Leather gloves are one of the most versatile clothing articles you can find. Whether it is protecting yourself from operating heavy machinery, participating in extreme sports or simply keeping your hands warm in a winter climate, leather gloves can come in handy.
With such versatility, it is certainly common for scenarios to arise whereby you are in need to clean your gloves. Not only will cleaning in the right way elongate your gloves’ shelf life and save you money in the long term, you will also have cleaner and sleeker looking gloves that are able to better serve the purpose you originally bought them for.
We have broken down the process to wash your gloves effectively and safely into 9 simple steps.
- Choose off the Shelf Cleaning Product or Create Your Own
- Test Cleaning Solution on Small Area First
- Apply Cleaning Solution Evenly to Surface Area to Be Cleaned
- Gently Wipe Off Cleaning Solution
- Dry Glove Naturally and Reinforce Shape
- Sprinkle Baking Soda Into Glove Interior
- Spray Interior of Glove With Cleaning Solution
- Dry the Glove Interior
- Condition the Glove Exterior
1. Choose Off Shelf Cleaning Product or Create Your Own
The first thing you want to establish is the objective and nature of your cleaning exercise. Are you looking to remove a stain on your gloves or are you looking for more general cleaning? Depending on your use case, a certain number of off shelf cleaning products might be more relevant for what you are trying to achieve.
Alternatively, you can create your own cleaning solution. Your cleaning solution should be entirely free of harsh chemicals which can end up stripping your leather gloves of its natural oils, leaving them brittle, damaged and/or discoloured.
Soft soap such as saddle soap or ph-neutral non detergent soap mixed with water can be used if you do not purchase a specialist leather cleaning solution.
If you are looking to remove stains from your leather gloves, highly consider using a solution that is (at most) 50% white vinegar and (at least) 50% water based. There will be instances whereby you want to clean the interiors of your gloves.
It is not uncommon for sweat to accumulate in your gloves, resulting in an unpleasant odour and unhygienic conditions. If you are looking to also clean the interior of your gloves, you should prioritise this solution over soap based solutions if your interiors are absorbent.
As vinegar does contain alcohol, I would only recommend this solution for disinfecting or stubborn stain removal purposes. Using a vinegar based solution would be overkill for superficial dirt removal, and a gentle soap solution / dedicated leather cleaner would be more fitting for purpose.
2. Test Cleaning Solution on a Small Area First
Once you have decided on your preferred cleaning solution, test the solution on a small, inconspicuous area of your leather glove. Watch out for unnatural reactions or discolouration and discontinue use immediately if you notice as such.
Use a damp microfibre cloth (with water) to remove the cleaning solution as soon as possible if so, taking care not to spread the cleaning solution beyond the local area of application.
3. Apply Cleaning Solution Evenly to Entire Glove or Area to Clean
The main recommended application method for your self made cleaning solution should be through a spray bottle. This will allow for even application of your solution while minimising risk of over application.
Alternatively, you can use a cotton ball for application. Lightly dip the cotton ball in your cleaning solution and gently rub the wet cotton ball across your leather glove to evenly clean the entire surface area.
If you are looking to clean a particularly obvious and stubborn stain on your gloves, you should look to start your cleaning process as soon as possible. The longer it takes to treat a stain, the harder it is to get rid of it due to the leather absorption of the stain.
You can use a soft brush or a soft bristled toothbrush dipped in your cleaning solution to gently scrub against the stain. Progressively increase the pressure of your brushing and take extra care if your leather gloves are made of coloured leather. Wet coloured leather are particularly susceptible to losing colour so we want to be delicate with the amount and pressure of brushing applied.
Never dip or submerge your leather glove directly in the cleaning solution. A light and even application instead through the methods above will ensure a long shelf life of your leather gloves by minimising any potential damage.
4. Gently Wipe Off Cleaning Solution
As a general rule of thumb, we want to minimise elongated exposure of your leather gloves to the cleaning agent. Once you have completed the above step, wipe off the soap solution gently using a dry microfibre cloth. You can also use a soft clothing brush in this step.
Even In the event that you find that you have used too much cleaning solution, please do not ever consider wringing your gloves dry. Your leather gloves’ structure and fitting are more susceptible to be damaged when wet and twisted or forced into an unnatural form and shape.
5. Dry Glove Naturally and Reinforce Shape
Once you have removed excess cleaning solution on your leather gloves, it is time to let it naturally dry. The key here is to not introduce heat into the equation, which means you should not leave your leather gloves out in the sun or use a hairdryer on it.
Doing so has the same effect as using harsh chemical solutions for cleaning; you will likely end up stiffening and damaging your gloves. Leave your leather gloves laid out flat in a cool, indoor environment instead.
During the natural drying process, it is recommended to wear your leather gloves a few times. This will mitigate any shape warping of your gloves and maintain a good fit to preserve long term comfort and functionality.
