How To Wash You Letterman Jacket: A Guide

Everyone probably owns a letterman jacket, A.K.A. varsity jacket. A status symbol among collegiate athletes in the mid-1800s, this iconic college athletic outfit has been around for ages. Through the years, the jacket has morphed into a must-have wardrobe piece.

Its popularity has not waned a bit due to its versatility and comfort. From being an exclusive sports uniform of Ivy League universities, the letterman jacket has turned into a staple fashion item for children, teenagers, men, and women across the world.

Letterman jackets are very durable and can stay classy even after many years. With proper care and maintenance, you can even hand it over as a vintage fashion piece. But like any other outfit, it has to be cleaned and washed now and then.

Washing your letterman jacket isn’t as simple as throwing it into the washing machine. Most letterman jackets consist of two-fabric materials — leather sleeves and wool body. Each fabric requires unique care, so you’ll need to clean and wash each part separately. This makes it impossible to wash it along with your regular clothes.

According to the makers of letterman jackets by VarsityBase, some are made of only one fabric material, such as pure wool, cotton, or any other synthetic material. These are easier to wash and maintain. You are lucky if your letterman jacket is made of pure cotton as it can be washed as you would a regular cotton outfit.

Here we take a look at how to clean and wash your letterman jacket.

Read the special instructions

Before washing your letterman jacket, be sure to read the label to get full information about the material and its proper care. As mentioned above, these jackets come in a variety of materials.

Follow the recommended washing technique for your jacket. For example, a leather fabric must not be washed with water. Some synthetic materials need to be washed with warm water while cotton requires fabric conditioners. If your letterman jacket does not come with a label, you can follow generic cleaning instructions based on the jacket’s material.

Wool cleaning

Use a lint remover or roller to remove loose dirt, hair, lint from the surface of the jacket. Remove stuck dirt from the roller before each run to ensure optimum cleaning.

Next, get a clean rag and moisten with cool water. Squeeze out excess water while keeping it damp. Put two drops of baby shampoo or castile soap onto the damp rag. Then, pat it onto the soap. Squeeze the rag until it becomes soapy.

Use the soapy rag to cleanse the dirty and soiled parts of the wool. With a strong, tamping motion, blot the target areas to carefully remove dirt from the wool. Do not scrub the surface to avoid damaging the wool fabric. Move to the other parts of the jacket. Add more soap as necessary as you move along. Take note that you don’t necessarily need to clean the entire jacket. Only focus on the dirty parts.

Leather cleaning

Leather materials require special cleaning techniques. If it gets soiled, you have to wipe or clean it off immediately. Letting the dirt stay longer can make it harder to remove the stain. It’s best to regularly clean your varsity jacket to keep the leather material in good condition.

Use a dry rag or lint remover to remove dirt and dust from the leather surface. Once done, prepare a leather-cleaning mixture composed of one part white vinegar and five parts water. You can also use liquid castile soap or baby shampoo instead of vinegar. Soak a clean rag into the mixture and wring it.

Gently wipe down the leather surface of the jacket. Pay particular attention to soiled or stained areas using fine, circular motions. If necessary, moisten the rag once more and wipe through tough spots. Dip a clean rag in warm water and use it for a final wet wipe. Once the leather surface is clean, dry the leather using a clean towel. Depending on the manufacturer’s instruction, you may apply a leather conditioner to keep it supple.

Once you’re done cleaning the wool and leather fabrics, hang your letterman jacket to allow it to dry completely. Keep it away from direct heat or sunlight. Since the leather cannot be rinsed off, the vinegar might leave an unpleasant odor. To remove this, seal off the jacket in a box along with a cup of baking soda. This should remove the smell.

Here are other letterman jacket care tips

  • Use a baby wipe to clean the inside lining of your varsity jacket.
  • Do not store it in a hot, humid place.
  • Never wash the jacket in hot water or a washing machine.
  • Hang the jacket while in storage and never fold it.
  • If it gets seriously stained or requires deep cleaning, consider taking it to a professional cleaner. 

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