your leather jacket, you should not try to clean it at home. Some cleaning labels may say that you can wash your leather jacket in a washing machine, but any small misstep can cause serious damage.
Stay anonymous. Don’t put a sticky name tag on suede or leather. When you peel it off, chances are you’ll take some fabric with it, or worse, leave an adhesive mark.
Professional Leather Cleaning: When, Why and How
Even if you have been caring for your jacket properly, you should still have your leather jacket professionally cleaned at least once a year or more, depending on how often you wear it. A professional leather cleaner will know exactly what type of cleaning process to use (dry or wet cleaning, both of which can be used on leather jackets) based on the type of leather, color, and style as well as how to remove any stains (even dreaded ink stains).
If your leather jacket has gotten a little dirty, lost some of its color, or developed cracks, a professional leather cleaning service can restore its vibrancy and repair the damage so you can keep wearing your leather jacket for years to come.