HomeJacketHow to Clean Vintage Leather Apparel

How to Clean Vintage Leather Apparel

If you have vintage leather apparel, it requires special care. Failure to care for your leather properly can result in hardening, cracking, brittleness or other damage. Caring for vintage leather is simpler than you might think.


If proper care is exercise, you can clean your leather yourself in your own home. The cleaning method depends on the leather type. For finished leather, you can purchase leather cleaner or use a gentle soap such as Dove or baby shampoo.

If using a store-bought cleaner, follow package instructions. If using soap, dampen a clean, soft cloth with water. Make sure the cloth is not overly wet. Add soap to cloth and gently rub into leather. Once you have worked it into a light lather, dampen another clean, soft cloth and wipe away lather completely.

Finish by drying with a fresh cloth, removing as much moisture as possible. Lay flat and allow to air dry in warm location. Make sure the location is out of direct sunlight and not near a heat source such as heater, fireplace or stove.

For unfinished leather, you will need saddle soap or a cleaner made for this type of leather. Work in a small amount of cleaner with a dampened soft, clean cloth to create a light later. Wipe clean with another dampened cloth. Let air dry.

If you are not comfortable cleaning your leather yourself, you can pay to have it cleaned by professionals. Keep in mind, though, that most local dry cleaners do not have the capabilities to do this type of cleaning and send the items out to another company for cleaning.

Since there is a chance that the cleaning process may have an effect on the leather, you may want to send sets out together, regardless of whether all pieces are dirty. This will ensure that if the leather is effected, it is uniform across all pieces of the set.


As your leather ages, it loses the oils that were applied during the tanning process. Eventually, this loss of oils will lead to the fabric becoming stiff, brittle and cracked. Conditioning helps replace these beneficial oils, ensuring the leather remains supple for years to come.

There are a wide variety of leather conditioners available. For optimal results, choose one that is designed to be used with your type of leather. Make sure that the product does not contain silicon or waxes as these reduce the leather’s ability to breathe.

Microfiber cloths are ideal for applying leather conditioner. Lightly dampen the cloth and add a small amount of conditioner to it. Gently rub into the leather in the same direction of the nap. Let sit for a minimum of thirty minutes before applying another coat of conditioner.

For unfinished leather, you may want to apply a leather preservative. Mink oil is used by many people. It can be applied by pouring a small amount of oil onto a clean, dry cloth and massaging into the leather. Take care that you do not use oils that are made for human skin such as baby oil. These can damage the leather.

Conditioners or preservatives should be applied every six to nine months to keep your leather healthy. With proper care, your vintage leather apparel will last for years to come.

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