Motorcycle leathers are durable, look great, and feel comfortable. To make them last, you'll need to clean leathers and perform other upkeep. But you can't just throw leathers in the washer. So, can you dry clean motorcycle leathers? We researched the topic to find out whether dry cleaning is the proper way to maintain your leather apparel.
It is not recommended to dry clean motorcycle leathers because the process can strip all of the manufacturer's treatments and dyes used to make leather wearable. Before you decide how to clean your leathers, make sure to read the instructions on the manufacturer's label. Alternatively, either take leathers to a leather-working specialist for cleaning or use DIY techniques for cleaning leathers at home, such as:
- Use a leather cleaning solution or kit.
- Wipe down leathers with a mix of detergent and water.
- Use a non-gel toothpaste.
- Apply baking soda or cornstarch.
Before you jump in and start using one of these solutions, you should know that each one is applied differently. We'll go over why leathers are essential to motorcyclists, how to use each cleaning method and other important factors for choosing quality leathers.
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Why Do Motorcycle Riders Wear Leather?
Motorcyclists not only wear leather because it looks cool, but leathers are also essential because they're very durable against abrasions and tears. Crashing is not ideal, but wearing leathers can help prevent scraping the skin off your limbs if you end up skidding across the ground. Some leathers even have padding or safety armor built-in to the elbows, shoulders, and back to absorb impact. That's why it's so important to keep your leathers clean and well-maintained; you don't want them falling apart on you if they're the only thing between the hard ground and your skin. Leathers also form to your body after wearing them for a while, so they create a comfortable fit with minimal distraction from the road. If you're looking for a quality jacket, check out our guide that lists some of the best classic motorcycle jackets on the market.
Can I Dry Clean My Leather Jacket At Home?
Going to leather-working professionals every time you have a tiny stain will cut deeply into your pockets, so we recommend that you dry clean your leathers at home because the commercial dry cleaning process can ruin leathers. Deciding how to clean your leathers will depend on how dirty the jacket is and what materials you have on hand. A soft cloth will come in handy for many of these steps, and you'll need to dilute some of the solutions which are too strong for direct contact with the leather. It's also advised that you spot-test a hidden area of your leather with any of these methods first since no two pieces of leather are the same.
Use A Leather Cleaning Solution Or Kit
Leather cleaning solutions are specially made to clean your apparel, containing oils that keep your jacket looking good and feeling great. Some leather solutions are super concentrated, like Leather Honey's Cleaner, so one bottle will last a long time to get extra bang for your buck. Even better, a leather cleaning kit will usually come with any other supplies you might want to make your leathers last as long as possible, like a soft cloth and conditioner.
Wipe Down Leathers With A Mix Of Detergent And Water
This method is best for discolored patches and water spots along with general dirt and grime. It might seem counterproductive to use water to clean leather, but you're not going to soak it. Instead, you should mix mild dish detergent and warm water in a bucket. The rule of thumb here is around two teaspoons of detergent for every few ounces of water.
Dip a soft sponge or cloth into the solution and wring it out. You don't want it to be super wet, just a little damp. Don't scrub at spots, which can scratch the leather. Instead, it would be best if you used long, gentle motions. Wring the cloth or sponge out every so often to switch out the dirty water.
Next, you need to get some clean water and dampen a cloth, like before. Use it to remove lingering detergent from the leather, and then use a clean, dry cloth to pat it dry. Then you can hang up the jacket to let it air out.
Use A Non-gel Toothpaste
It is best to use toothpaste on tougher stains that a water and detergent mix can't clean. For this one, you want to place a dab of toothpaste on your finger and use slow circular motions to remove the stain. Let it sit for ten seconds, and remove it using a damp then dry cloth like in the previous method.
Apply Baking Soda Or Cornstarch
For oily stains, you'll want to use baking soda or cornstarch, depending on what you have on hand. Place a bit of either powder on the spot and gently rub it in with a cloth. Now you'll have to wait for a few hours or even overnight, but the baking soda or cornstarch should absorb the oil and leave it good as new. Finish it with the damp and dry cloths, and then you might want to put a bit of conditioner on the spot to renew any protective oils that might have absorbed away in the process.
What Else You Should Know About Motorcycle Leathers
Now that you know why motorcycle leathers are vital and how to clean them, here are some other essential pieces of information to know before buying leathers. So, you can best select, maintain, and comfortably wear your gear while riding the open road.
Are Motorcycle Leathers Waterproof?
Leathers are not waterproof, despite what the manufacturer says. You can find several types of motorcycle leathers treated to be water-resistant so that you won't be soaked over a sudden rain shower. Don't count on staying dry during heavy or extended rains, though.
To ensure the quality of your leathers after they get wet, use a soft cloth to wipe up any excess water on the outside and hang the leather in a well-ventilated area. Don't place it in the sun or near a heat source because that might crack the leather. After it naturally dries, put some conditioner on it to replace the moisture that it just lost.
How Long Do Motorcycle Leathers Last?
If you treat your leathers well and maintain them, motorcycle leathers can last up to 30 years or longer. A long leather life depends on using the correct cleaning methods and conditioners. Leather conditioners like Paul's Pail Beeswax will keep your leather flexible and prevent it from absorbing moisture. It'll also leave a nice shine.
What Types Of Leather Are Used For Biking Gear?
The most common type of leather is cowhide, which also tends to be a bit cheaper. Other types include kangaroo, goat, and synthetic material. The synthetic material saves you the most money, while kangaroo leathers are more expensive. Artificial leathers are less durable than natural leathers, but they're still better than wearing standard clothes on a motorcycle. Most enthusiasts swear by wearing only the natural stuff, though.
How Thick Should Motorcycle Leather Be?
Base your choice of motorcycle leathers on safety and durability above all, so the thicker, the better. Thinner leathers are better than a regular shirt or fleece, but you'll want to look for a thickness of at least 1.2mm (or 3oz). If you have the extra cash, you could always go for more professional or racing-grade leathers that are around 1.4mm (or 3.5oz) and thicker.
While shopping around, you'll probably hear about different grades of leather, which can affect the thickness. While there are several types, motorcycle leathers often come in full-grain and top-grain variants. Top-grain leather is a bit thinner and more processed to remove any imperfections and blemishes from the material, but this can lower the durability and protection that they offer. You'll probably pay more for full-grain leather, but the quality is worth it.
What Do You Wear Under Motorcycle Leathers?
For the most part, that choice is up to you. It's recommended to choose something comfortable with the weather in mind, so something warm for cold months and something light for warmer months. Keep in mind that leathers can be a bit warmer and are amazing windbreakers. Good, broken-in leather should naturally leave some room to wear garments underneath, so don't worry about buying a size up.
If you want extra safety (always recommended), some leathers have built-in pockets or leave room for extra armor. The most critical piece is the back protector, which you can even replace if you don't like the one in your current jacket.
Now, Gear-up And Enjoy The Ride!
Cleaning your leathers is necessary to keep them looking great and feeling comfortable so you can ride freely on your motorcycle. While standard dry cleaning can ruin the leather, you have plenty of other cost-effective ways to maintain your motorcycle apparel. Now that your leathers are taken care of, you can focus on finding the right motorcycle helmet for you.