how to wash leather pants

How To Wash Leather Pants: What You Should & Shouldn’t Do!

Leather pants can be a very fashionable wardrobe addition and are also commonly used in motorsports. They are notoriously difficult to clean and care for effectively. Indiscriminate washing practices will likely leave your leather pants shrunk, dried out, cracked and brittle. 

If you would like to ensure the shelf life of your leather pants are as maximized as possible, our article will detail on how you are able to effectively wash your leather pants while avoiding damage to them as much as possible in the process. The steps of washing your leather pants can be broken down into the following steps:

  1. Treat Stains On Your Leather Pants
  2. Wash Your Leather Pants
  3. Dry Your Leather Pants
  4. Condition Your Leather Pants

With that being said, a complete mitigation of washing impact cannot be expected. We recommend that you minimize the wash cycles of your leather pants as far as possible unless absolutely necessary. 

1. Treat Stains On Your Leather Pants

If you have accidentally stained your leather pants, you will want to ensure that the stains are treated separately and before we move on to a general washing cycle. 

A general rule of thumb that you will want to abide by is to treat the stain as soon as possible. If the stain fully sets and dries into your leather pants, the process of removing and treating the stain will get exponentially harder.

Depending on the nature of the stain, there are a few approaches you can take. However, we recommend that you consider a dedicated stain removing solution such as Amodex, which is an ink and stain remover.

Removing Oil-Based Stains On Leather Pants

This is probably the most common stain type you will encounter. Examples of oil based stains include but are not limited to the following list.

  • Make up
  • Moisturizers
  • Butter
  • Condiments
  • Salad Dressing
  • Cooking Oil

A lot of oil based stains can be caused by contact with very common sources that you can come into contact with on a daily basis.

We recommend applying cornstarch over the area of your pants that has been blemished. Whilst this treatment method will not remove the stain immediately, it is a gentle and safe approach that will minimize any damage done to your leather pants. 

Leave the cornstarch on for a few hours and then gently scrape the cornstarch off the pants using a soft brush. If the blemish remains, please apply a fresh application of cornstarch and repeat accordingly.

Removing Gasoline Stains On Leather Pants

We have written a comprehensive guide that teaches you everything about removing gasoline from leather. In the case of leather pants, we recommend that you use baking soda as an agent to soak out the gasoline stain.

You can apply a generous amount of baking soda over the gasoline stain of your pants and leave overnight. Keep in mind to not leave your pants in a windy environment to prevent the baking soda from being blown away and displaced. 

The baking soda will turn a yellowish hue as it soaks up the gasoline. If you notice the stain still remaining, keep repeating this step until the stain is no longer noticeable.

It is then important to ensure that you remove the smell of gasoline from your pants as much as possible. Feel free to read through the entire guide to explore other creative methods.

Removing Blood Stains On Leather Pants

If you find your leather pants stained with blood, you want to ensure that you remove as much of the blood as possible from the leather before it dries. Using a clean, dry, absorbent cloth, dab at the blood and be careful to not spread the stain further.

If you are only able to treat the stain after the blood has dried, use a soft brush to remove any dried blood sediments from the pants. A general cleaning cycle, as detailed below in the article is usually enough to remove the remainder of the blood stain that might exist.

If the stain doesn’t come off, you may want to purchase a dedicated leather stain remover. While we have come across a solution of ammonium hydroxide and water, we generally only recommend such a harsh measure to be undertaken on products with more industrial based usage such as protective leather work boots or gloves.

Removing Ink Stains On Leather Pants

Ink stains are also commonly found on leather pants. There are various ways to remove ink stains from leather and two of the best ways are either using a dedicated ink stain remover such as Amodex or a vinegar & olive oil mixture.

If you prefer using common household items, mix olive oil and vinegar with a 2:1 ratio in a bowl. Then, take a dry microfiber cloth to remove the ink stain. It may take a few applications, but you should see the ink stain slowly disappear.

Removing Grease On Leather Pants

Engine grease is often found on leather motorsports equipment or leather motorcycle pants. In this scenario, we suggest using the same approach as oil-based stains, by using cornstarch.

Simply apply a small amount of cornstarch to the grease stain of your leather pants and remove the stain using a cloth or a soft brush. That should do the trick! Oil-based cleaning solutions or mixtures aren’t effective against grease, as grease itself is oil-based.

2. Wash Your Leather Pants

Once your leather pants are stain free, you can start the general washing process. The most important thing you will need to account for are product specific washing instructions. Please do refer to the label on your leather pants to see if there are guidelines from the manufacturer.

