Washing Leather Chaps
Anna Carner Blangiforti
President and Founder, Leather Therapy Products
NJLeather chaps become one of your most personal garments. When
new, they can be stiff, ornery, too tight in some spots, not tight
enough in others. They wrinkle and bite flesh in some places, cut
off the circulation in others. Over time, however, they stretch
and soften. They mold to your unique anatomy and become so individual
that no one else can wear them.
time, they also accumulate a patina of grime. Chaps are working
garments. They get splattered with mud, marinated in sweat, and
rub up against their share of manure, dust, chaff, and other dirty
debris commonly found around barns.
might be scrupulous about wearing clean jeans and shirts, but until
recently, there wasnt much they could do about their chaps.
Some have tried washing chaps but the only laundry products available
for leather to date have been detergent-type cleaners which remove
dirt but do not replace the lubricating oils in the leathers
inner corium. The leather dries stiff and is actually weakened by
the cleaning process. The only alternative has been to let the chaps
become starched with sweat and grunge until the accumulated dirt
destroyed the leather from the inside out. Then you just had to
grit your teeth and go through the expense and agony of breaking
in a new pair.
to the molecular synergy between two recently developed companion
leather care products, however, riders can now safely wash suede
or smooth-leather chaps in their home washing machine and recondition
the leather at the same time. The cleaner works during the wash
cycle to deep clean dirt and leave leather fibers with a negative
ionic charge that attracts the more positively charged conditioning
dressing during the rinse cycle. Riders can now throw grungy, hard-working
leathers like chaps, half chaps, leather-seated breeches, and sheepskin
saddle pads in their washing machine and pull them out cleaned,
softened and suppled.
are three easy steps for cleaning chaps:
Brush off surface dirt. Close zippers to protect both leather surfaces
and the washing machine tub finish from scratches. Turn smooth leather
chaps inside out to protect their outer surface from abrasion by
the washing machines agitator. As with other garments, the
stability of dyes can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Wash
light and dark chaps separately. If you are washing two-toned chaps
or mixing colors, test dye color fastness in an inconspicuous spot.
For lighter colors, set the washing machine for a small load on
the permanent press cycle (warm water wash, cold water rinse). For
darker colors, use the delicate cycle (cold water wash and rinse).
Add the cleaner while the tub is filling with water. Put the dressing
in your washing machines rinse cycle dispenser. Then dunk
those chaps in.
Remove the damp chaps, unzip zippers, and lay the chaps flat to
air dry away from heat or direct sun which can shrink leather fibers.
your washing machine does not have a separate rinse cycle dispenser
and you dont want to baby sit your wash load, you can sponge
the dressing onto the wet leather before leaving it to dry.
a conditioning dressing immediately after washing helps enhance
leather color and prevent fading. Depending on the quality of the
leather and the manufacturing process that created it, however,
some dyes may bleed. If you are washing fancy two-toned show chaps,
be sure to use cold water cycles and test dye stability first by
sponging a dilution of the cleaner in water in an inconspicuous
area of each color to see if the dyes move.
should never be dried in the heat of a clothes dryer but tumbling
thick sheepskin pads for a short period using the air fluff
setting helps remove excess moisture so the pads will dry more quickly.
machine washing is fine for working leathers like chaps,
sheepskin saddle pads and leather-trimmed riding breeches designed
for tough uses, it is not recommended for most high fashion leather
garments. Their lighter-weight threads and fancy buttons may not
stand up the to the machines agitator. Lightweight garment
linings may tear along seam lines.
cowboys may view a pair of stained, beat up chaps as a status symbol
to be preserved in their current state. For the rest of us, however,
theres no more excuse for grungy chaps, mud-encrusted half
chaps, or matted sheepskin pads. Modern chemistry now makes throwing
them in the machine as easy as washing your jeans.
For more information visit www.leathertherapy.com.