How to Clean a School Letterman Jacket

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With proper care, your varsity jacket can last a lifetime.
With proper care, your varsity jacket can last a lifetime. (Image: JustinRWard/iStock/Getty Images)

A letterman jacket – sometimes referred to as a varsity jacket – has been a status symbol among students since the mid 1800s. First worn at Harvard by the baseball team, letterman jackets – which were really sweaters back then – have withstood the test of time through the decades. But just like any other type of jacket, it will likely need to be cleaned at some point. Most letterman jackets have a wool body and leather sleeves, and both types of fabric require special care when cleaning.

Things You'll Need

  • Sticky lint roller
  • Bowl
  • Baby shampoo or liquid castile soap
  • Lint-free rags
  • Soft towel
  • Leather conditioner
  • Clothes hanger

Step 1

Brush over the body of the jacket with a sticky lint roller to remove lint, hair, dust and loose dirt. Use a clean part of the lint roller as one part becomes filled with grime.

Step 2

Moisten a clean, lint-free rag with cool water. Squeeze out the rag well so it's damp and not dripping wet.

Step 3

Put one to two drops of baby shampoo or liquid castile soap onto the rag. Rub the soap into the rag with your fingers.

Step 4

Blot the soiled and dirty parts of the wool with the soapy rag. Use a strong, tamping motion to effectively lift the dirt from the wool; do not scrub. Switch to a clean part of the rag and add more soap as needed to clean all the dirty spots on the body of the jacket. It's not necessary to clean the entire surface area of the wool; only clean the parts that are dirty.

Step 5

Wipe each leather sleeve of the jacket with a dry rag to remove surface dust and dirt. Moisten a clean rag with cool water. Add about two drops of baby shampoo or liquid castile soap to the rag, then rub it into the rag with your fingers.

Step 6

Wipe down each of the leather sleeves on the jacket gently with the rag. Clean any particularly soiled areas of the leather by moving the rag in small, circular motions over the stain until it disappears.

Step 7

Dry the leather with a clean, soft towel. Use a clean rag to apply leather conditioner onto the sleeves. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for applying the leather conditioner, as this may vary among brands.

Step 8

Hang the wool jacket from a clothes hanger and allow the fabric to dry completely away from direct sunlight or heat. It is not necessary to rinse the wool or leather after cleaning with the rag and soap.

Tip

  • Wipe the inside lining of the jacket with a baby wipe to clean.

    If there are stains on the wool portion of the jacket, spot treat them by blotting the area with a clean rag moistened with lemon juice or distilled white vinegar. Test on an inconspicuous spot first to check for any color changes to the fabric.

    If stains on the leather do not come off with gentle soap, try using a special leather cleaner. Follow the manufacturer's instructions when using the leather cleaner.

    Take your letterman jacket to a professional cleaner if it is severely stained or in need of a deep cleaning.

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