Bags, shoes, accessories—we've read countless tips on how to care for our favorite leather trinkets, but what about clothes? Imagine this: you're at a party, rocking that sexy leather mini dress like it's nobody's business. Then suddenly, someone accidentally knocks into you and spills something oily and/or alcoholic right into your lap. Cue a panic attack in 3, 2, 1...
Hold up! It's a valid reason to freak out (we've been there), but to bring you some peace of mind, know that with proper care and careful attention, it is possible to get those stains out. Dry cleaning is highly recommended, but for smaller problem areas, there are ways to spot treat at home! Here are five things to remember when setting out to clean your leather pieces.
1. Pay attention to the label.
If the label reads "not washable," obey. Otherwise, go ahead and wash a small area before throwing it in the machine or sink. As a precaution, look for discoloration, spots, or other changes once the area has dried. It's always best to wash on the gentle cycle with cold water! Also, never toss a leather piece in the dryer.
2. Leather trim is usually washable.
Most trim is made of "garment-washed" leather, which means it can be washed, even if the piece is labeled "dry clean" (that textile's already been run through water in the production phase). Sweaters and pants with patches and trims and accessories with collars are examples of trim that's safe for washing!
Turn your garment inside out, pop it in a tightly-sealed plastic bag, and stick in the freezer overnight to kill bacteria and remove odor. You can spot-clean the lining with a damp white cloth—never ever use anything colored to wipe leather, as it may leave a stain.
4. Remove oil stains with starch.
"I will never forget dripping salad dressing on my new tan Ralph Lauren suede pants," Gwen Whiting, founder of The Laundress, muses in an interview with Refinery 29. The best remedy is to pour corn starch on it to absorb the oil. "It isn't instant, but let it take time to soak and eventually it will help."
5. Never rub!
You may be trying desperately to get rid of that ugly stain, but never rub your leather! Excessive, forceful friction causes the skin to abrade, further ruining your piece. Be gentle!