Can you wash a leather jacket?

by | Apr 22, 2010 05:10 PM ET

You Asked:

Can you wash a leather jacket? --- Zin, Yangon, Myanmar

Marshall Brain Answers:

You have three options when it comes to cleaning a leather jacket:

1) You can send it out to an professional leather cleaner. If this is an expensive leather item or if it has huge sentimental value, you should use a professional. Don't just take it to anybody. Take it to a a place that specializes in leather and has a good reputation. They should be able to describe exactly what they will do and show you other items they have worked on.

2) If it is a small problem, you may be able to spot clean the jacket. This video shows you how:

3) If you take a look at How Leather Works, you can see that leather starts its life in water. Therefore, it is possible to wash leather if you are careful with the drying process. If your jacket is not hugely expensive and if you can take it or leave it if something goes wrong, this might be something to try. The first minute of this video is a waste, but the rest is useful because it talks about the process:

The video talks about drying, and there are two things to keep in mind. First, heat is the enemy of leather, so you can't use heat when drying. But you also don't want the item to stay wet too long or you will get mildew. So you want to put the drying jacket in a place that has really good air circulation. If you have a porch out of the sun, or if you can place it near an open window so there is a breeze (again, no sun), that would help.

This page offers some additional tips and also points out that leather can shrink as it is drying. One thing about that article that should raise your antenna is the idea of using shampoo in a washing machine. If you put too much in, you obviously are going to create an amazing suds problem.

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