How to Safely Wash Leather Jacket in Washing Machine

The washing machine isn’t made for clothes like leather jackets. Conversely, leather jackets aren’t made for washing machines either. Practically no leather item is. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for you to use a washing machine to wash your leather jacket.

In our other article, we discussed how you can wash and clean a leather jacket lining. We have included some tips on using a washing machine on your leather jacket. In this article, we will go in-depth on that topic, discussing thoroughly how you can safely wash your leather jacket using a washing machine.

Can I put a leather jacket in the washing machine?

Yes, but if you put the jacket in without any thought, you are very likely to damage your beloved jacket. You need to use the most gentle settings, as well as use protective laundry bags to make sure it does not get damaged. Continue reading below to know more details about using a washing machine on your leather jacket.

Types of leather

Suede

Suede is the lowest quality of leather with the loosest fibers. Being the lowest quality means it’s on the lowest layer, but this doesn’t mean it’s a bad product. Even though it is cheaper, it’s only so because it’s much easier to extract in large quantities. Suede is soft leather and is especially delicate to machine washing and should be avoided. It’s best to use suede-specific products to clean it as it is a special type of leather.

Nubuck or top-grain leather

Nubuck is a higher-quality leather known as top-grain leather. Even though the leather is tougher due to its higher quality, the soft outer layer is quite delicate. Nubuck is often mistaken for suede. Nubuck is made from the upper, tighter fibers of the leather, while suede is made from the lower, looser-fibered layer. You can distinguish them by comparing the texture, suede has a coarser texture, while nubuck has very fine leather fibers.

Genuine leather

Genuine leather is a cheap type of real leather whose quality sits equal to suede. The difference is that suede isn’t made to look like higher-quality leather. Genuine leather is often made from leftover leather instead of purposely created suede. It is treated with an outer layer made to mimic the smooth surface of high-quality leather, but this layer will quickly crack and chip off.

Napa or full-grain leather

Napa can be defined in many ways, however, for the sake of brevity, we will say that it is the purest form of leather. While nubuck may be a high-quality leather, the outer surface is sanded off. Napa leather keeps its outer layer and shows the natural texture of the skin of the animal it came from.

Risks

When washing leather jackets, the best route to take is always professional cleaning services. We have made an article about how to choose the right type of dry cleaning service you should go to, information about dry cleaning services, and how to identify one yourself.

If you don’t want to use professional cleaning services, then you should at least hand wash. This way you have control over how delicately you’re handling the leather. You should at least be wary of the substances you’re using to clean you’re leather as leather is sensitive to many types of liquids.

The worst part about machine washing is that it combines the worst things you could do to leather; rough, indiscriminate handling of the leather, harsh substances like detergents, and lots of liquids. These 3 things are what leather shouldn’t be subjected to. However, if we still haven’t convinced you against it, then we should at least give you the best chance for success.

How to use a washing machine for your leather jacket

Maybe you don’t have the time to hand wash your leather jacket, and you don’t want to spend on professional cleaning services that you have to wait a few days on and pick up afterward. You’re left with the washing machine as your only option, it’s best to follow these steps to make sure your leather jacket is clean, not damaged.

Here’s how you can use a washing machine for cleaning your leather item.

Things you will need:

  • Washing machine
  • Gentle detergent
  • Leather conditioner
  • Soft cloth
  • Laundry bag
  • Sturdy hanger

Steps:

  1. Wipe the jacket down first using a soft cloth. This is to remove all loose dirt and debris on it and protect it from scratches.
  2. Fasten all the zippers and buttons and turn it inside out.
  3. Place your leather item inside a laundry bag for added protection.
  4. Put the jacket in the washing machine. Use cold water, and put in the detergent.
  5. Choose the short and delicate cycle setting on the washing machine. If there is an option to limit the spin cycle, choose 400RPM or the lowest setting or no spins at all.
  6. If your washing machine has the option to select the temperature, set it to not more than 30°C.
  7. When it’s done, take it out of the washer and wipe the excess water away. You may also press on it with a large towel to absorb as much of the water as possible to hasten the drying process.
  8. Hang your leather jacket using a sturdy hanger, away from direct sunlight and with proper ventilation.
  9. When it’s dry, treat it with a leather conditioner to prevent it from forming cracks.

Tips and extra information:

  • If you can hand wash your leather jacket instead of the washing machine, do that instead. The washing machine shouldn’t be your go-to option, do it only when it’s really necessary.
  • Make sure that you’re only using a gentle detergent.

How do you clean a smelly leather jacket?

If your leather jacket is smelly, thankfully you don’t need to use the washing machine to fix that. We have gone into deeper detail about this in our article about cleaning leather jacket linings at home

Here’s the short gist of the things you can do to limit the smells:

  • Vinegar spray
  • Lemon spray
  • Essential oil spray
  • Baking soda

The vinegar and lemon sprays are effective at killing odor-causing bacteria. If you have time, it’s best to use the vinegar spray as you can spray the whole jacket lining and leave it to dry. Lemon sprays are great to keep on you for on-the-go spot deodorizing, though you do need to give it some time to dry as well.

The essential oil sprays are great if you don’t want the sour smells of vinegar or lemon. Though this won’t really solve the problem though because it won’t kill the bacteria. So only use this as a temporary solution.

Baking soda is a great way to remove smells because it absorbs them really well without the lemon or vinegar scents. Though it does get a bit messy with all the powder. Place your dry jacket inside out in a large plastic bag and pour a fistful of baking soda. Give it a shake and a massage to make sure the baking soda is on the entire jacket lining. Wait about 20 minutes and your jacket is good to go.

After-washing care

Using a leather conditioner after cleaning your leather garment using a washing machine is important. This is because the process badly dries your leather out and removes its natural oils. The leather conditioner keeps the leather strong and healthy as well as adds water resistance.

If you plan to use your leather jacket in rugged and very wet conditions, it is best to use waterproofing products like waxes or sprays that can further protect the leather from harsh conditions.

Conclusion

The washing machine shouldn’t be the first thing that comes into mind when washing a leather jacket. However, if you can’t commit time to hand washing, or you don’t want to spend money on professional services, and your only option is to use the washing machine, then it is best that we teach you all that we can to make sure your leather jacket is safe when using the washing machine.

Please follow this guide thoroughly and we hope that your leather jacket is not only clean but is well taken care of. Make sure to follow the after-washing treatment as well as skipping on this will put your leather jacket at risk and it will have been worse off than not getting washed at all.

FAQ

Can I wash leather with water?

Yes, you can wash leather with water. What’s important is that you know how to use water on the type of leather you’re working with. It’s best not to soak all types of leather, but you should especially be careful with suede as it is not as strong as grain leather. It’s best to clean leather with water by damping a cloth instead of soaking the leather in water.

How often should I clean my leather jacket?

Leather jackets don’t have to be cleaned often, deep cleaning should only be done once or twice a year. However, not washing for long periods can make your leather jacket smell or you may need to do spot cleaning or regular deodorizing. What needs regular cleaning will more likely be the lining, you can just use fabric sprays and use the deodorizing methods mentioned above.