Help to keep your leather motorcycle jacket, chaps or suit in tip-top condition with our ten-point maintenance plan.
Best Way to Clean Motorcycle Leathers
- Find out if your interior is removable
- Let your jacket’s sweat-wicking air out
- Remove all internal armor, turn the jacket inside out, and apply de-salter throughout the interior of the jacket
- Find a quality leather cleaner
- Add a small amount of cleaner to a soft cotton rag
- Apply cleaner to leather
- Allow drying for 24 hours
- Apply leather conditioner to the leather surface
- Allow conditioner to dry
- Do not over condition jacket
Prefer to watch detailed instructions in a video?
In this article, we’re going to break down how to clean and maintain your motorcycle leather gear. We are going to show you how to clean and maintain your leather to make sure it stays looking new but also to make sure that it functions properly.
I say functions properly because if you let your leather dry and crack, it’s not going to protect you the same way but it will if it’s properly maintained. The reason you’re wearing leather is you want to make sure you’re safe in the event of a crash.
I like to let my leather wear out, I like that old vintage look, however, I don’t want it to go so far that it actually damages the leather itself.
I’ve noticed that after riding throughout the winter I get a lot of salt on my leather jacket and eventually that salt will deteriorate the leather. It will cause it to dry out and if I get into a crash it could render the leather useless.
I want to make sure that while I wanted it to look vintage and worn and broken in, I don’t want it to be non-functional.
I did some research on how to clean and maintain my jacket while still making sure it keeps that vintage look I’m going for.
We’re going to break down how to clean and maintain leather pants, leather jackets and leather tracksuits to make sure that whether you’re the kind of person that wants to clean your gear once a year, or once a month, we’re going to show you exactly what you need to do.
This is something that anyone out there at home can tackle including yourself. There is an array of different cleaners and conditioners, there are a ton of different cleaners and conditioners in the market and if you’re having trouble choosing one see our recommendations at the end of this article.
We’re going to break it down into three separate steps. We’re going to talk about the interior, exterior and also conditioning your jacket.
We will start with the interior and then work our way through the rest of the jacket. Most jackets come with an antimicrobial liner, it helps to wick sweat away. If you’re a track rider in some cases your liner is removable so you can simply pull it out and throw it into a washing machine.
Get Armpit Smell Out of Your Leather Jacket
For those of you that just need to air it out a little bit, that’s going to be the first step. If you have an antimicrobial liner you can simply put your jacket on a hanger, set it outside and let it breathe for a few hours. That’ll do the trick In most cases.
If you’re a little bit more of a sweater and you need to get some of that sweaty smell out of your jacket a little Febreze will help to mask the odors.
That would be the step if you just need to quickly mask those odors that might be lingering in your jacket after a long ride.
For those of you that are pouring a ton of sweat into your gear and you really have an odor problem all the major brands like Alpinestars, Dainese, Revit, etc are going to recommend a desalter.
When you sweat you pour out a ton of salt and it all ends up soaking into your leather gear. That sweat turns to odor and eventually mold so what you should do is use a desalter.
A desalter helps to break up the odor and the mold and remove that sweaty smell. I use AutoGlym Leather Cleaner for my leathers available from Amazon. You start by removing all the armor out of your jacket, your pants or your tracksuit. This is going to allow you to turn the gear completely inside out with ease.
Once you have the gear turned inside out you’re going to take the desalter and apply a liberal amount to the inside liner of the jacket. Then you need to hang it up and let it dry.
You need to make sure that that jacket is completely dry before you turn it right-side in and put your armor back inside. Once you’ve completed that process and the inside smells nice you can move on to the exterior.
The exterior part of your leather gear, your leather jacket, pants, and tracksuit collect the most grime and it’s probably the part that you’re most concerned with.
A leather jacket, pants or tracksuit can be very expensive so you need to make sure when you’re choosing a cleaner you’re not going to use something that could risk damaging the actual color, patina, or shell of that jacket.