Below, you’ll see a symbol guide on washing labels that you should use. If you do not have access to washing instructions from the manufacturer for one reason or another, feel free to follow one of the methods as listed in the next step. 

leather pants washing labels
Washing Symbols Guide (Click to Enlarge)

Machine Washing Your Leather Pants

Machine washing is probably the simplest and most convenient option you can take here. Unfortunately it is also the harshest and most potentially damaging method listed in this article. 

However, there are a couple of steps you can take to minimize any negative impact machine washing can have on your leather pants. Firstly, it is recommended that you use the mildest detergent possible. Secondly, turn your leather pants inside out.

Thirdly, Pick the gentlest wash cycle available on your washing machine. A gentle washing cycle generally means 3 things.

  • Using cold water 
  • Having no or low spin cycles
  • Shorter overall wash time

If your washing machine is able to fulfill the above 3 criteria, we can reasonably expect your leather pants to not get damaged through the wash cycle. Also take note not to wash your leather pants together with any other items.

Hand Washing Your Leather Pants

Whilst this option is tedious, it allows you to be in full control over how your leather pants get washed. Not dissimilar to the conditions stated for a machine wash, use cold water and mild detergent where possible. Do not overly stretch and scrub your leather pants whilst you are washing it. 

For this, you can use several leather cleaning products and solutions that are available in the market. It’s best to choose one that contains natural ingredients and is free from any harmful chemicals or additives.

Professionally Washing Your Leather Pants

Engaging a professional cleaner is probably the safest but most expensive route you can choose. If you are not dealing with mold or stubborn stains that you cannot remove by yourself, this step is probably slightly overkill for what you are trying to achieve.

If you are looking to wash a very expensive, designer or branded pair of leather pants that has significant meaning or value to you, then you may want to consider this route as self washing can turn out to be a very stressful process.

If you decide to enlist a professional cleaner, please do your due diligence and ensure that they have the requisite experience caring for leather products.

3. Dry Your Leather Pants

Now that you have cleaned your leather pants, you will want to ensure to dry them in a safe and gentle manner. The most important thing to note here is that you should not put your leather pants into a laundry dryer under any circumstances.

A dryer relies on heat, which can be extremely damaging for leather. Not only will your pants shrink, it can also dry it out, leading to unwanted stiffness and possible cracking. Remember that leather has natural oils that keep it healthy and vibrant.

Instead, we recommend removing as much moisture from your leather pants as possible manually. Place a dry towel underside and over your pants and press (do not wring) your leather pants. The towels will serve to absorb the water as the first step. 

Secondly, hang dry your pants in a cool, shaded environment. Keeping consistent with the theme of not introducing heat and ensure that you don’t hang your leather pants in sunlight.

4. Condition Your Leather Pants

Lastly, you want to ensure that your pants are conditioned appropriately. Even through the gentlest of washing procedures, water exposure can dry out your leather from the inside. Conditioning is meant to counteract this from happening.

Using a microfibre cloth, apply a thin layer of leather conditioner across the entire surface area of your leather pants. As your leather is likely thinner in nature, a thin, equal application would suffice for this step.

Leave your pants for an hour or two and then wipe off any excess conditioner remaining on your pants’ surface with a clean dry cloth.

Another benefit of conditioning your leather pants is that it adds a protective layer, which means that cleaning it in the future is much simpler, as it becomes less prone to get damaged in the process.

Best Practices & Important Tips For Washing Leather Pants

Here’s a quick summary of the most important points mentioned in this guide and some additional best practices when it comes to washing your leather pants. Following these steps may lengthen their lifespan significantly.

  • Take Note of The Washing Label – Each pair of leather pants will come with a washing label from the manufacturer. Ensure that you follow them carefully. Use our washing symbol guide above for reference.
  • Remove Stains Before Washing – Before washing your leather pants, you’ll want to ensure that there are no stains on them. Washing your pants with stains can spread them instead of actually cleaning them.
  • Use Products With Natural Ingredients – Leather is a sensitive material and when harsh chemicals interact with it, they can be damaged permanently. Therefore, opt for cleaning solutions and detergents that contain harmless and non-aggressive substances.
  • Don’t Wash Them Too Often – Washing leather can often remove the top layers of their protective coating. Therefore, we highly recommend not washing your leather pants too often. In order to keep your leather pants looking sparkling new, use a high-quality leather conditioner.

About Matthew

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!