how to waterproof leather jackets

How to Waterproof a Leather Jacket in 5 Simple Steps

Leather is one of the most robust and sturdy materials you can choose for outerwear. A high-quality leather jacket can be worn stylishly at parties, on nights out with friends, or a chilly winter day. 

Even though a genuine leather jacket can last for years, you must protect it from the elements, such as rain, snow, splashes, and accidental water spills. Failing to do so can cause dried-out splotches, streaks, and marks that are hard to remove.

To solve this problem, you’ll need to waterproof it. The best way to waterproof a leather jacket is to ensure that it’s clean, use a leather-friendly conditioner, select and apply a waterproofing wax or spray, and finally dry it safely. 

In this guide, we’ll discuss why you should waterproof your leather jacket, show you a step-by-step process and also share some best practices that you should consider. We’ll also feature a section where we answer questions that people have asked us over the years. 

Why You Should Consider Waterproofing Your Leather Jacket

Many people we’ve spoken to over the years believe that leather is naturally waterproof. While leather may offer some degree of water resistance, it’s not entirely waterproof. This means that prolonged exposure to water can lead to water damage.   

Leather is a porous material that allows water to permeate its layers and mix with the essential oils. As the water evaporates naturally, it takes away some of the embedded oils, leaving your leather jacket dry and brittle. 

As leather jackets are often exposed to water through rain, snow, and moisture, it’s extremely important that you waterproof them. Failing to do so can cause the following:

  • Dryness
  • Peeling
  • Stains
  • Misshaping
  • Mold
  • Mildew
  • Rot

Leather jackets usually have a mild protectant layer applied to them after the tanning process. However, this layer can only provide a limited degree of water resistance to your jacket and will not be able to fully shield it for too long. 

Bearing this in mind, we highly recommend that you waterproof your leather jacket, especially if it’s constantly exposed to the elements. This will ensure that it remains water-resistant, protecting it against water damage and other substances. 

How to Waterproof Leather Jackets

You can easily waterproof your leather jacket at home by using a dedicated conditioner and waterproofing product that are designed for leather, a dry cloth, and a sponge. Follow the below steps to achieve the best results. 

1. Ensure That Your Leather Jacket Is Clean

Since a waterproofing gel or spray will add a layer on top of your leather, your leather jacket must be as clean as possible to ensure an effective application. You should remove all signs of dirt and dust from it to form a consistent protective layer. 

Instead of cleaning your jacket with water, use a leather-friendly cleaner. Pour some leather cleaner on a dry and clean microfiber cloth and rub this into the leather material. 

If you notice tough stains on your jacket, slightly increase the pressure. Once you’ve inspected your leather jacket and have assessed that it looks as good as new, you can proceed to the next step.

2. Use a Leather-Friendly Conditioner

Conditioning leather before waterproofing is essential since it moisturizes and ensures that your leather jacket retains its suppleness and durability. This process also helps to increase its overall lifespan.

For this step, choose a leather-friendly conditioner to protect it, ensuring that it retains a nourishing and soft texture. You can apply the conditioner using a dry cloth or a sponge. 

After having applied an even layer, allow your leather jacket to dry completely before moving to the next step. Make sure to let it air-dry naturally, and avoid using a hairdryer or placing it under direct sunlight.

3. Select Apply a Waterproofing Product

Now you’ll need to choose a suitable waterproofing product depending on the type of leather of your jacket. There are three types of waterproofing products that are suitable for leather, which are waxes and sprays (silicone and acrylic).

For leather jackets, we generally suggest going with sprays, as they provide a more even layer upon application and are also less viscose, making the application process easier. 

Silicone-Based Waterproofing Sprays 

Silicone polymer sprays provide a transparent waterproofing layer to your leather jacket. However, the only drawbacks are that silicone is known to dry out the leather and may get sticky after being exposed to the elements. 

Silicone-based are also commonly used for suede or nubuck leather jackets, as they don’t darken leather and are also easy to apply. 

Acrylic Waterproofing Sprays

Acrylic copolymer waterproofing sprays are generally speaking the better and newer option for waterproofing leather jackets. Acrylic-based sprays provide a more flexible solution since they allow leather to breathe, at the same time making it water-resistant. 

We recommend using Bickmore Gard-More Water & Stain Repellent since it can protect leather against water, dirt, and stains. It also offers a layer of breathable protection to the leather while ensuring it remains flexible and supple. 

