How Do I Soften a Leather Jacket? – Easy Hacks

My latest leather find was amazing, but it was as stiff as a new pair of shoes.

I didn’t want to give up on it, so I started digging around and found some awesome ways to soften it up.

In this blog post, I’ll show you how to soften a leather jacket using simple methods that are easy to follow, even if it’s your first time trying.

I’ll talk about techniques you can use at home, using items you might already have around.

How Do I Soften a Leather Jacket Infographic

Preparing Leather Jacket for Softening

Preparing the leather before softening is important to ensure that your jacket not only becomes softer but also maintains its quality in the long run.

1. Understanding Leather Types

Not all leather is created equal, and understanding the differences can help you figure out the best way to soften your specific jacket.

  • Full-Grain Leather: It’s made from the top layer of the hide and includes all the natural grain, which makes it incredibly durable. Softening full-grain leather can take a bit of effort, but the results are worth it.
  • Top-Grain Leather: Top-grain is also high-quality leather, but it has the outermost layer sanded off to remove imperfections. When I bought a top-grain leather jacket, I noticed it was easier to work with and took less time to soften.
  • Split Leather: Split Leather is made from the lower layers of the hide after the top grain has been removed. It can be quite stiff initially but is generally easier to soften than the more premium types.
  • Bonded Leather: It is made from leftover scraps of leather bonded together with polyurethane or latex. Bonded leather is usually the easiest to soften because it’s not as dense or high-quality

2. Inspect the Jacket

First, give your jacket a good once-over. Look for any damage, like tears or cracks, and check for stains. Softening a damaged jacket without addressing these issues can make things worse.

3. Clean the Leather

Grab a damp cloth and gently wipe down the surface of your jacket. Leather can accumulate dirt, oils, and other residues that can interfere with softening. 

I once skipped this step and it didn’t turn out well. The conditioner didn’t absorb properly, and I ended up with patchy spots on my jacket.

4. Test on a Small Area

Before you apply any softening product to the entire jacket, test it on a small, hidden area. This ensures that the product won’t discolor or damage the leather.

How Do I Soften a Leather Jacket

Here are some tried-and-true methods that will help make your jacket soft, comfortable, and ready to wear.

Gather Your Supplies

Make sure you have everything you need on hand:

  • Leather conditioner
  • Natural oils (like coconut or olive oil)
  • Soft cloths for application
  • A clean workspace where you can lay the jacket flat
  • Vinegar
  • Vaseline

1. Using Leather Conditioner

Apply a small amount of conditioner onto a soft cloth and gently massage it into the leather in circular motions. This not only softens the leather but also helps in preserving its natural moisture.

I used a leather conditioner on my stiff full-grain jacket. After a couple of applications, it became significantly softer and more comfortable to wear.

Time Required: Overnight to 24 hours.

2. Natural Oils

Natural oils such as coconut oil, olive oil, or almond oil can also be used to soften leather. Apply a small amount of oil onto a soft cloth and rub it onto the jacket in a circular motion.

I used coconut oil on an old leather jacket of mine, and it worked wonders. It made the leather soft and added a nice sheen.

Time Required: Several hours to Overnight

3. Heat Treatment

Applying heat can help soften leather, but be careful not to overdo it. You can use a hairdryer on a low heat setting or even a steamer to lightly heat the leather.

Once heated, gently massage the leather with your hands to help soften it.

Time Required:  Varies, typically 15-30 minutes

4. Vinegar Solution

A mixture of water and white vinegar can soften leather naturally. Mix equal water and vinegar in a spray bottle, then lightly spray the solution onto the leather.

Let it sit for a few minutes before gently wiping it off with a clean cloth.

Time Required: About 30 minutes

5. Commercial Softening Products

There are various commercial leather softening products available in the market that are specifically designed to soften and condition leather.

These products come in the form of sprays, creams, or oils and can be a convenient option for softening your jacket. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using these products.

Time Required:  Follow product instructions, typically 1-2 hours

6. Using Rubbing Alcohol and Vaseline

Rubbing alcohol opens the leather’s pores, and Vaseline helps to soften and condition the leather.

Mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and water in a spray bottle. Lightly spray the mixture onto the jacket. While the leather is damp, apply a thin layer of Vaseline, working it in with a cloth.

I tried this on an old leather bag first to test it out. It worked well, but use a thin layer of Vaseline to avoid a greasy finish.

Time Required: About 30 minutes

Source: Leatherings YT Channel

Is It Possible to Soften Leather Jacket Without Any Special Products?

You don’t need to break the bank on special products to soften your leather jacket. There are several simple, everyday methods you can use to achieve that soft, broken-in feel.

1. Breaking in the Jacket Naturally

One of the best ways to soften a leather jacket is to simply wear it. The more you wear it, the more it will naturally soften and conform to your body.

I remember my first leather jacket was quite stiff, but after wearing it regularly for a few weeks, it became much more comfortable and flexible.

2. Hang it Up in a Humid Room

After a hot shower, hang your leather jacket in the bathroom for a short period. The steam from the hot water can help soften the leather fibers.

Just be careful not to leave it for too long, as excessive moisture can damage the leather

3. Use your Hands

Another way to soften leather is to use your hands to work the material. Gently massage and manipulate the leather, focusing on the stiff and rigid areas.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Softening a Leather Jacket

Softening a leather jacket can be a straightforward process, but there are some common mistakes you should avoid to achieve the best results.

One of the most common mistakes is over-conditioning the leather. Applying too much conditioner or oil can saturate the leather, leaving it greasy and prone to attracting dirt.

Avoid products that contain harsh chemicals or are not specifically designed for leather. For example, using household cleaners or wax-based products can cause the leather to dry or crack over time.

Leather jackets require regular upkeep. Neglecting to condition and protect can lead to stiffness, cracking, and a shorter lifespan.

Always perform a patch test before applying any new product or method to your jacket. This simple step can prevent irreversible harm to your leather jacket.

Leather is sensitive to extreme heat, cold, and moisture. Avoid leaving your jacket in direct sunlight or near heat sources like radiators or fireplaces, as this can cause the leather to lose its natural oils.

Rushing the process, using excessive heat, aggressive rubbing, or applying too many products too quickly can compromise the leather’s integrity.

Maintenance Tips to Keep Your Leather Jacket Soft

To maintain that soft feel and keep your jacket looking fantastic for years, here are some key maintenance tips:

Keeping your jacket clean is the first step in maintenance. Use a soft brush or a dry cloth to remove dust. For deep cleaning, wipe it down with a damp cloth using mild soap and water.

How you store your jacket can greatly impact its condition. Hang your jacket on a hanger to maintain shape and avoid creases. I used to fold my jacket, and it always ended up creased. Hanging it on a padded hanger made a significant difference.

Give your jacket an annual check-up to assess its condition. Look for signs of wear, tears, or dryness, and treat them accordingly.

Periodically inspect your jacket for any signs of wear, scratches, or loose stitches. Addressing these early can extend the life of your jacket.

If your jacket gets wet, blot it gently with a soft cloth and let it air dry. Apply a water-repellent leather protector to protect against spills.

Source: DudsByDel YT Channel


Softening a leather jacket is easier than you might think, and it doesn’t always require fancy products.

Whether you choose to break it in naturally, use household items, or opt for a leather conditioner, the key is patience and care.

By following the steps and avoiding common mistakes, you’ll not only soften your jacket but also extend its life and keep it looking fabulous.

And hey, you’ll save some money on professional services too, which is always a win.

Remember, each jacket is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. Always test a small area first and go slow.

Your leather jacket is an investment, and with proper care, it can last a lifetime.

Resources Consulted

James Chiles

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