Proper Care of a Vintage Leather Jacket

by Kimberly Johnson

Vintage leather jackets are both stylish and versatile winter-wardrobe options. They come in a variety of styles from short bombers to longer styles that brush the knees. These vintage clothing items require special care that newer leather does not need. Specifically, you must protect the aging leather from drying out or damage from ultraviolet light. If you maintain a regular cleaning and conditioning process, your vintage leather jacket should last into the next generation.

Cleaning Vintage Leather

Open a white bath towel and lay it on a flat surface such as a counter. Lay the vintage leather jacket face down on the towel.

Fill a tub or sink with 1 to 2 gallons of warm water. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of a liquid laundry detergent and stir the water with your hand to mix it up.

Insert a soft-bristled brush into the soapy water and then shake off as much of the moisture as possible.

Place the bristles of the brush on the leather jacket applying only gentle pressure. Move the brush in circular motions to clean off the oxidation and residue. Rinse the brush in the water as needed and continue cleaning the entire back of the jacket.

Turn the jacket over so that the lapels face up. Repeat the process to clean the front side with the soapy-water solution.

Drain the water and refill the sink with clean, cold water. Rinse the brush in the water to remove all soap residue. Shake off the excess water and rebrush all the leather surfaces of the jacket to remove any remaining soap.

Hang the vintage jacket on a sturdy coat hanger and place it in an area with good air circulation until it dries completely.

Conditioning Vintage Leather

Remove the jacket from the coat hanger and lay it face down on a white towel.

Open a bottle or jar of antique leather dressing and apply 1 to 2 teaspoons to a soft, lint-free cloth. Apply the dressing to the leather using gentle, circular motions.

Turn the jacket over and repeat the process to apply antique leather dressing to the front of the jacket.

Hang the jacket back on the coat hanger and allow it to sit undisturbed for 48 hours. Feel the leather with your hands to determine if it is soft and pliable. If you feel any stiffness, apply another layer of the leather dressing and let it dry for another 48 hours.

Items you will need

  • White bath towels
  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Coat hanger
  • Lint-free cloths
  • Antique leather dressing


  • Store the leather jacket in a cool, dark location when not in use. Heat and sunlight cause the leather to break down.
  • Reapply the antique leather dressing every six months to properly protect the vintage leather.
  • If the vintage leather jacket shows sign of cracking, skip the washing step and apply the leather conditioner.

About the Author

Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images