Taking Care of Your Riding Leather

Your leather motorcycle gear is actually skin, and, like your own skin, it needs to be kept clean and conditioned. At least three or four times a year, and preferably every two weeks or so, you should clean and condition your leather gear.

Find a spot where dripping water won’t do any harm. Then hang your leathers on a clothes hanger and get them up so you can work on them. The back of a door works, and we’re sure you can think of several possible places.

Wash your leathers with warm—not hot—water and soap. As you go, keep rinsing your washcloth with clean water so you don’t just spread the dirt around. If you have stains, use a brush and really get that soap in there. You can use dishwashing liquid if you like, but there are several products made just for cleaning leather. Saddle soap, for example, can be used on anything made of leather. At Eagle Leather, we sell Fiebing’s brand, which cleans and lubricates leather fibers so they remain both strong and supple. Tanner’s is another product that cleans and conditions at once. It can be used leather, rubber, vinyl, and PVC. It is alcohol-free and silicone-free, so it won’t stain or leave a greasy residue.

If you’ve got embedded dirt and grime in crevices, or tooled designs, Lexol-pH has a deep cleaning foaming action that will do the trick. It rinses off easily and, because it has the same pH as leather, helps it last longer.

Once your gear is clean, use a micro-fiber cloth to wipe it down. Give it time and space to dry thoroughly. Put it in a well-ventilated place overnight. Never use heat, like a hair dryer, to dry your leathers.

And now take the time to condition your leather gear. To apply conditioner, use a cloth or spray on the condition, then work it into the gear with a sponge. Use your fingers, too, because the heat will help the conditioner penetrate the fibers. Be sure to work the conditioner into the seams and stitches. You’ll probably want to have your gear on a hard surface for this process. Rancher’s Wax Oil preserves and waterproofs leather. 

Lexol makes a conditioner, too. Teeny droplets of oil penetrate the fibers and combine with them to nourish the collagen and elastin proteins in the fibers. This controlled lubrication nourishes the leather, but does not seep into seams or other adjacent materials. According to the manufacturer, it can be used on either wet or dry leather. Lexol’s Leather Dress is superior for light-colored leather because it doesn’t cause darkening. It is not meant for use with suede or other rough-finished leathers.

Obenaufs makes both an oil and a paste. The oil repels water and resists cracking, scuffing, and dry rot. The paste repels acids, petroleum, salt, and chemicals. It is potent enough to restore dried leather to supple condition. It resists premature cracking in areas that flex. Both the oil and the paste are applied with a clean cloth and can be buffed. And both work on Gore-Tex® footwear.

After you’ve conditioned your gear, hang it up again and let it rest for at least half an hour, more if you’ve used a lot of conditioner or it your leathers were really dry. Then take a clean cloth and buff to bring back the shine. If you like, and if the conditioner has all been absorbed, you can apply one of the waterproofing agents. Apply and work in just as you did with the conditioners. Wipe off any excess waterproofing, hang your gear, and let it dry overnight.

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