The Complete Dummies Guide To Wash Your Stinky Motorcycle Jacket

Did your motorcycle jacket start to smell? Or, did the bugs and grime gross you out? Well, it looks like your jacket needs a wash. But I don’t have to tell you that, the fact that you are here means the look and smell of the jacket already told you that. By washing the motorcycle jacket you also maintain it in a good condition. You also get rid of the odor, of course.

This is a guide on how to clean and care for your motorcycle jacket. I will include a step-by-step guide both for textile jackets and leather jackets. Read the guide, grab your cleaning gear, and get to cleaning. Here we go.

Washing A Textile Motorcycle Jacket

I see that textile jackets are more popular nowadays, so that’s what we will be starting with. These jackets are easy to wash and offer better collision protection. Guess that’s why they are so popular. For me, washing a leather jacket can be exhausting, textile jackets are far easier to handle. Anyways, let’s start.

[Related Article: How To Wash And Care For Your Motorcycle Helmet]

Remove The Padding And The Liner

The first thing to do is remove the armor of your jacket. The padding and the inner liner are not washable. It depends on the model but removing the armor is relatively easy. Be careful not to tear anything. Check the instructions, or Google your model. The padding and the liner are usually attached by a clip.

While you are doing this, it would help if you mark down which pad goes where. Reassembling the jacket can get complicated if you lose count of what goes where. A good tip is to take photos.

Check The Washing Symbols

Check The Washing Symbols

Before you do anything else, check the washing instructions on the jacket. You know, the tag that has washing symbols. This is usually located on the inside of the jacket. The instructions will tell you what to do and what not to do.

Now, I don’t know if you can read these symbols. You can find them online, the symbols are universal, a chart will come up. You need to know whether you need to machine wash or hand wash it. Whether to bleach or not. What temperature the water should be. And how to dry the jacket.

The washing symbols tag has all this information. Keep an eye out for the hand wash symbol and the bleach symbol. The hand wash symbol will be pretty obvious because of the hand. The “no-bleach” symbol is a triangle with an X over it.

Pre-Wash The Jacket

This step is optional, that is it depends on how dirty your jacket is. Also, how much time did it pass since the lat wash cycle? I guess some of you take regular care. Of course, some have neglected their jacket for a while. A neglected jacket would have a lot of dead bugs and grime on it. A pre-wash is necessary.

So, this step is necessary for those that haven’t washed their jacket in a while. I still recommend it to others, however. You may have taken a few long trips, so you too have road grime to get rid of. Pre-washing is loosening up the hard, sticky dirt by treating it with a brush and detergent.

Get a soft brush and prepare a detergent. You have several options for the detergent, just make sure it’s chlorine-free. I think most textile riding gear has the “chlorine-free” symbol on the tag. Some people like using just soap and water. Others prefer a diluted liquid laundry detergent. A chlorine-free stain remover is an option, something like OxiClean. It’s a form of detergent that does not contain chlorine and oxygenated detergent.

You don’t have to cover the entire jacket, just those dirty spots. Pay special attention to any hard-to-get-rid-of dirt. In case you spilled something on the jacket, and you left a stain, treat that too. If you notice that the brush is too hard on the material, use a microfiber cloth.

Machine Washing The Jacket

Machine Washing The Jacket

Now, if the washing instructions include the washing machine symbol accompanied by the water temperature symbol, you can use a washing machine. Just make sure you are following the instructions.

Start by turning the jacket inside out. You should not put the jacket in the machine without turning it inside out. Then, pick a detergent. The detergent should not contain bleach, or at least it should have non-chlorine bleach. Check the instructions just to be sure, whether “bleach” or “no bleach”.

The thing with bleaching is that it helps get rid of grime. However, it can also ruin the textile garment. So, while it’s hard on the dirt, it’s hard on the material too. That’s why it’s preferred not to use bleach. Remember, most softeners have bleach.

All that’s left to do is put the jacket in the machine and choose the temperature and the cycle. My guess is you’ll have to use the Delicate Cycle setting. Again, check the instructions. The water temperature and the cycles should be included there.

Hand Washing The Jacket

If your motorcycle jacket requires hand washing, that’s what you need to do. There are washing machines that have a Hand Wash option. Most people that tried this recommend using the Hand Wash/Gentle Cycle option. Machines can gently wash the jacket just as you can.

But some people tend to disagree. They think the Gentle Cycle is still harmful to the fabric. I disagree though. People that have never washed something by hand can do more harm than a machine. So, if you are not used to hand-washing, use the Gentle Cycle.

