Hello fellow leather aficionados! Today, we're going to address an issue that can plague vintage leather jacket owners: unpleasant odors. As a leather jacket influencer and vintage enthusiast, I've encountered this problem multiple times. Before we delve into the details, let's understand a bit more about vintage leather jackets and why they can develop these off-putting smells.

Why Vintage Leather Jackets Can Develop Unpleasant Odors?

Why Vintage Leather Jackets Can Develop Unpleasant Odors?

As much as we love prestige vintage leather jackets, they can sometimes develop a less-than-pleasant aroma. This can occur due to various reasons, including improper storage, exposure to moisture, or build-up of body oils and sweat. It's a common issue, but with a little knowledge and some TLC, it can be addressed effectively.

Understanding the Origin of Odors in Leather Jackets

Causes of Unpleasant Odors in Vintage Leather Jackets

The reasons for odors developing in vintage leather jackets are many. They can stem from the environment where the jacket is stored, which might be damp or musty. Body oils, sweat, and perfume can also seep into the leather over time, leading to odors. Occasionally, the smell may be due to the original tanning process used when the jacket was made.

The Science Behind Odors in Leather Materials

The leather in our jackets is a porous material. This means it can absorb and trap different particles, including those that give off smells. Bacteria also thrive in these conditions, breaking down sweat and oils, which further adds to the problem.

The Don’ts of Cleaning a Vintage Leather Jacket

Common Mistakes in Deodorizing Vintage Leather Jackets

Many people, in their attempts to freshen their jackets, make mistakes that can potentially damage the leather. Common mistakes include washing the jacket in a machine, using harsh detergents, or saturating the leather with water.

Why Certain Cleaning Methods Can Damage Your Leather Jacket

These methods can lead to drying, cracking, or color fading of your vintage jacket. Leather is sensitive to pH changes and exposure to harsh cleaning agents can alter the leather's pH, leading to deterioration.

Step-By-Step Guide to Deodorizing Your Vintage Leather Jacket

Step-By-Step Guide to Deodorizing Your Vintage Leather Jacket


Step 1: Gather Your Materials -  Start by gathering the necessary items: a soft cloth, mild soap or saddle soap, white vinegar, baking soda, a high-quality leather cleaner and conditioner, and some newspapers.

Step 2: Dust Off Surface Dirt - Using a soft cloth, gently dust off any surface dirt or dust from your jacket. This is an important preliminary step to prevent grime and soften your vintage leather jacket from getting further embedded during the cleaning process.

Step 3: Wipe With Mild Soap Solution -  Create a mild soap solution by mixing a few drops of soap in a cup of water. Soak a soft cloth in this solution, wring out the excess water, and gently wipe the jacket. Pay special attention to areas that are typically more soiled, like the cuffs and collar.

Step 4: Air Out Your Jacket - Hang your jacket in a well-ventilated area to air out for a couple of days. Avoid direct sunlight as it can fade the color and cause the leather to dry out.

Step 5: Use a Vinegar-Water Solution - Lightly spray the jacket with a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water. The acidity of the vinegar will help neutralize bad odors. Let it air dry.

Step 6: Apply Baking Soda - If the smell persists, sprinkle some baking soda inside the jacket and let it sit overnight. The baking soda will absorb any lingering odors. The following day, dust off the baking soda using a clean, dry cloth.

Step 7: Use a Leather Cleaner - Use a leather cleaner designed specifically for the type of leather your jacket is made from. Apply it as per the instructions on the product.

Step 8: Condition Your Jacket - After cleaning, apply a leather conditioner. Conditioning helps to restore the natural oils in the leather, keeping it supple and preventing it from drying out and cracking.

Step 9: Dry the Jacket Properly - Allow the jacket to air dry completely. Never use a heat source to dry leather as it can cause the material to shrink or warp.

Maintaining Freshness: Regular Cleaning and Storage Tips

Regular cleaning can keep odors at bay. After every wear, wipe down your jacket with a dry cloth to remove any dirt or oils. Store it in a cool, dry place and consider using a breathable garment bag for added protection.

Seeking Professional Help

When to Consider Professional Cleaning Services

If home cleaning doesn't eliminate the odor or if your jacket is exceptionally valuable or fragile, consider seeking professional help.

Selecting the Right Leather Cleaning Service

Choose a service that specializes in leather and has experience with vintage items. Ask about their cleaning process and ensure it's suitable for your leather jacket care and condition.

Prevention: Keeping the Smell Away from Your Leather Jacket

Regular Maintenance Tips for Vintage Leather Jackets

Regular cleaning and conditioning is key to maintaining a fresh-smelling jacket. Avoid wearing your jacket in heavy rain or high humidity which can trap moisture.

Importance of Proper Storage for Vintage Leather Jackets

Proper storage is equally important. Store your jacket on a wide, padded hanger in a well-ventilated closet. Avoid plastic bags or non-breathable garment covers.

How to get cigarette smell out of leather jacket

How to get cigarette smell out of leather jacket

If your leather jacket is wafting a cloud of cigarette smell, here's a quick solution.

 1. Start by hanging it in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight, to air it out.

2. Sprinkle baking soda generously inside, particularly focusing on areas that absorb the most smoke, like the collar and pockets. Let it sit overnight, then dust off the powder.

3. Lightly spray a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water on the jacket, and let it air dry. The vinegar will work as a natural deodorizer, neutralizing the cigarette smell and leaving your jacket fresh.

If you have mastered this guide also check our blog on how to clean a vintage leather jacket. I have mentioned all the key points and steps by which you clean your jacket yourself.


Getting smells out of a vintage leather jacket is certainly achievable. With the right care and maintenance, you can keep your jacket looking, feeling, and smelling great for years to come. As always, when in doubt, seek professional help. Remember, it's not just a jacket, it's a piece of history. And it's worth every bit of effort to keep it at its best.