The Essential Guide to Cleaning Leather Work Gloves

03 Nov, 2023

By hqt

how do you clean leather work gloves
how do you clean leather work gloves

Cleaning leather work gloves is a delicate process that requires attention to detail to maintain their integrity and extend their lifespan. Whether you're dealing with rugged full-grain leather or softer, more delicate types, the key to successful cleaning lies in understanding the specific needs of the material and using the correct techniques. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process step by step.

Why Cleaning Your Leather Gloves Properly Matters

Leather work gloves are an investment in your safety and comfort on the job. Properly maintained, they can last for years, providing the durability and dexterity needed for tasks ranging from construction to gardening. Cleaning them the right way prevents the breakdown of the leather and ensures they remain protective and comfortable.

Pre-Cleaning Preparation

Before you begin the actual cleaning process, it’s important to:

  1. Remove Excess Dirt: Knock off any dried mud or dirt by clapping the gloves together. Then, use a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub away any remaining debris.
  2. Read the Manufacturer’s Instructions: Always check for any specific cleaning guidelines provided by the manufacturer to ensure you don’t void any warranties or damage your gloves.

Cleaning Lightly Soiled Leather Gloves

For gloves with a light layer of dirt:

  1. Wipe With a Damp Cloth: Use a clean cloth moistened with water to gently wipe the surface of the gloves.
  2. Spot Clean with Mild Soap: For tougher spots, apply a small amount of mild, moisturizing soap to the cloth and work it into the leather in a circular motion.
  3. Remove Soap Residue: Use a second clean, damp cloth to wipe away any soap residue, as leftover soap can dry out the leather.
  4. Air Dry: Always air dry leather gloves at room temperature away from direct sunlight and heat sources, which can cause the leather to crack.

Deep Cleaning Heavily Soiled Gloves

For gloves caked with grime or exposed to grease and oil:

  1. Create a Gentle Cleaning Solution: Mix a solution of warm water and mild soap, such as saddle soap, which is designed specifically for leather.
  2. Apply the Solution: Using a soft cloth, apply the solution to the gloves, paying special attention to heavily soiled areas. Avoid saturating the leather.
  3. Wipe Off the Cleaning Solution: With a clean, damp cloth, gently wipe off the soap solution from the gloves.
  4. Dry with a Towel: Pat the gloves with a soft towel to remove excess moisture. Do not rub vigorously, as this can damage the surface of the leather.

Stain Removal Tips

Stains can be particularly challenging, but with the right approach, you can tackle them effectively:

  1. Oil or Grease Stains: Sprinkle talcum powder or cornstarch on the stain and let it sit overnight. The powder will absorb the oil. Gently brush off the powder with a soft-bristled brush.
  2. Ink Stains: Blot the area with a cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol. Do not rub, as this can spread the ink.
  3. Salt Stains: Mix a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar. Using a cloth, apply the solution lightly to the stained area to dissolve the salt.

Conditioning the Gloves After Cleaning

Leather needs moisture to stay pliable and strong:

  1. Choose a Quality Leather Conditioner: After the gloves are clean and completely dry, apply a leather conditioner. This helps restore natural oils lost during cleaning.
  2. Apply Conditioner Evenly: Using a soft cloth, work the conditioner into the leather with circular motions.
  3. Buff to a Shine: After allowing the conditioner to penetrate the leather, buff the gloves with a dry cloth for a natural shine.

Drying and Storage

Proper drying and storage are critical to maintaining the shape and condition of your gloves:

  1. Air Drying: Let the gloves dry naturally. Reshape them occasionally during the drying process to prevent stiffness.
  2. Avoid Heat: Never place leather gloves near a heater or in direct sunlight, as high heat can shrink and crack the leather.
  3. Proper Storage: Store the gloves in a cool, dry place. Use a glove storage bag if available, or wrap them in a breathable cloth.

Frequent Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Never Machine Wash: The tumbling action of a washing machine can warp and damage the leather.
  2. Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Chemical cleaners can strip essential oils from the leather, leading to dryness and cracking.
  3. Do Not Wring Out: Wringing leather gloves can distort their shape and damage the seams.

Additional Care Tips

  1. Regular Maintenance: Clean your gloves regularly, depending on how often they are used. Frequent light cleanings are better than occasional deep cleanings.
  2. Handle While Wet: Occasionally, put the gloves on while they are damp to help stretch the leather and maintain flexibility.
  3. Deodorizing: If odors persist, place the gloves in a sealed bag with baking soda for a few days to absorb the smell.

Professional Care

For expensive or particularly delicate leather gloves, or if you are uncertain about the type of leather, consider seeking professional cleaning services. Leather specialists have the knowledge and materials to handle different leather types and conditions.


Maintaining your leather work gloves through proper cleaning and care is essential for ensuring their longevity and functionality. By following the outlined steps, you can clean your gloves effectively, tackle different types of stains, and maintain the leather's quality. Regular cleaning, conditioning, and proper storage will keep your gloves in top condition, ready to protect your hands during any task.