  1. Soak the jacket in lukewarm water mixed with a mild detergent.
    As I already said, use liquid laundry detergent or an Oxygenated detergent. The oxygenated detergent does not contain chlorine but it’s just as effective at rinsing. Make sure the entire jacket is covered by the water.
  2. While soaking, scrub with a soft cloth.
    This will help with eliminating grime and stains. Don’t rub too hard. A soft brush is an option too but a soft cloth is the safest. Don’t scrub the textile suit against itself, this may be harmful.
  3. Let it soak some more.
  4. Get rid of the water mixed with detergent.
  5. Rinse with clean, lukewarm water.
    This is best done in the bathtub. All that soapy water has been absorbed by the jacket. So, while rinsing, you will see that it takes quite a while to get rid of the gentle detergent. That’s why the tub makes more sense. Using a bucket and changing the water each time doesn’t make sense. Rinse until the material is completely free from detergent.

Drying The Jacket

You are almost done, only the drying process is left. Again, we’ll be checking the washing symbols. Not every textile motorcycle gear has the same drying process. The instructions will tell you whether to hang dry or flat dry. Whether to air dry, shade dry, or expose to the un.

Let me tell you though, most people prefer to hang dry their jacket, even if the symbols say otherwise. The thing is if the jacket has a removable interior, hang drying is the best way to go.

Optional: Add Water Repellent

Most motorcycle gear tends to be waterproof. Does your jacket has a waterproof membrane? With each wash cycle, the waterproof garment loses some of its protective properties. So, from time to time, a water repellent is necessary. If your jacket is like this, add a coat of water repellent, Nikwax is a recommended product.

Reassemble The Padding

Once the drying process is complete, your jacket is done. All that is left to do is add the removable liner and the protective padding. Did you take notes on what goes where?

Washing A Leather Motorcycle Jacket

Washing A Leather Motorcycle Jacket

Leather gear is a lot more sensitive than textile gear. A leather motorcycle jacket is not machine washable. You can’t soak it, you can’t scrub too hard. So, washing leather apparel takes more care and takes special leather care products.

Cleaning Gear

  • Quality Leather Cleaner
  • Soft Cloth
  • Polishing Pad
  • Leather Protection Solution
  • Optional: Laundry detergent

Gentle Hand Washing

  1. Start with a gentle wash. To get things started, it’s best if your first wash is gentle, using a damp cloth or a polishing pad and a leather cleaner. Apply the cleaner on the cloth. Make sure that it’s always damp too. To avoid any hard scrubbing. Thoroughly clean the entire jacket.
  2. Rinse with a soft towel, also a moist towel is preferred. Thoroughly wipe away the cleaner.
  3. Clean leftover hard-to-get-rid-of dirt. The first wash should have cleaned the surface dirt. But grime and sticky dirt need more attention. Try rubbing with a soft brush, be extra careful and gentle. You can dip the brush in cold water and diluted detergent.
  4. Wipe with a clean dry cloth or a clean dry towel. 
  5. Let it air dry.
  6. Add leather conditioner, follow the instructions on the bottle. This adds a protective coating that keeps the leather jacket from wrinkles and tears.

Leather Gear Maintenance

Leather Gear Maintenance

As I said, leather gear can be pretty sensitive. You don’t have to ride with it, direct sunlight can ruin it on its own. Leather can get too dry and start wrinkling. You must have noticed this if you ever owned a leather boot. As a matter of fact, those that owned expensive leather boots know how much maintenance leather needs.

It’s the same with leather motorcycle jackets. A leather jacket needs moisture, and the best way to do that is by keeping it clean. That’s why regular wash cycles are crucial for maintaining a leather jacket. So, you’ll need to wash your jacket quite regularly. At least, more than you would wash a textile jacket. Seeing as how motorcycle leather is not machine washable, this can be quite exhausting. You have to do it though if you want your jacket to last.

Additional Tips

  • Never use fabric softener on your motorcycle jacket.
  • Most motorcycles don’t need hot water, lukewarm or warm water is the best.
  • For pre-washing, you can use mild soap, you don’t exactly need laundry detergent.
  • You can dry textile riding gear with a hairdryer, don’t use the hottest settings though.
  • There are motorcycle shops that will clean your jacket for you.
  • The same guide can be used for your textile or leather riding pants. 
  • Machine washing is safer than handwashing if you don’t know what you are doing.

Related Questions And Other FAQS

Is It Okay To Fold A Leather Jacket

Folding leather apparel is not recommended, the folding may cause creases that are not easy to get rid of. It’s best to keep the jacket on a hanger with a dust cover on it.

How Do You Ship A Leather Jacket

Although folding a leather jacket is not recommended, while shipping the jacket must be folded. When shipping a leather jacket, cross the sleeves at the middle of the front, and fold it once, bottom to top. You can also join the sleeves together and fold once from top to bottom.

How Do You Moisturize A Leather Jacket

To moisturize a leather jacket, use a leather conditioner. Read the instructions on the bottle and follow them. Usually, the leather conditioner is applied on a damp cloth that you use for the jacket.