I have fingerless leather gloves which are smelling pretty bad and stink my hands up when I wear them. So I've been googling ways to clean them. Most methods seem to need exotic stuff like saddle soap or a washing machine.

What I have done is turned them inside out, scrubbed them with bath soap and sprinkled some dettol mixed with water on them and now they're sitting in the sun drying.

Is this a reasonable cleaning method? I need these gloves and shipped them in from Australia, can't buy another pair here. Anyone with a better method let me know, but nothing esoteric please.

  • 1
    baking soda or peroxide may be a possibility as well, peroxide may have a bleaching effect though. I usually just end up hand washing mine several times. I know there are special detergents that are made for washing gear like gloves but i don't know that it would be available in your area.
    – Nate W
    Nov 2, 2016 at 20:24
  • 4
    I throw my gloves in the washing machine with my cycle clothes. May not be great for the leather in them, but they seem to last a reasonable time. if you really want the gloves to last, treat the leather with a conditioner after they come out the wash.
    – mattnz
    Nov 2, 2016 at 21:14
  • 4
    Its a bit budget, but wearing them in the shower works surprisingly well for sweat.. Shampoo / soap is pretty gentle. If my gloves get oily I use an old plastic milk bottle with a screw lid, and poke the gloves through the top. Add dishwash or washing powder and warm water, close the lid and shake it, let stand and shake it, then drain and rinse with plain water. Repeat ~3-6 times or until the water comes out clear.
    – Criggie
    Nov 2, 2016 at 21:15
  • 1
    I'd just wash them using mild dish soap. Rinse thoroughly, then roll in towels (and squash well) to start the drying process. Finally, lightly stuff with newspaper or paper toweling until thoroughly dry. There are also laundry detergents such as Woolite that are supposedly good for such items. Nov 2, 2016 at 23:58
  • 3
    (I wouldn't advise using hydrogen peroxide on them as it "denatures" organic materials (such as leather).) Nov 2, 2016 at 23:59

4 Answers 4


It doesn't matter what it's made out of, bike stuff gets stinky. Especially the stuff that goes on your hands and your feet since they're similar appendages that you keep similarly wrapped up and pressed against surfaces that don't breathe well.

There are a lot of active wear specific detergents out there- Sportwash, Sport Suds, WIN, Nikwax, etc etc. I've tried none of them, but probably should. Most of these detergents are supposed to be especially well suited at removing odors from synthetics. I see a lot of folks recommending castile soap or oil soap for leathers. This is usually for larger pieces like jackets and handbags. Given your situation, I think you're probably overthinking it. A soak in warm soapy water using a bar soap that you'd use in the shower followed by a brisk hand scrub and rinse should be sufficient. Air dry them, and if you're really worried, use a light leather conditioner once they've dried.

They're going to get stinky again, and quickly. There's just no way around that. Your hands are just funny looking feet at the end of your wrists that you're pulling these leather socks over and perspiring heavily into. Wash them as necessary with mild detergents and realize that- just as with almost everything else you purchase for the sport of cycling- the gloves are consumables and they won't last forever.

  • This is borne out by my experience, just normal mild antibacterial soap does the trick and drying in the sun (until they stink again)
    – Kilisi
    Nov 22, 2016 at 4:24
  • @Kilisi The comment thread got really long on the main post, so I didn't want to add to it. I haven't seen cycling gloves that use real leather for decades. Most have a pseudo leather palm and a synthetic cloth back, so just wash 'em any old how. You mentioned getting them shipped in; if you really want leather gloves you may be able to obtain rigger's gloves locally, and cut off the fingers. Much cheaper than a specific import.
    – andy256
    Nov 22, 2016 at 5:56
  • @andy256 these aren't biking gloves, they're tactical gloves with knuckle reinforcement insets and the palm is real leather. When they get worn, I'll get another pair, they have proven to be worth every cent.
    – Kilisi
    Nov 22, 2016 at 7:17
  • @Kilisi 'Tactical gloves'...what sort of tactics are they designed for?
    – Penguino
    Nov 22, 2016 at 22:01
  • 1
    @Penguino road rage deterrent
    – Kilisi
    Aug 23, 2017 at 6:57

The thing I've found most effective for removing the smell from gloves (including leather gym gloves in the past) is home brewing steriliser. Soak for a couple of hours and then wash however you wash the rest of your kit. I believe baby bottle steriliser is the same thing.

You might worry about soaking your gloves if they're leather, but they get just as wet in the rain. If they're expensive some form of leather treatment afterwards might be a good idea

  • not something I have lying around, but thanks for answering, might be useful for others.
    – Kilisi
    Aug 23, 2017 at 6:58

The traditional solution for cleaning leather is Marseille soap. It is cheap, available everywhere except possibly OP's home country and the oiliness keeps leather from drying out.

  • I'm in the mid Pacific, we're a dumping ground for cheap Chinese products and unhealthy foodstuffs the first World is unable to sell to it's own people. :-) I doubt your soap is available in any of the adjacent Islands either. +1 for an answer that might be useful for others though and for taking the time to answer.
    – Kilisi
    Nov 22, 2016 at 22:43

My mom told me old school answer (she did this in the 1940s) was soak in borax. Cheap and available everywhere. Now I use a ziplock bag or tupperware. Warm water plus a few tablespoons of borax. Shake to dissolve. Add your stink-fingers and soak 24 hours. Rinse, dry, ride, smile.

  • 3
    Hi, welcome to bicycles! Is this something you've used on leather gloves? Most articles on leather care I've found (example) specifically suggest avoiding borax as it's far more alkaline than most cleaners (and leather is mildly acidic).
    – DavidW
    Sep 10, 2019 at 12:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.