How to Dye Leather – The Ultimate Guide

Investing in a leather item is one of the best investment decisions that you can ever make. From being durable to improving the aesthetic of your room, there are many benefits of investing in a leather item. Whether it is a leather sofa or a leather boot, be sure that it will make you look classy and sophisticated. For your leather item to remain in pristine condition, regular maintenance is necessary. One way to maintain your leather is by dyeing it.

The good news is that dyeing your leather will allow you to change the pigment of your leather to your desired color. Although you can hire an expert to dye a leather item for you, it does not hurt to perform this undertaking on your own. In this article, we shall take a closer look at how to dye leather alongside other vital facets.

What is leather dyeing?

Before we discuss ways how to dye leather naturally, it is imperative that we take a closer look at what leather dyeing is first. Simply put, this refers to the process of applying a mixture of a base and a colored pigment to a leather surface. Some of the common bases used in this process include water, oil, or even alcohol.

Once this mixture is applied to the leather, the initial color of the leather changes immediately. As far as leather dyes are concerned, there are some that remain on the surface, while others penetrate deep into the leather fibers. It all depends on the kind of leather dye you choose to use.

leather dye

Check the price Alcohol Based Permanent Leather Dye on Amazon 

Benefits of leather dyeing

Leather dyeing offers a plethora of benefits. One of the commonest benefits is that dyeing leather makes it achieve the look that you desire. Here, your leather will have the shade of your preferred color and thus meet your aesthetic needs.

Better still, if you have natural leather that you want to change its current color, dyeing it will make it look different and more attractive. Dyeing leather also works magic on leather areas that were recently repaired. This is because the whole process makes the leather have a uniform color. Consequently, it will be difficult to tell which sections were repaired from the ones that were left out.

Steps on how to dye leather

Since we have outlined the various benefits of dyeing your leather, time is ripe for you to know the various steps one should follow when dyeing his or her leather. The following steps will help you get started:

1. Preparation

Before we outline the various steps on how to dye leather wallets or how to dye leather bags, it is imperative that you make adequate preparations for both the work area and the leather item. This is because the whole process of dyeing leather can be messy.

By making these preparations, you will have an easy time undertaking the whole process and even enable you to finish it within a short period. Consequently, the whole process will not only be fun but also yield much-needed results.

Ensure that your workspace is well ventilated

To start with, you should ensure that your work area is well ventilated. This is because the chemicals used in the dyeing process can be toxic when one inhales them in. If you inhale them in large quantities, be sure that they can be detrimental to your health. Worse still, others can be toxic if you expose them for lengthy periods.

Therefore, if you have to work indoors, ensure that the windows of your working room are open. Better still, the ventilation should not be blocked. By doing so, air will circulate seamlessly within the room.

If your workspace has an exhaust fume hood, be sure that air will circulate evenly. Typically, such rooms have large fans that help to pull up toxic fumes from the dyes and exhaust them outside. With these features in place, be sure that you will not suffocate in the working room.

Ensure that the workspace is well-covered

Besides ensuring that your workspace is well ventilated, ensure that you cover it well to prevent dye spills from messing it up. If you have a polythene bag that you hardly use, you can go ahead and cut it along its edges and then spread it over the working area.

Better still cut the plastic trash bag along its sides and then fold it so that it can have a flat shape. Once you are done, you can place it on the table or the surface you choose to dye your desired leather item from. To get great results, you should consider working on the ground.

If you have to work outdoors, ensure that your workspace does not have trees around as leaves or any other debris might drop on the leather item you are dyeing. If you have to work in an area that has trees, look for a patio table with an umbrella and you will be good to go.

Check the temperature

As you prepare on how to dye leather, it is imperative to note that the chemicals that are used for this undertaking usually work within a certain range of temperatures. To put it into perspective, your workspace should have a temperature of 72°F.

Besides this, the room should have low humidity levels. This is because when the humidity is high, the leather item may take time to dry up. However, if the room or workspace has low humidity, be sure that the leather item will dry quite fast. Also, the temperatures should not be too high as the chemicals used for dyeing may dry up before they even perform the intended function.

Gather the tools and supplies

With the above-mentioned conditions kept in check, time is ripe for you to gather all the supplies needed. Some of the tools that can help you on how to dye leather include:

  • Plastic gloves
  • Plastic trash bag
  • Leather deglazer
  • Wool dauber
  • Scrap cloth
  • Leather dye
  • Leather conditioner
  • Leather finish
  • Tub or tray

2. Clean your leather item

Once you are done with the above-mentioned preparation, the next step now is to clean the leather item. This is because the leather item may have accumulated dirt and dust over the years. Before you start the actual dyeing process, you should get rid of any dirt or dust present on the leather surface.

Better still, leathers usually have various substances and oils on and in them due to the tanning process. Since you we shall be changing the color pigment of the fibers, these chemicals have to be eliminated beforehand. By doing so, you will have a clean surface and thus create a byte needed for the leather dye to attach to the leather item well.

When preparing the leather item, one of the products that can help clean your leather is the deglazer or ZeliPrep leather preparer. Once applied to the leather item, it normally removes away any existing finish.

Besides this, it helps remove any additional residues on the leather item. Since this product is toxic, you should ensure that you wear gloves and your workspace is well ventilated. Besides this, the product is sensitive to temperature and thus has to be used within the recommended temperature range.

When applying this product to the leather item, you should lay the leather item on a flat surface and then place a piece of cloth or old towel between the leather piece and the flat surface. The flat surface can be a table or even a floor.

Thereafter, dip a wool dauber into the solution containing this product. Once the cotton wool is wet, you can now start applying the solution to the leather item. Stroke the leather surface gently with the wet wool dauber, back and forth. As you apply the solution to the leather surface, you will notice that the color of your leather item will start changing.

