How to Treat a Leather Jacket

Leather is the most common and recognized material used for motorcycle jackets. It has many advantages; protection against abrasion, protection against the elements, plus it just looks cool. Treated well, leather jackets will last up to 10 years or longer. Here’s some information and tips on how to get the most out of yours.

Types of Leather

To understand the types of leather, one must know the term “grain”. The grain is simply the epidermis, or outer layer of the animal’s skin. In general, leather is sold in four forms:

agvsport_classic_leather_jacket_black_front1. Split Leather

Split Leather is made from the lower (inner or flesh side) layers of a hide that have been split away from the upper, or grain, layers. Split leather is more fragile than full-grain leather.

  2. Suede

Suede is a type of split leather that has been buffed and brushed to create a fuzzy texture.

3.Top-Grain or Corrected Grain

Top grain leather has been sanded to remove scars and imperfections, then sprayed for a uniform look. Top-grain is not the same quality as full-grain or naked leather, but thicknesses of 1.2-3mm make this type of leather a very durable riding material.

4. Full-Grain or Naked Leather

Full-Grain leather is made from the finest hides and only a transparent dye is added. The natural Full-Grain surface will wear better than other leather. Rather than wearing out, it will develop a natural “patina” and grow better looking over time. This type of leather is the ultimate riding grade and also the most expensive. The most common leather used for motorcycle apparel is cowhide, known for its strength and durability. Buffalo hide is the next most common. The leather used in motorcycle jackets should be at least one millimeter thick.  Greater thickness generally means greater protection.

Effects of Different Weather Conditions on Leather and Common Issues

Leather is not meant to get wet, as that tends to deplete its natural oils.  It is advisable to wear a rain suit over your leathers in inclement weather. However, if they do get wet, allow them to dry naturally, away from extreme heat sources. Surprisingly, leather is damaged more by dryness and loss of oils than by water. Although water washes leather oils out faster and causes it to dry out, leather oils also dissipate when they’re dry.  This happens even when it’s not being used. Like your skin, it simply dries out. Wind, warm air, dust, chemicals, mud, and normal wear increase the rate of oil loss. Dry fibers scuff easily, get brittle, and break prematurely, causing cracks in your leather. Dry leather also cuts stitching and is prone to dry rot. Do not let the fibers dry out; keep them lubricated with proper oils.

Simple Solutions and Tips for Maintaining Upkeep

Before wearing your leather jacket, treat it with a suede and leather guard, like Scotchguard for leather furniture. This is usually a spray on application, and will help prevent damage from water and stains or grime. Never seal your jacket off unless absolutely necessary! When pores are sealed the leather cannot breathe, and you’ll sweat like you’re wearing rubber. Sealed leather is uncomfortable, can smell bad, and body acids, bacteria, and salt can rot it from the inside out.

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 2.36.28 PMCleaning leather can be a difficult proposition since the act of cleaning it may often damage the leather. This is especially true of some cleaners that use harsh chemicals to clean. In mild cases, you may want to simply try using leather oil to act as a solvent on the grime; use the liquid oil to loosen the dirt and blot it away with the excess oil. This method will ensure you do not damage the leather.

If the leather is extremely grimey, use a natural and non-toxic cleaner. Heavily soiled areas may require several cleaning treatments depending on the strength of the cleaner.

The way your leather looks is determined by many factors including the type of hide, the tanning process, and whether it has been dyed or treated in some fashion. It is very difficult to predict exactly how a particular leather may react to being cleaned, oiled, or treated. In almost all cases, you can expect some change in color, and possibly texture, when you treat or clean your leather. Storing leather requires some special consideration to help keep it in good shape and well-protected. You should store your leather in an airy, cool, dry area that is not too hot or cold, and certainly not damp. The storage should be darkened to avoid direct sunlight as well since this will dry and fade the leather. Always use padded hangers to help preserve the shape of your item, and if you choose to cover the item, use a breathable cloth like a cotton sheet.   Hopefully this information can help you increase the longevity of your leather jacket, and keep it looking as good as new!