Guide to Washing your Leathers.


Super Moderator
It was time to clean/wash my leathers, so I did some research on the Net.
Lots of suggestions and ideas:

  • Use a front loader.

  • If you use a top loader, put towels on the bottom first.

  • Wash it in the bath tub.

  • Use elbow grease.

But here is a write up I really liked:
While my leathers didn't really smell bad, I figured that since I wore it every time I rode for the last 5 months or so, it was time to clean it--I mean, you change your t-shirt every day right? Why not do the same for your jacket?

I. So I did some poking around on the internet and pretty much came back with the following:

1) Leather is simply dead skin--treat it no differently than your own skin.

2) Water dries out leather, just like it dries out your skin.

Leather takes a long time to dry completely, and while the leather is wet, it'll mold to whatever touches it if given enough pressure.

4) The greatest concern with getting colored leather wet is that the dyes may bleed.

II. So, armed with this knowledge, I went and WASHED my leather Alpinestars TZ-1 jacket--in total disregard of the care instructions labeled within. This is how I did it:

1) Remove all of the padding and armor. Some may recommend that you open the stitching and remove any foam type armor that may be sewn in as well. I found that this was unnecessary because whatever foams or pads may be sewn into the leather will definitely not dry any slower than the leather itself--so you don't have to worry about having soggy pads inside of your leathers. So just take out any pieces that you can, just to simplify the cleaning process.

2) While Barnacle Bill (the custom riding leathers maker) washes his leathers in a heavy duty washing machine, I felt that the excess wear on my expensive leather was unnecessary because leather is relatively dense and dirt doesn't accumulate deep within the leathers, only near the surface. However, surface cleaning with a lotion or conditioner isn't enough. The salt from your sweat can build up within the leather which will cause your leather to crack and dry over time.

The best solution, in my opinion, is to wash your leathers in a bathtub or other large container. If you have solid colored leathers that are NOT RED, you can wash your leather in lukewarm water, if not, wash your leathers in cold water to prevent bleeding.

Use soap. Yeup, just plain ole soap. Washing detergents are too harsh, and water by itself doesn't remove all of the dirt leaving you with stinky wet leathers. I used a bar of Dove soap because it has no colors, perfumes or fragances, lots of moisterizers, and no harsh additives like antibacterial chemicals or exfoliants.

Drop the jacket in the water and swish it around to make sure all of it gets wet. I used a soft bristle brush (the kind you use to polish your shoes) and scrubbed the leather gently, taking care to avoid reflective materials that can be rubbed off very easily. Once you get all of the outside leather nice and clean, flip the jacket inside out (this is why you take the hard armor out) and start scrubbing the mesh liner. By this time, the water should be pretty soapy and sudsy so repeatedly dunking the whole thing under water and flexing and swishing both the mesh and the leather will help get the soap and water deep into the material to dissolve the salts in the leather.

Now the water begins to look REAL nasty. Leather does a great job of hiding all of the road grime. Drain the tub. If the the jacket was filthy, fill it up with water again and use more soap and wash it again. Otherwise, fill the tub up with cold water and start rinsing. Soap rinses out pretty easily, but you gotta be pretty certain you rinse out all the soap because you don't want soap residue in your leather. You don't need to scrub: flexing the material and swishing it gently under clean water should get most of the soap out.

3) When wet, leather molds very easily (and permanently) to whatever presses into it. So while it's wet, do not wring, pull, stretch, scratch, fold, or press into the leather of your jacket. Your jacket, when wet, should weigh close to 20 pounds. Pick it up and shake the water out. Whater likes to catch into the pockets and folds of the leather. Just hold the jacket it up and turn it upside down and then right side up for a few minutes until most of the water drips out.

Then lay the jacket out on a towel. Try your best to keep the jacket flat and smooth. If there is a folded piece of leather that is under the weight of the jacket, it may very well crease like that permanently. Just spread the jacket out as best you can on a flat surface. DO NOT HANG YOUR JACKET. The leather will stretch from the weight of the water.

The jacket will take several days to dry--up to a week, depending on the thickness of the leather. Turn the jacket once or twice a day so that it dries evenly. If you have an extra towel, change the towel underneath every time you flip, and then hang the wet towel up so that it dries so you can use it to put under the jacket the next time you flip.

After the first day, you can stuff crumpled newspaper in the arms to aid the drying. Just change the paper out each day.

The name of the game is to get the jacket enough air so that it dries and doesn't turn mildewy. I used a fan, and it made the jacket dry alot faster, but others have just let it air dry naturally.

4) Apply a coat of lotion that contains Lanolin each day to the jacket when it is no longer visibly wet. You don't need anything fancy, just a plain hand lotion. Lexol leather conditioner is nice too, because it is PH balanced and doesn't contain any silicone or anything, but it's pricey. Instead, I just used St. Ives hand lotion that my girlfriend has. It's unscented, uncolored, contains lanolin, and doesn't have any crazy man made additives like silicone or anything. Avoid applying lotion to kevlar panels or emblems and doesn't absorb into the material and so you'll end up with greasy looking splotches.

If you have accordian folded stretch panels of leather, don't worry about the lotion that gets into the grooves. It'll eventually absorb. This goes as well to the lotion that is rubbed into seems and creases--as long as you don't drench the jacket in lotion, the lotion will absorb into the leather, so dont have a fit if you can't rub in every last bit of lotion with your fingernail.

III. And thats it, give it about 5 days to do the whole thing. But when yer done, your jacket looks as good as new, smells super nice (if you used unscented products, it has a real nice leather smell that I love), and best of all, if you used a non greasy lotion, the jacket is a joy to touch--super soft, but not greasy or shiny.
I'm not so sure about the "not hanging" and "stretching" part, because, as far as I know, when leather is wet it is more supple and easier to "shape", but when it is dry, that stretching characteristic will be gone.


New member
I prefer, for obvious time saving matters, to bring the leather to a good dry cleaner. I did it with my leathers that were red/white/bleu and for a small supplement they not only cleaned the leather but also redied the white.....and white it came out!!!

That of course if you don't mind spending a bit of money. But as far as I'm time is precious and the shop where I took it did AN OUTSTANDING JOB!!!