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Can You Wash Leather Coats in the Washing Machine?

Christie Gross

Leather coat care instructions usually call for dry cleaning as opposed to washing coats in a conventional washing machine at home. Most laundry detergents contain harsh chemicals that can discolor leather goods and dry-out the fabric, especially when combined with the hot water temperatures used for cleaning. However, you can launder your leather coat in the washing machine provided you adhere to recommendations to prevent ruining the coat.

Preparation and Washing

Dry cleaning leather is preferred but a washing machine can work.

Turn the jacket inside out to prevent the washer's agitator from damaging the coat's exterior. Place the coat into the washing machine by itself and set the machine on the delicate or wool cycle with warm, not hot water. Pour about 1/4 cup of baby shampoo into the wash tub as it begins to fill with water. Baby shampoo doesn't contain the harsh chemicals found in traditional detergents and gently cleans fabrics. Once the rinse cycle starts, pour a 1/2 cup of baby conditioner into the wash tub to soften the leather.

After Care

Hang the coat on a wooden hanger to dry after the wash cycle is complete. Using a soft, damp cloth, rub a small amount of baby conditioner over the entire coat to protect it from cracking as it dries. The conditioning treatment also prevents future stains from setting into the fabric by creating a protective barrier. Let the coat fully dry in a dry, dark place away from direct sunlight and heat.

Combatting Minor Stains

Spot cleaning is an alternative to cleaning your leather coat in a washing machine. Spot cleaning is best performed on coats to remove relatively small, minor stains and when cleaning the entire jacket isn't necessary. Dampen a soft cloth and dab it with a quarter-sized dot of baby shampoo. Slowly and carefully rub the soapy cloth on the stain in a circular motion until it fades away. Once the stain is removed, go over the area with a clean, damp cloth to get rid of the soap. Apply a tiny amount of baby conditioner, about the size of a dime, to a dry, soft cloth and rub the conditioner onto the coat in the area where the stain was removed.


Washing an old leather coat can also give it a new look, making it appear softer and slightly distressed. Place the coat in the washing machine on gentle cycle, on a cold-water setting with regular laundry detergent. Wring out the water by twisting the jacket in several places after the wash cycle ends and place the coat into the dryer on medium heat. The process helps dull the finish and eliminate its stiffness, thus giving the coat a new, updated look. Only wash genuine leather, not pleather or synthetic leather-like fabrics in a washing machine to achieve a more worn effect.