Caring for Leather Coats: Frugal Tips

Susan Sanders-Kinzel


Would you please send me some economical tips on caring for leather jackets. I want to keep them supple and soft without having to purchase expensive leather care products.



Here are some tips that I have for you, our readers may have some more ideas. These tips should work well for just about any kind of real leather. Because there are so many good synthetic leathers and suedes, make sure that you are using these treatments on real leather.

For Suede:

Suede must be taken care of carefully. The best first treatment for suede is a suede brush. These are sold at shoe stores and wherever shoe polish is sold. It is a short bristled fine wire brush. It is best that the suede is dry before brushing so you don't lose the nap. If you get a stain on the suede, rub some cornmeal into the stain. Let it absorb the stain then brush off.

For smooth leather we have put together these tips:

1. Periodically wipe down leather with a lightly damp sponge to clean off surface dirt.

2. When you store the coat make sure it has room to breathe. If it doesn't have room to breathe or gets too hot it may dry out.

3. Don't spray hairspray or perfume while you are wearing the jacket. These type of sprays on your jacket will damage the finish.

4. Avoid wearing pins on the leather, it will just create a small hole that could turn into a bigger one over time.

5. When your coat becomes wet, let it dry slowly at room temperature with plenty of room to breath. Excessive heat will dry your coat out and can make the leather stiff.

6. If you get a stubborn wrinkle in your jacket you can iron it out with a clothes iron. Put thick paper or a towel over the wrinkle and use an iron on a low setting. Make sure you don't use something that might bleed color in between the iron and the jacket.

7. You can buy water and stain repellant for most jackets for less than $10.00. Ask the store where you bought the jacket what they recommend. They may even sell some. They can also tell you if your jacket already has water or stain repellant on it. Some of these repellants are very dangerous and should be used with proper ventillation.

8. Lastly, when you hang your jacket use a coat hanger, not a wire hanger. A wire hanger may alter the jacket's shape and make the shoulders look bad. Leave some room on either side of the jacket so it can breathe.

Do you have any tips for caring for a leather coat to add? Post them below.

April 22, 20040 found this helpful

Another tip:

Leather should be kept out of direct sunlight.

It dries it out. Obviously a coat is going to get some direct sunlight but the more you can limit it the better. For example, don't leave it in the back of your car on a hot day. Either put something on top of it or store it in your trunk.

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June 7, 20040 found this helpful

Different types of leather also demand different types of care. Many people purchase what is called Naked Leather items, a much better grade of leather than standard protected leather. These leather goods have no sealant to protect them and are much softer than standard letaher goods. Also, they are much more affected by water and water will leave spots. If you have Naked Leather items and want the soft and good look of the leather to always show, it is best to purchase rain gear to cover the leather. Once its wet, water will show as dark spots. The only way to cure is to darken the whole item using a sealant/protector like mink oil.

Different types and qualities of leather also will wear different. For instance, pig skin has a tendency to dry out much more rapidly than good quality cow, buffalo or lamb. Pig skin is thinner leather. This dryness will be apparent in the color, it will be lighter, and the feel, it will be stiffer. If it gets too dry, it will eventually crack and your clothing will be destroyed. It is best to use a leather contioning product like mink oil to rehydrate the leather and prevent it from cracking. Most leather items made in China use Pig, so check the labels when buying. Pig is a very nice leather, it just needs to be taken care of more often.

Like the other advice above, keep your leather from heat and sunlight when possible. Thicker leather can handle much more light and heat than thinner leather. To see more on leather types see


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September 15, 20040 found this helpful

Honestly the most effective way to care for leather is to closely evaluate a leather jacket prior to purchasing it. What is your intended use for the jacket? Everyday, or for special occasion? Who will be wearing it and how do they (or you) typcially care for clothing?

These quesions are not generally asked, it seems that buying a leather jacket is often a very "emotional" purchase, done for style or the "feel" of the jacket. Instead, if one reseached several jackets they like and learn what they are made of and how they will "fit" into thier lifestyle, they will wind up much happier with thier purchase.

