How to clean a jacket: from leather to down feather jackets

Achieve the effects of dry-cleaning at home with our guide to how to clean a jacket made of down, leather, or suede.

Updated August 22, 2019

Suede jacket hanging in the bathroom

Key steps

Here’s how to clean a feather jacket, leather jacket, or suede jacket yourself:

  1. How to wash a feather jacket at home: use the cold wash or delicate wool cycle on your machine, add a specialist cleaner, add an extra rinse, and use a tumble dryer on a low heat to finish.
  2. How to clean a leather jacket: dab gently with laundry detergent and water – using a gentle detergent like Skip – and air-dry away from direct heat.
  3. How to clean a suede jacket: apply cornflour to stains and leave it overnight before brushing away with a suede brush. You can also try hanging it in a steamy bathroom.

Prepare your jackets for colder weather by giving them a good clean. Yes, you really can wash your precious jackets at home! You just need to know how to clean a feather jacket – or leather and suede jackets – properly. Our step-by-step guides will show you how.

The first step in knowing how to clean a jacket is to check the care label. Always do a patch test on a small, inconspicuous area when using a cleaning product. 

How to wash a down jacket in the washing machine

You might think you need to take your feather down jacket to the professionals but you can do it yourself once you’ve learned how to wash a feather jacket at home. Follow these step-by-step instructions:

  1. First, remove any loose dirt with a soft-bristled brush.
  2. Do up zips, attach Velcro fastenings, close flaps, and turn the jacket inside out.
  3. Clean your washing machine’s detergent compartment to ensure there isn’t any residue from other cleaners.
  4. Check the manufacturer label for specific requirements or select the cold wash or delicate wool cycle setting.
  5. Check the manufacturer label for specific requirements or add a specialist down cleaner (no bleach or fabric conditioner).
  6. Finish with an extra rinse setting to remove as much of the cleaner as possible.
  7. Put it in a tumble dryer on a low heat setting. Dryer balls or tennis balls will help stop the feathers clumping together.

How to hand wash a down jacket

This is a great alternative to washing a down jacket in a machine.

  1. Soak the jacket in the sink with a specialist detergent for around 1 hour.
  2. Rinse it by squeezing out the water gently – don’t twist or wring as this can damage the down feathers.
  3. As above, put it in a tumble dryer on a low heat setting. Dryer balls or tennis balls will help stop the feathers clumping together.
  4. You can also dry without a dryer by allowing your jacket to drip dry, but this can take a long time. Even with a tumble dryer it can take up to 3 hours for your down jacket to be fully dry and ready to wear.

How to clean a leather jacket

Unlike a down jacket, you can’t put a leather jacket in the washing machine. To learn how to wash a leather jacket without a machine you just need some mild laundry detergent, a soft brush, and a cloth! Here’s how:

  1. Wipe away any loose dirt with a soft-bristled brush.
  2. Use an old, soft, clean toothbrush to remove any dirt from small crevices.
  3. Dip a clean, soft cloth in a solution of water and a small amount of mild laundry detergent – such as Skip. Always test the product in a small area of the item first.
  4. Wipe the leather gently with the cloth.
  5. Soak up any excess water on the jacket by wiping with a dry cloth. 
  6. Leave your jacket out to dry away from artificial heat – like a radiator.

How to clean the inside of a leather jacket

Need to know how to clean the inside of your leather jacket, not just the outside? Follow these 3 simple steps:

  1. Turn your jacket inside out and hang it up. 
  2. Dab any stains or areas that need cleaning - such as armpits - with a small amount of the laundry detergent and water solution used to clean the outside of the jacket. Do not rub.
  3. Leave your jacket out to dry, away from artificial heat.

How to clean a suede jacket

The key to knowing how to clean a jacket made of suede is to avoid spot cleaning it with water – as this can leave watermarks. Instead, follow these steps:

  1. Place a thin layer of cornflour over any stains or marks and leave it for a few hours – ideally overnight. 
  2. Once the cornflour has absorbed the stain, remove any excess with a suede brush. 
  3. Try steam cleaning your suede jacket to refresh the fabric and tackle creases by hanging it up in a steamy bathroom after a hot shower or bath.

You can now feel confident about washing a down jacket in your machine, dabbing the stains from your leather jacket, and cleaning your suede jacket without causing watermarks. Give it a try and see for yourself.

Originally published August 5, 2019