How To Clean, Protect and Weatherproof Your Leather Motorcycle Gear

How To -

By

Leather Lotion

Motorcycle jackets, suits, gloves and boots represent a significant financial investment. And, like any investment, you need to take care of it, ensuring you get the highest return. Luckily, with leathers, that’s easy. Here’s how to clean, protect and weatherproof your leather motorcycle gear.

Wait, I Need To Maintain This Stuff?
Yes. It always surprises me how few of my friends take care of their leathers. And how often readers express surprise that you’re supposed to do this. That’s crazy, with a little TLC, leather can last a lifetime and the process described here will improve the looks of any item while also weatherproofing it. Yes, a leather jacket can keep you dry in a rainstorm, if you’ve oiled it. The product will fill the pores in the leather, preventing water from doing the same.

Neglected leather will weaken over time and eventually split and tear.

This works whether you’ve got a fancy Dainese suit or a humble black leather jacket. It also works on imitation or vinyl-coated leather, like the kind your boots are probably made out of.

Day-To-Day Maintenance
Pick up a huge bargain-size bin of unscented baby wipes. Any brand will do. But, do try and find the unscented kind so you don’t leave faint whiffs of diaper in your wake.

Leather is skin, so it needs the same type of care — cleaning and moisturizing — as your own hands and face do. If you don’t bother, it’ll have the same problems. It’ll dry out and eventually crack.

To keep your leather goods in decent shape, just give them a scrub down with those baby wipes whenever they’ve gotten dirty or wet or after a long trip or just when you feel like they need it. With time, you’ll develop a sense for when your leather needs a little maintenance.

Types Of Leather And What To Use On Them
Top-grain or oil-tanned leather: this is “real” leather. It’s what your jacket, suit, pants and gloves are made out of. You can see the leather texture on the surface. On it, you can use any leather conditioner, oil, cream or other product. We use and highly recommend Pecard Motorcycle Leather Dressing.

Imitation leather or Lorica: If you have a pair of modern motorcycle boots, they’re probably made from Lorica, which is just a name brand for imitation leather. Just use those baby wipes or soap and water.

Vinyl-coated leather: know how military boots can polish up to a mirror finish? That’s because they’re treated with a vinyl top coat. We use and recommend Pecard Motorcycle Leather Lotion.

Step One: Clean It
If your leather apparel has taken a real beating, you’ll need to give it a good clean before applying the dressing or lotion. Get a bucket or bowl and fill it with warm, soapy water. Use a mild soap, like you’d use in the shower. Again, don’t over think it, just use regular soap, but try and avoid dish detergent or other really harsh stuff. Grab a wash cloth, go sit on your porch or somewhere else you can make a mess and give everything a good scrub. Try and get all the road debris and pollution and bugs off. Hang it up to dry, then move to the next step.

Step Two: Condition It
Grabbed the right product for the job? Sit on the floor with the leather item in your lap and start rubbing it into the leather with your hands. Starting with the small panels before moving onto the bigger ones works best.

Don’t bother with a cloth or sponge, just use your hands. It makes less of a mess and is more effective. Really try and work the product into the leather with a good, firm massage. Apply enough product to generously coat each panel, but there’s no need to go overboard.

Your leathers will initially feel greasy. Once you’ve finished massaging the product into the entire item, put it on a hanger and hang it up somewhere that it’s not going to transfer that grease to other clothing. Leave it overnight and by morning you’ll have a piece of leather gear that looks better than new, is stronger than before and should be capable of keeping you dry in a rainstorm for an hour or more.

Doing this also maintains the patina your item of gear has developed over time, as well as makes the leather healthier, stronger and more supple. There are only positive results and no downsides to this routine, so don’t hesitate, start maintaining your leathers today.

Do you take care of your leathers? What methods and products to you use?

  • Jeremy

    I’ve used Chelsea Leather Food with good results in the past. It’s more of a maintenance moisturizer than a restorer. I learned to take care of leather after I spent $130 for a pair of kangaroo leather soccer cleats.

  • http://www.pattonstrength.com/ PattonStrength

    Any problems with getting the Leather Lotion on the various mesh panels or metal pieces?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Nah.

  • gleite311

    I’ve been using Lexol cleaner and conditioner on my leathers for years and it does a great job.

  • Lourens Smak

    My current preferred product is Effax leather balsam. It’s easy to use and gives a fantastic result.
    http://www.louis.de/_202c10cf2ec80067b55bb6b2fd05405a93/index.php?topic=artnr_gr&artnr_gr=10038847&lang=en

  • 480272

    dubbin

  • Loren Andrews

    Ives been looking for a guide for this. Thanks a million!!!!! I just finished getting together boots, pants, gloves and now a jacket, and they are all white and red(obsession with matching), and know im going to need a way to clean them.

  • Aaron

    Can someone recommend something that can be found at Walmart?

    • John Ogren

      Sno-Seal. Just discovered this product and am a huge fan of how it’s worked on my leather boots. It’s apparently been around forever and as a bonus, will waterproof just about anything. Highly recommended!

      http://www.walmart.com/ip/Atsko-1330-no-seal-8-Oz-Sno-Seal-All-Season-Leather-Protectant/22229564

      • WheelieGood13

        Sno-Seal doesn’t breathe. Other than that, it’s great.

    • atomicalex

      Count me in on the Sno-Seal. Love it.

    • Tom Gabriele

      I like the question. RideApart, if you’re listening, a lot of us are just regular guys. We want to ride protected and take care of our bikes and gear, but we aren’t the type to get $1200 racing suits or special order leather creams. I know you like to write about the BEST products, but some GOOD ENOUGH product recommendations could benefit some of us too.