We recommend using a pH-neutral cleaner. PH-neutral cleaners don’t have any scent so it cleans the fabric as well as removing the odor. It will remove any bugs or any road debris. You can get a leather cleaning pack from Amazon which includes the cleaner and conditioner.
You should stay away from anything that’s going to include silicones or waxes because they can dry out the leather. You should also make sure you stay away from animal oil products.
I used to always clean my jackets with a mink oil paste but after talking to experts I realize that I shouldn’t be using any animal by-product as they can actually cause the leather to discolor.
In most cases, you don’t want that to happen so you want to make sure that you’re choosing a cleaner that is appropriate for leather. Whichever cleaner you choose you should make sure you always follow the instructions listed on the bottle and always take note of the instructions listed in the actual garment.
Whether you’re cleaning a jacket, pants or a tracksuit just take note of the cleaning instructions on the garment as well as the cleaner that you’re going to use.
In most cases, you should use a soft cotton terry cloth rag. Apply the cleaner to the rag directly not to the jacket itself because you don’t want to put all that excess cleaner on the jacket or it can be absorbed.
Once it’s on the rag use small circular motions starting at the front and then work yourself through the body of the jacket. As you’re doing this you’re going to notice that dirt will be absorbed into that terry cloth rag. You can use the same amounts of warm water without damaging your jacket.
Once you’re done with the body you can start on the arms then turn it around to the back of the jacket. Usually, the back of a jacket isn’t going to be as dirty as the front because you’re not getting splattered with all the bugs. Make sure you use the same process for the back of the jacket even though it doesn’t get dirty as the front.
When you’re finished you’re going to have a jacket that looks nice and clean but it is going to be a little bit wet. You need to make sure that you let the jacket dry thoroughly before moving on to the next step which is conditioning. In some cases, it takes up to 24 hours before this jacket dries out.
What is the best leather conditioner for jackets?
When you condition leather what you’re actually doing is you’re giving all those essential oils back to the jacket. You don’t want to over condition the leather as over conditioning can lead to discoloration and it can clog the pores which can prematurely damage the leather.
The rule of thumb is to use a leather conditioner about once a year if you’re aggressively using your jacket every single day. You might want to do it twice a year but again the rule of thumb is about once a year.
I mentioned earlier with the cleaning products that there are lots of options to choose from, the same for conditioners. Once you choose one you need to make sure you follow the instructions on your particular conditioner. The instruction on the conditioner I use says to apply a liberal amount to a damp sponge and then work into the jacket.
I start by spraying a liberal amount on a sponge and start with the body of the jacket. I work it through the body making sure to stop and rinse out the sponge with warm water, the same way I did with the terry cloth rag and then reapplying back to the jacket.
Once I finished the body I’m going to work my way down the arms, I then turn the jacket around and work down the back. You never want to condition just a certain section of a garment, make sure you complete the process giving an even amount of conditioner throughout the entire piece.
Once you’re done conditioning set it aside in a nice ventilated space, let it dry and once it’s dry you are ready to ride. Like we said previously you should do this once maybe twice a year.
For continued care you don’t need to reclean your entire jacket pants or tracksuit every time you wear them, you just need a spot clean and for that, we recommend baby wipes. Good enough for a baby’s ass it’s good enough for me, that is my life motto and I stick to it.
Keep a pack of baby wipes in the top of your toolbox and when you get home from a ride pull one out and give a quick spot check to any of the leather you’re wearing and you’ll keep it nice and clean.
Can You Wash Motorcycle Leathers?
Obviously washing leather will damage and dry out the leather. Some jackets or race suits have liners that can be removed and washed in a washing machine. These liners are designed to soak up the sweat so sometimes just removing the liner and washing it can remove some of the bad odors from your jacket or suit.
Cleaning Full Racing Leathers
Cleaning full race leathers are much the same as a leather jacket except you shouldn’t use a conditioner all over the suit.
Conditioners tend to make the leathers slippery so if you add the conditioner to the seat or the legs of the leathers it might make you slide around on the seat making it dangerous to ride.