Bickmore’s Gard-More Water & Stain Repellant contains acrylic polymers and is suitable for all types of leather jackets (even if they’re made of suede or nubuck)

Acrylic copolymers are optimal for leather jackets, as they can build a net-like barrier that allows the leather to breathe while repelling away water. It is also a safer option since it doesn’t affect the color of your leather jacket.

4. Apply A Waterproofing Layer

To waterproof your leather jacket safely, you should drape it on a clothes hanger so that it can retain its shape and allows you to spray the product on evenly. 

Ensure that you keep a distance of about 6 to 8 inches between the nozzle of the spray and the leather jacket as you cover the entire surface consistently. Take note that you’ll also need to spray in between crevices and small folds.

It’s typically best to apply two separate coats for enhanced protection against water damage. After applying the first coat, allow the leather jacket to dry completely before applying the second. 

4. Dry Your Leather Jacket

Drying your leather jacket allows the waterproofing agent to set in so that it forms an effective barrier that can repel water and prevent absorption. 

Keep your leather jacket draped on the clothes hanger and place it in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area for a few hours. As sunlight and heat can cause the leather to dry out, we recommend that you don’t dry it under direct sunlight. 

The ideal place to dry your leather jacket is on a patio, verandah, or near a breezy window or door. 

Best Practices for Waterproofing Leather Jackets

To help you waterproof your leather jacket safely and efficiently, we have compiled a list of best practices for the process. These crucial tips are often overlooked but can be vital to prolonging the lifespan of your leather jacket – especially one that is consistently exposed to rain or snow.

  • Never Waterproof a Dirty Leather Jacket – Waterproofing a dirty leather jacket will cause an uneven and ineffective protective layer to form on it. To build an effective waterproofing layer that will shield your jacket and make it fully water-resistant, clean the leather jacket properly before applying the spray.
  • Only Use Leather-Friendly Waterproofing Sprays – Leather is a highly sensitive material that can discolor, fade, peel, or dry out if an incompatible product is used on it. Therefore, ensure to only use leather-friendly waterproofing sprays for a safe application.
  • Leave Ample Drying Time – Since waterproofing, a leather jacket requires multiple applications, you should allow ample time for drying between each coat. When you allow enough drying between each step of the process, you are guaranteed to achieve a more even and consistent layer, increasing its overall effectiveness in repelling water.

People Also Asked

Here’s a list of answers to questions that were submitted to us. If you would like to have your question about waterproofing leather jackets added, simply get in touch and we’ll add it to the list. 

What Are Leather-Friendly Waterproofing Sprays Made Of?

Leather-friendly waterproofing products are commonly made of wax, acrylic polymers, or silicone polymers. Silicone polymer waterproofing sprays are an older yet lighter formula that can be used to form a protective layer.

In contrast, acrylic copolymer sprays are considerably newer and can protect all types of leather from water without forming a slippery layer or causing your leather jacket to darken. 

Can I Use a Waterproofing Gel on Leather Jackets?

We don’t recommend wax-based waterproofing products, as they’re hard to apply and you may not be able to get an evenly coated layer – they’re more suitable for leather boots or gloves.

Although the formula may be compatible with most types of leather, we believe it is much better to choose waterproofing sprays for leather jackets. 

How Often Should I Waterproof My Leather Jacket?

You should waterproof your leather jacket once you notice that it stops repelling water effectively. Depending on your use and how often it’s exposed to water, a good estimate would be once every couple of months. 

Can Waterproofing Sprays Discolor Leather Jackets?

If you do not use a leather-friendly waterproofing spray for your leather jacket, there are high chances that it might dry out or get discolored. We highly recommend testing any waterproofing product on a discreet spot on the jacket for signs of discoloration before a complete application.

To be on the safe side, stick to acrylic polymer waterproofing sprays. They typically don’t darken leather and most of them can even be used on suede or nubuck leather jackets. 

Can I Use Waterproofing Sprays on Leather Jackets Made of Nubuck or Suede?

Yes, you can use leather-friendly waterproofing sprays for treating soft leather like suede or nubuck. However, heavy oil-based waterproofing solutions (even if they are leather-friendly) on suede and nubuck jackets can cause discoloration and ruin their appearance. 

Therefore, you should avoid them at all costs. Instead, use acrylic polymer waterproofing sprays on softer leathers such as nubuck or suede. To be safe, check the product instructions to ensure compatibility.

About Gerrit

Co-Founder, Researcher & Writer At Leatherskill

I’m a leather enthusiast who spends most of his free time crafting, researching, and writing about the many facets of this versatile material. Thanks for reading!