How to Clean Leather Chaps

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If you ride horses on a regular basis you surely know how muddy, sweaty and otherwise dirty your leather chaps can get. You should also know that you have to treat them with care so that they don’t fade or get stretched out of shape. The easiest way to wash chaps is in the washing machine. However, you don’t just drop them in and forget about them.

Things You'll Need

  • Laundry soap
  • Stain treatment product
  • Nail brush
  • Fabric softener (optional)

Instructions

Run hot water in your washing machine until it is full at the largest load setting. Add 1/2 a cup of a gentle laundry soap. Put your chaps in the water and start the wash cycle, but only run it for two minutes.

Remove your chaps from the machine and rub a stain treatment product, like Stain Stick, on the parts inside the legs that sit against the horse’s skin when you ride. Once you have a 1/4-inch layer of the product on these areas of the chaps, rub them in a straight line with a nail brush. There is likely a buildup of horse sweat and hair here and this action will help to get it off.

Drop your chaps back in the washing machine and run them through a normal wash. If you wish to add fabric softener, which is not necessary but can make the chaps softer, use a type that is free of dyes, such as Seventh Generation, since colored softeners can change the appearance of lighter colored chaps.

Take your chaps out of the machine and let them air dry. Hang them over a clothesline in a shady area outdoors or inside in a room that gets good air circulation.

Soften your chaps in the dryer by running them through on no heat. Only leave them in for 10 minutes. Do not put them into the dryer until they’re already dry, since they can be prone to shrinking.

Tips & Warnings

  • If your chaps shrink during washing, despite your best efforts, you can stretch the supple leather in the thighs by gently pulling on it. If you're in a hurry, you can wear your chaps again when they are only half dry. However, this could be decidedly uncomfortable, depending on how thick your riding pants are.
  • This method will only work for higher-end leather or suede chaps. Inexpensive chaps may fall apart in the washing machine. If you're not sure how your chaps will hold up, call the manufacturer before you start cleaning them.

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