This step concludes the exterior cleaning of your leather gloves.
6. Sprinkle Baking Soda Into Glove Interior
If you are looking to eliminate odours in your leather gloves, baking soda is a very good option as a deodorising agent. Insert 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda into your glove and try to ensure that each glove finger gets an amount of baking soda.
Close and squeeze the opening of your gloves and give it a shake to evenly distribute the baking soda within your gloves. Set the gloves in a cool, indoor environment and let them rest for ~2 hours.
At the end of 2 hours, turn the gloves inside out and dispose of the baking soda. Use a gentle vacuum to remove baking soda traces from the interiors of your leather gloves.
7. Spray Interior of Glove With Cleaning Solution
You should have remainder vinegar – water solution as outlined in step 1. Spray evenly across your leather glove interior, taking special care to be sparing in amounts applied so as to not soak the material.
8. Dry the Glove Interior
Use an absorbent cloth to pat dry your leather glove interiors after 10 minutes. Do not introduce heat to speed up the drying process, even if the material you are drying is the glove lining.
Once your glove interiors are fully dry, turn them back outside – in so so that they are ready for wear.
9. Condition Glove Exterior
Now that your leather gloves are clean and ready for use, we want to ensure that you are able to maintain them in a clean and good state for as long as possible.
Moisturizing your leather gloves protects against any creases that might have formed across the cleaning process. Apply leather conditioner to your gloves and gently rub in a circular motion to work out the creases. You can use a clean microfiber cloth or a soft sponge to effectively apply the conditioner.
Even if no creases formed during your washing process, this step is still highly essential to elongating the lifespan of your leather gloves.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Washing Leather Gloves
With the steps outlined above, you should have confidence to be able to clean your leather gloves safely and effectively. I will just highlight a few common mistakes that you should avoid in the cleaning process.
Using Unsuitable Cleaning Solutions or Wet Wipes
Choosing the wrong or unsuitable cleaning solutions / agents can cause irreparable damage. The common rule of thumb to go by is to avoid alcohol and acetone as ingredients. Both ingredients can have a bleaching effect and surface damage on your leather gloves.
Examples of general cleaning agents that contains either ingredient includes wet wipes, nail polish remover, hand sanitiser etc. Our best recommendation is to use a specialist leather cleaning solution designed for purpose.
Overwashing and Not Wiping off Excess Moisture Before Drying
This mistake is especially pertinent when water based solutions are used in the cleaning of your leather gloves.
Skipping this step will lead to your leather gloves having higher exposure to water staining and mold formation, especially if your storage place / climate is naturally more humid. Please refer to our detailed write up on how overexposure to water can affect leather on a material level.
Introducing Heat to Speed Up Leather Drying Process
After wiping off your gloves, the drying process should be as natural as possible. You should leave your leather gloves in a cool, shaded and dry area as much as possible.
Introducing sunlight exposure during the drying process can lead to discolouration of your leather. It can also lead to your leather gloves having a premature worn out look through damages caused.
An absolute no – no is throwing your leather gloves into a clothes dryer. The excess heat will likely warp your leather gloves by cracking and distorting the structural integrity of your gloves.
Not Conditioning After Wash
Finally, whilst the cleaning process is meant to get your leather gloves looking pristine and good, we want to ideally keep it that way for as long as possible. Overwashing a leather good can lead to damage and the best way to mitigate against that is to use a good leather conditioner.
Even executed in ideal scenarios, the drying process after wash can remove natural oils protecting the leather glove surface, leading to brittleness and cracks. A leather conditioner is able to counteract against this process by reinforcing the layer of natural oils.
Cleaning Different types of Gloves
While the article has covered the basics and overview of how you are able to clean your leather gloves, different types of leather gloves will have different connotations of the process.
Below are links to specialised articles on how you can approach the cleaning process in relation to common types of gloves.
Golf gloves are very thin by nature, and require particular care in the cleaning process. Be particularly careful of shrinking your gloves during the process or wearing out an already thin material surface.
Leather boxing gloves are sturdier by nature but we need to take extra care to not compromise the protective padding that can bubble and break. We also need to be very mindful to effectively clean and dry the interiors of the gloves considering the high amounts of sweat that is likely to accummulate without proper care involved.
Depending on its use, leather welding gloves can have a great variety of material composition. Due to its heavy duty use and how protective it is to the user, we want to ensure that your leather welding gloves remain fit for purpose as well as comfortable after you clean it. As your cleaning cycles will be more regular than a standard use glove, good cleaning habits are more important to form from the very get go.
Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief & Writer At Leatherskill
I’m a leather enthusiast turned artisan. Apart from crafting leather products, I’m passionate about writing in-depth guides and reviews on all things leather!