Clean and Condition: The Definitive Guide to How to Clean Motorcycle Leathers

by Karen Neill

Motorcycle Maintenance

Motorcycle leathers are an essential part of a rider’s gear, offering protection and style. Leather jackets, trousers and gloves are essential for track days and, and as we know are not cheap to buy.   How to clean motorcycle leathers is crucial to ensure their longevity, performance, and appearance. Our guide provides detailed steps on how to clean your motorcycle and care for your leathers, keeping them in top condition for years to come.

Understanding Your Motorcycle Leathers

Motorcycle leathers are typically made from high-quality cowhide, goatskin, or kangaroo leather. They are treated to enhance durability and weather resistance, but they still require regular care to maintain their properties. Before you start cleaning, it’s important to check the manufacturer’s care instructions, usually found on a label inside the garment.

Materials Needed for Cleaning

  • A mild leather cleaner or saddle soap care products like Try Nikwax leather cleaning products or Motul Perfect leather
  • Soft cloths and sponges
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Microfiber towels
  • Leather conditioner
  • Leather protectant spray
  • Distilled or boiled water
  • Small bucket
Motul Perfect Leather

Preparing for Cleaning

Inspection

Before cleaning, inspect your leathers for any damage such as tears, loose stitching, or areas of heavy wear. Address any repairs needed before cleaning to avoid exacerbating the damage.

Spot Test

Perform a spot test with your leather cleaner on a small unseen areas area to ensure it does not discolour or damage the leather.

Cleaning the Leathers

Surface Cleaning

Dust and Dirt Removal

Use a soft cloth or brush to remove loose dirt and dust. Gently brush in a circular motion, focusing on seams and crevices where dirt gathers.

Wipe Down

Dampen a soft cloth with distilled water and wring it out well. Wipe down the surface of the leather to remove any surface grime. Avoid soaking the leather, as excess moisture can damage it.

Deep Cleaning

Prepare Cleaning Solution

Mix a small amount of mild leather cleaner or saddle soap with distilled water in a bowl. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the correct ratio.

Application

Dampen a soft sponge with the cleaning solution and gently lather it onto the leather. Use circular motions to work the cleaner into the leather, paying special attention to heavily soiled areas.

Brush Cleaning

For stubborn dirt, use a soft-bristled brush to scrub the affected areas gently. Be careful not to apply too much pressure, which could damage the leather.

Rinse

Dampen a clean cloth with distilled water and wipe down the leather to remove any soap residue. Ensure all cleaner is removed, as leftover soap can dry out the leather.

Drying

Use a dry microfiber towel to blot the leather and remove excess moisture. Allow the leather to air dry naturally in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight or heat sources, which can cause the leather to crack and fade.

Conditioning the Leathers

Importance of Conditioning

Conditioning is vital to maintain the leather’s suppleness and prevent it from drying out and cracking. It also helps to restore natural oils that may have been stripped away during cleaning.

Choose a Leather Conditioner

Select a high-quality leather conditioner suitable for motorcycle leather. Avoid conditioners that contain petroleum or silicone, as these can damage the leather over time.

Application

Apply a small amount of conditioner to a soft cloth. Gently rub it into the leather using circular motions, ensuring even coverage. Focus on areas that are prone to dryness and wear, such as elbows, knees and inner thighs.

Absorption

Allow the conditioner to absorb into the leather for the time specified by the manufacturer. This usually takes a few hours.

Buffing

Use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to buff the leather, removing any excess conditioner and restoring its natural sheen.

Protecting the Leathers

Leather Protectant

Using a leather protectant spray can help shield your motorcycle leather from water, UV rays, and stains.

Selection

Choose a protectant specifically designed for leather garments. Ensure it provides UV protection and water resistance.

Application

Lightly spray the protectant over the surface of the leather from a distance of about 6-8 inches. Apply evenly, without saturating the leather.

Drying

Allow the protectant to dry completely before wearing or storing the leather.

Additional Tips for Leather Care

How to Clean Motorcycle Leathers

Regular Maintenance

Frequent Cleaning

Clean your leathers regularly, even if they don’t appear dirty. This prevents grime buildup and extends the life of the leather.

Condition Often

Condition the leather every 3-6 months, depending on usage and exposure to elements.

Immediate Attention

Address spills and stains promptly to prevent permanent damage.

Storage

Proper Hanging

Store leathers on padded or wide hangers to maintain their shape.

Cool, Dry Place

Keep them in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight.

Avoid Plastic Bags

Use breathable bags instead of plastic, which can trap moisture and cause mould growth.

Riding Care

Weather Protection

Use a leather protectant before rides in harsh weather to shield your leathers from rain and sun.

Post-Ride Cleaning

Wipe down your leathers after rides to remove bugs, dust, and sweat.

Proper cleaning, conditioning, and protection of your motorbike leathers are essential for maintaining their functionality and appearance. By following these steps and incorporating regular care into your routine, you can ensure your leathers remain a reliable and stylish part of your riding gear for many years. Investing time in their maintenance not only enhances your riding experience but also extends the life of your valuable gear.

Can you Clean Leather Motorcycle Gear in the Washing Machine?

No, no and no.  You should NEVER put your motorcycle leathers in the washing machine. Washing machines can damage the leather, causing it to lose its natural oils, become stiff, shrink, or even tear. The mechanical agitation and water exposure in a washing machine are too harsh for the delicate structure of leather garments. Also, the weight of wet leather could possibly be too much for your washing machine to cope with and could cause major damage.

Reasons to Avoid Washing Machines for Leather

Damage to Leather Fibres

The agitation can cause leather fibres to break down, leading to cracks and weakening of the material.

Loss of Natural Oils

Leather relies on its natural oils to stay supple. Water and detergents can strip these oils away, resulting in dry, brittle leather.

Shrinkage and Deformation

Leather can shrink and lose its shape when exposed to water and heat, which are common in washer-dryer machines.

Damage to Protective Coatings

Many motorcycle leathers have protective coatings that can be damaged or removed by washer-dryer machine cycles.

To maintain the quality and longevity of your motorcycle leathers, avoid using a washing machine and opt for gentle, manual cleaning methods as set out in our section on leather cleaning. Regular care, including cleaning, conditioning, and protecting, will keep your leather in excellent condition.

How to Clean Motorcycle Leathers FAQ

Leave a Comment

Member of Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI)
Member of Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI)
Member of National Motorcycle Dealers Association (NMDA)
Haringey Council Contractor