Motorcycle leathers aren’t your average garment. These thick, heavy leather pants, jacket, and gloves offer extra padding and armor to protect drivers from falls. They’re also exposed to bug shrapnel, tar, road dirt, rain, sun, and just about anything else you can throw their way. With so much debris and grime thrown on them, it’s no surprise that your motorcycle leathers need a thorough cleaning every now and then. If it’s your first time cleaning your leathers, you want to hone your craft, or you have a cleaning nightmare, here are the ins and outs of leather cleaning.

clean bike leathers dream machines of texas
Image via Flickr by driver Photographer

Reasons to Clean Your Motorcycle Leathers

Before getting into the process of cleaning your leathers, you should first know the basics of leather care and why it’s important. While many motorcycle leathers contain carbon fiber, plastic, and other materials, the majority is still animal hide, and as such, it requires a bit of attention. Like human skin, this hide can dry out and crack if improperly treated. Even worse, the leather can start to disintegrate, and the stitching can rot. While this is aesthetically displeasing, it also means that you can shred your leathers on a crash and sabotage the only job they have when you’re on the bike.

As a general rule, remember to clean your leathers at least once every three to four months to keep them in like-new condition.

Eliminate the Salt

When you ride, the sheer weight of the leather leaves you a sweaty mess, regardless of what the temperature’s like outside. When you sweat, the liquid portion eventually evaporates, leaving salt as a byproduct. If left to its own devices, this salt spells trouble for your leathers, making them stiff and brittle. In addition, the smell of your leathers will become almost unbearable, causing a mix of revulsion and excessive nose cringing.

To combat the effects of salt, you’ll need a good leather desalter. Many leather shops and specialty stores sell some version of this product, and all you have to do is spray it on and let it soak in. If you’re on a budget, a mix of white vinegar and water is also rumored to do the trick at a fraction of the cost. Just remember to wipe this formula clean.


If your jacket has begun to fade or you have a noticeable amount of grime or dirt on your leathers, it’s time to shampoo it away. Locate the more soiled areas and, using a light brush, work the shampoo into the leather. Once you’ve saturated these areas and removed the grime, use the shampoo liberally across the rest of the jacket. Wipe any excess away when finished.


Conditioning is perhaps the single most important part of keeping your leathers in pristine condition. This step helps leather to remain flexible, which gives the leather its strength and durability. Use a sponge to apply the conditioner, and once finished, grab a rag to buff the jacket back to a like-new condition.

By following these tips, you can prolong the life of your leathers by years or perhaps even decades, barring a one-on-one dance with the pavement. Hopefully, that never happens, and with some leather care, you can look the part and feel safe as well.

How to Clean Your Motorcycle Leathers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *