Thursday, 23 May 2013

Caring for your motorcycle chaps

(Note to UK readers, this has nothing to do with feeding ale to your riding buddies.)
Periodically I get requests to publish a guest article on some item of interest to the riding community. This time it was the folks over at Motorcycle House who asked if they could offer up a brief note on how to care for your riding chaps. These can be an expensive piece of gear so why not get the most out of them? And here’s how to do it. (Although I was sceptical about washing leather there are lots of how-to articles online so I will have to give it a try with some of my extra-buggy motorcycle wear.)

Some TLC for your motorcycle chaps
Chaps HottIt seems the conversation these days is all about motorcycle accessories. After all if you are a bike enthusiast and in the company of your biker friends there is time only to talk about the pleasures and woes of biking. A recent conversation involved the care, or lack of it, of leather motorcycle chaps. Leather chaps are expensive and normally a one-time investment for most bikers. My friends who are bike enthusiasts often complain that their chaps (which have a hefty price tag) lose their appearance and become dry after some time. Here are a few tips to care for your chaps and give them some of the tender loving care they deserve for protecting you.
Regular maintenance
While it may not be possible to put leather chaps in the wash every time you go riding it is important to clean them thoroughly. Chaps motorcycle riders wear must be cleaned, after each ride, with a damp cloth to remove all dust and debris. Even if you cannot see it with your eyes, the dust is there. So take out a cloth and first wet wipe the chaps and then wipe them dry. Using leather soap occasionally will also be a good maintenance strategy. Leather oils are available in the market that will condition the chaps and help ensure long life. Always store chaps inside-out to prevent scratches from other clothes and zippers. Air drying also helps leather, but do not expose the chaps to sunlight. Air drying should be a ‘must’ before each storage to prevent the accumulation of moisture which is very damaging to leather. Leather chaps should not be stored in a sealed bag, but must always have some breathing space.
Just like all other clothes riding chaps also need to be washed. Make sure you follow any instructions on the tag of the chaps. Leather should normally we washed on the cold cycle with the addition of a little leather soap. Mink oil is a good conditioner and can be added just the way we add softener to our clothes.
Spend a few bucks
If after one particular ride it seems like you have a few extra bucks and feel the need to treat your chaps well, use a professional service to get them cleaned. The couple of dollars you spend on dry cleaning will pay itself back with long-lasting and good-looking leather chaps you will love to wear.
If you want to learn more regarding riding gear like biker chaps, jackets, leather boots, and motorcycle saddle bags please visit


  1. Hmmm.... thanks for the thought about actually washing or dry-cleaning leathers - I shall ponder on that. I've used Mother's leather cleaner, followed by Mother's leather Conditioner for years on my leathers and gloves but that doesn't get rid of perspiration odours etc.

    Perhaps it's time for a more thorough cleaning regime -thanks for the heads-up!

  2. OK... I hear such about "Saddle Soap" all the time. I made my living wearing leather for years and later directly in a custom leather shop I owned.

    I cowboyed from the time I was 14 to better than 40, and took care of a good bit of leather in that time. Up until a few years back I operated my own custom leather shop for nearly ten years.

    My last set of Cowboyin' chaps were worn for 25 years. I wore them on my bike until after one forgetful ride where I got soaked... I had placed the chaps in the leather saddlebags while on the road. Foolishly I spaced them out when I got home. Left them there for three days... until in the summer heat they were quickly too moldy to save... point is, they had lasted in fine condition for 25 years.

    It wasn't getting wet that ruined them... it was forgetting them and not drying them out properly.

    Putting chaps in a washing machine is filled with so many unintended possible problems I'll not even try to list them here.

    Even using "Saddle Soap" is a questionable and unnecessary practice in most cases. For Sweat soaked crusty saddle fenders, or chaps that have gotten badly sweat soaked, or dirty in a "penetrating" way, maybe... but in MOST cases, simple surface scrubbing with a cloth wet with fresh, clean water is all you need to do to remove the surface dirt.

    THE thing to remember is ANY Soap is CAUSTIC. If not TOTALLY removed from the leather... it eventually EATS the leather. So if you DO use a soap agent... you can't simply wipe it off with a rag. You MUST flood the leather with water to RINSE until the soap is removed 100%.

    Then, just before it dries completely and slowly, out of any heat source, apply a good conditioning creme while the leather is still pliable. While neatsfoot oil is ok... if still too oily, Neatsfoot Compound is ALWAYS a huge NO! The compound is a petroleum distillate and will eventually eat nylon stitching as well as the leather and a slightly too heavy application of either will leave your chaps greasy.

    Greasy/oily attracts caustic dirt like a magnet.

    The best I have ever found in years of trying everything is a product called SKIDMORE's leather Creme. It replaces the original tanning oils and leaves the leather lubricated, dry and pliable - NOT oily. The best stuff ever. If your chaps get wet and dry hard... work the SKIDMORE's in with your fingers and the pliability will return.

    If all you had to do is wipe off the crusty bugs leavings with a wet rag... let them dry... a bit but then while still slightly damp... apply the SKIDMORES... you'll be wearing your chaps until you want to buy a new set just because you've worn the old ones for so long!


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