Although conventional wisdom dictates keeping water and genuine leather as far away from each other as possible, scientists in the leather industry have developed animal skin products that can be washed in the washing machine. These leather and suede products are referred to as washable leather. Special coatings and treatments allow these leathers to be washed in water without shrinking, stretching, spotting or fading.
Machine-washable leather has many benefits. It is easy, convenient and much less expensive to machine-wash your leather garments at home rather than take them to a dry cleaner or leather cleaner. Also, knowing that your clothes are freshly laundered boosts your confidence and gives you peace of mind, rather than leaving you wondering how many years it's been since your favorite leather jacket was cleaned.
The only drawbacks to washable leather are the limited selection of items available and the fact that it can cost slightly more than standard leather. However, as washable leather catches on in the clothing industry, a larger variety of items will be made from it. The higher price is quickly negated with savings on dry cleaning or leather cleaning. Furthermore, the item will likely last longer if it can be washed rather than being ruined by a stain or perspiration.
Washing instructions for washable leather garments differ from manufacturer to manufacturer and garment to garment. Always follow the care label in your garment. Often the instructions involve setting the washing machine on the gentle cycle, using cold water and mild liquid soap, and avoiding traditional laundry detergents. Leather-cleaning products are available for sale from several manufacturers. These companies claim that their products are safe to use on many varieties of washable and even nonwashable leather.
Proceed With Caution
Realize that not all leather is washable leather and that not all washable leathers have the same care instructions. Some items may be able to withstand machine washing or the tumbling and heat of a clothes dryer, while others must be hand washed or hung to dry. Always refer to the manufacturer's care instructions, or take your item to a leather cleaner if you are unsure.