      For what it’s worth though, I just checked out the prices for the Pecard’s stuff, and it actually seems fairly reasonable.

      • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

        Well, I’m a pretty regular guy and $6 for the BEST leather dressing, as opposed to some other crap that’s likely more expensive, sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

        That $6 worth of leather dressing has so far done two jackets and a pair of gloves and has about 90% left in the container.

        • Tom Gabriele

          I wasn’t bothered by the product recommendations in this article – like I said, it seems reasonable.

          I guess my feeling is mostly due to not having disposable income to spend on gear at the moment, and everything feels so unattainable.

          But in the end, I can’t say I would want you to change anything. I do really like the site, even if it’s more aspirational for me right now.

      • Aaron

        I ended up purchasing the pecard stuff through amazon. I could not find the sno-seal :/. Good news is I got a bigger container of the pecard so the shipping would be less than the product.

    • Justin Cole

      Can I recommend that you don’t buy ANYTHING at Walmart. They are a big part of the reason that we are all broke.

      • Justin Cole

        Sorry for my rant. Back to motorcycles…

        • Aaron

          I’d love to burn that place to the ground, but they are the best bang for the buck around here. :/ It’s the people of walmart I hate most.

  • Arsinol

    I use Nivea Cream the original stuff in the blue container. Leather guy put me onto the stuff. Supposedly a lot of products have silicone in them which by leather guys standards is bad for leather. Nivea and other natural hand/body creams don’t have silicone in them. I think if it’s good for my skin so it’s got to be good for my leathers. Also the “how to clean your leathers” article on rideapart is awesome throw em on and go into the shower. I personally use Johnson’s baby shampoo haha. After that apply liberal amounts of Nivea and I’m good to go.

    • Ben Mcghie

      +1 It sounds ridiculous, but I’ve heard the same as mentioned above from other riders who are far older and wiser than I.

    • BlackSnake

      Sorry for nitpicking: Most leather products contain silicone oils not silicone. The reason is that natural oils get rancid over time, which means that they release fat acid which attacks the leather fibers making the leather brittle. Therefore, professional leather products contain silicone and paraffin oils which are chemically inert and don’t harm the leather. I don’t know the ingredients of nivea but I wouldn’t use any hand/body cream for my leather motorcycling gear as they often DO contain natural oils and probably other stuff which negatively influences the properties of the leather.

      Also one should not overdo when applying oils to leather. While leather needs a certain amount of fat/oil to keep it flexible, too much of it will make the leather fibers soapy reducing the mechanical strength of it. So, soaking your leathers with oil to keep the rain out is therefore not a good idea. Here again the silicone oils do a good job as they are quite hydrophobic. Some leather care also contains small amounts of wax which also serves the same purpose, but unlike oil does not soak deeply into the leather but just stays at the surface making it water repellant, while keeping it breathable, which is another downside of too much oil. The best is to put a small amount of some professional leather care on a microfiber cloth and rub the leather with it. Let it soak into the leather for about 10 min and rub it again with a dry cloth to remove any excess of leather care.

      Another thing to note: Don’t apply leather care while the leather is wet. a) because the wet leather cannot take up the leather care well and the leather care will slow down the drying process and b) because wet leather is mechanically not as strong as in the dry and excessive rubbing of it in the wet may cause damage. The latter may be less a problem for motorcycling gear because the leather is quite strong. But you should note that if you are riding in strong rain and your suit gets completely soaked it may not be as protective. So care your leather that it stays water repellant and if you are riding for longer time in the rain put on some rain cover. Not only will it keep you dry it will also protect your leather suit keeping it as protective as it can be in case you should hit the ground.

  • Aaron

    Alright. Another question for you leather gurus. I have this Triumph jacket, http://0.tqn.com/d/motorcycles/1/0/6/L/0/-/Lexford-Jacket.jpg . Would any of these products effect the finish? It seems be intentionally matte and at some point oil washed.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Use the Pecard Leather Dressing. You’ll be fine. Next time pick something up with more armor coverage and better quality leather.

      • engageit

        Have you ever seen this jacket? It’s 1.2mm leather, and has CE certified elbow and shoulder armour. It doesn’t come with a back protector, but neither does a lot of Dainese stuff for example. I have a different model Triumph jacket, which even comes with a decent CE1 back protector, and it definitely feels safer than my Dainese R-Twin. Doesn’t quite LOOK as nice as the Dainese, but still pretty good. I’m not sure why you would say what you did about that jacket…

      • Aaron

        I like the jacket fine. The Pecard stuff looks great, I just hate paying more in shipping than a product.

  • John P. Muller

    Saddle soap. And +1 for Sno Seal.

  • WheelieGood13

    Here’s my story… I live in the tropics and leather gets moldy and eventually falls apart (but not before smelling like the inside of an asshole). This leather / rot issue gets embarrassing and expensive, in that order. Here’s where I am with my tropical leather care know-how – 1.) Use a dehumidifier. 2.) Put your gear in the sun periodically, especially to dry after wearing (an air conditioner will work if there is no sun). 3.) Obenaufs Heavy Duty LP (worth its weight in gold). 4.) I treat the inside with anti-fungal foot spray after each use (same goes for my helmet).

  • Dennis Newman

    I still use saddle soap. It works well on my leathers, my saddlebags, and my boots. I used sho-seal when I lived in a rainier climate. I like the tip about taking a shower with them.

  • Geert Willem van der Horst

    I once got the tip to use products that are meant for horse riding. So saddle soap for cleaning and a lotion for maintenance. Seems to work fine, but I’m definitely gonna try Pecard as well. If I can find it in The Netherlands that is.