Most people go for something "soft." Often these soft jackets are lambskin, which is tremendous in a mall store for trying on, but very difficult to take care of in the real world. It's thin, rips easily, shows scuffs and scratches, and has little if any real durability. No motorcyclist would consider lambskin for thier riding jacket. Consider a lambskin jacket if your intended use is special, dressy occasions only and you can really "put it away" the rest of the time.

The other type are the made in China pigskin jackets that you seen in an inexpensive store for around $50. These jackets usually have even less durability than lambskin, and they are harder to take care of, plus they do not have the softness of lamb or a well broken in cow hide jacket. Unless there is a special reason, these jackets are best avoided.

Third on this short list are good quality cow hide jackets. These jackets tend to weigh more, and be a bit stiffer on a store rack than a lambskin jacket. When one is tried on, it may be a bit stiff and uncomfortable. Think on the long-term here. If a baseball glove softens up with oil and consistant use, what would you suppose a cow hide jacket is going to do? The key is finding one that will fit correctly once it is broken in. It will need to be well oiled a few times a year, and waterproofed at least once a year, but the benefits are well worth it. If you don't mind a slightly adventurous style, try looking into designated motorcycle jackets. I am not refering to the $99 cheap ones that are seen in flashy ads. Instead, if you really want a jacket that will last for generations (literally) try looking up the website for a manufacturer such as Schott or Vanson, who both sell more normal-looking jackets as well as wild, flashy ones. Thier prices are higher than what you may expect, but they are generally much better products in the long run. They also have helpful information for the purchase of a quality jacket.

Think of a leather jacket as an investment. Enjoy your coat and enjoy having a second skin! (I have no connection to Schott or Vanson and am using thier names for referance only. This is not an attempt to sell thier products, just in case anyone wondered.)

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September 10, 20050 found this helpful

Don't leave your favorite leather jacket or hand bag in the back of your car on sunny days. Heat and direct sun light can dry and bleach out the leather. When you store a leather jacket, give it room to breath. Don't apply hairspray or perfume while you are wearing your jacket, it can damage the finish. If your jacket gets wet, let it dry at room temperature.

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February 25, 20060 found this helpful

Does it hurt a leather jacket to wear it in the rain?

Editor's Note: Margaret, it really depends on the type of leather and whether it has been oiled or weather proofed. If it is suede, unless it was weatherproofed, it could harm it. Leather like motorcycle jackets, can be oiled which will keep the leather from getting wet.

If leather does get wet, make sure you dry it very slowly. Heat can make leather hard and will make it more prone to cracking. Hope this helps.

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March 26, 20060 found this helpful

I spilled food on a black leather coat and quickly wiped it off with a wet cloth. I was surprised to see that the cloth had become "black." The coat was seemingly unchanged. Any ideas?

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December 23, 20060 found this helpful

very helpful

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December 11, 20070 found this helpful

I have a good leather jacket with light coloration in an area and a few streaks. Is there anything I can use to repair it. Linda Wilson""

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April 3, 20080 found this helpful


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June 14, 20080 found this helpful

I have a jacket made from real leather, the thick heavy kind, and it got soaked one night about a year ago or more. It dried out and since then it has been stiff as a board. I haven't worn it much since then because of a loud creaking noise the stiffness causes when I move in it. Is there any budget way I can restore the noiseless quality to my coat? By budget I mean not have to spend much, perhaps rub butter into it or some home remedy, you know, something easy.

Editor's Note: Try mink oil. You can buy it where you buy shoe polish. Rub it in good and let it sit. It can really help dried out leather.

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October 22, 20080 found this helpful

If a heavy leather garment like a motorcycle jacket or pants gets wet in the rain (I got caught while riding by a hail storm once), it can be safely dried by hanging over an electric fan turned so as to direct a strong gust of air upwards at the garment. No heat, just air. To treat it afterward, I've had good luck with a thick oily product called Harness Honey which can be found on the web. It can be brushed on with a cheap paint brush. Its composition is not disclosed, but I would guess from its odor and consistency that it's part castor oil and part neat's foot oil.

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October 22, 20080 found this helpful

For the lady with the white fur fringed garment: if the fur has gotten soiled, try rubbing flour or corn starch into it (only when dry, never when wet), then brush it out.

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