This can be attributed to the fact that the leather surface will be wet in the area where the product has been applied on. Once the solution dries up, the leather item will have its initial color. For optimal results, you should let the solution dry well. Typically, this can take about 15 minutes. Once the solution has dried, you can now go ahead and start dyeing your leather.

3. Apply the dye

With the leather item prepared adequately, the next step now is to apply your desired leather. When it comes to leather dyes, it is important to note that there are different types of leather dyes.

From alcohol-based leather dyes to water-based dyes, there are a plethora of options to choose from. As you choose your desired type of leather dye, it is imperative to note that each one of them possesses different properties. Depending on your needs, choose the one that suits your needs.

Besides this, there are different techniques that can help you dye your leather more effectively. Generally, it all depends on your taste and preference. In some cases, you will be guided on how you want the final product to look.

For optimal results, you should apply the leather dye in even coats. By doing so, you will be able to make the application more consistent and even across the board. Apart from this, the technique gives room for more subtle variations when it comes to the final choice of color.

This can be attributed to the fact that the color will be applied in different layers, thereby becoming darker each and every time you apply it. When applying the leather dye to your leather item, you can consider using any of the following items:

  • Wool dauber
  • Brush
  • A piece of cloth or rag

From dipping to pulling, there are many leather dyeing techniques that can help you get started. Once you dye the leather, let it dry it for a few hours.

4. Condition the leather

Although the chemicals used in cleaning and dyeing your leather can dry out fast, it is important that you maintain them well so that your leather can remain in a pristine condition for many years. To achieve this goal, you should condition your leather after dyeing it.

When it comes to leather conditioners, they can either be a mix of light protectants and moisturizers or just pure conditioners whose role is to moisten and nourish the leather item. Some of the common leather conditioners you are likely to find out there are neatsfoot oil and Lexol.

Once you condition your leather, let it dry for a few hours, and then apply a finish. You can allow it to sit for about 12 hours at night before you apply a finish the next morning. Depending on the leather condition you choose to use, follow the instructions from the manufacturer so that you can get the much-needed results.

5. Finish with a topcoat

Once you have conditioned the leather, time will be ripe for you to apply a top coat on it. By doing so, you will be sealing it. This exercise serves a number of functions. To start with, it offers the much-needed protective layer that helps to protect the leather underneath.

Besides this, it protects the user’s clothes from getting stained by the leather dye. A good example of these finishes is resolene and carnauba wax. There are other finishes you may find out there in the market.

Depending on your preference, you can choose to buy any of them and apply them to your conditioned leather item. Once you are done, you can now take the leather item to the desired room or location.

6. Clean up

Once everything is done, you can now clean up the workspace. If there are any materials that have been left, you can reuse them in the future. Whether they are leather dyes, cleaning agents, leather conditioners, or finishes, salvage them for future use.

However, if there are some waste materials, dispose of them properly so as not to pollute the environment. Once you are done, with the cleaning process, you can now relax and enjoy the leather item that you have just dyed.

how to dye leather shoes


Q: Can leather be dyed any color?

Yes. As we speak, you can now dye your preferred leather item in any color you please. All you need to do is to choose the color you please and then dye it properly. By dyeing the leather, you will completely change the original color to a new color altogether.

Q: Is it hard to dye leather?

Not really. Dyeing leather is not as difficult as you might think. All you need to do is to follow the procedure, as we have illustrated above. From the preparation process to the cleaning-up process, you should not skip any step. If you cannot dye the leather item on your own, you can hire a specialist to help you out.

Q: How do you keep the leather dye from rubbing off?

To prevent the leather dye from rubbing off, you should consider applying a small amount of leather conditioner on a piece of cloth and apply it on the dyed surface. When applying the leather conditioner, you should do it in a circular motion. Thereafter, apply a sealant or a finish as per the instructions of the manufacturer.

Q: How do you make leather dye at home?

There are many ways you can make leather dye at home. One of the popular ways to get started is by brewing coffee. You will note that strong coffee is not only a beverage but can also work as a leather dye.

Once you brew the strongest coffee, let it cool first before mixing it with a small amount of commercial leather conditioner. With this mixture at hand, you can now apply it to your preferred leather item.

Q: How do you dye treated leather?

If you have a treated leather item that you want dyed, you should first spray it with water until it is wet uniformly. Thereafter, apply the dye with a clean, soft piece of cloth. Thereafter, allow the leather item to dry. As it dries, try to flex it so that it does not become stiff.

Q: Does olive oil darken leather?

Not really. Although it can be used to darken leather, it will not darken the same way it would if you used neatsfoot oil. In most cases, olive oil is commonly used on tooled or heavier leathers. Therefore, it is not ideal to use olive oil on finer leather items such as shoes, purses, and so forth. If you have to darken them, consider using a more gentle oil that is specific to that leather.

Q: How do you darken leather naturally?

As we speak, you can now darken your leather naturally by applying neatsfoot oil or mink evenly on the leather item of your choice. Thereafter, use a horsehair brush to buff the darkened surface.

Once you are done, let the boots sit for about 24 hours. By doing so, you will give the leather item adequate time to darken and, consequently, add another layer of protection against harsh weather elements.

Wrap Up

Leather dyeing is not as difficult as you might think. Whether you want to know how to dye car leather seats or how to dye leather bags, be sure that this guide will help you get started. As long as you have the right leather dye, cleaner, leather conditioner, and finish, the whole exercise will be a walk in the park. Consider the above-mentioned guide on how to dye leather today, and you will not only improve the aesthetic look of your leather but also make it last for ages.

Evina Naomi

Ewofere, Evina Naomi is a biotechnologist and passionate content writer. As a great lover of leather and various leather crafts, she broadly addresses leather-related issues. She is a writer of many excellent articles on leather. With great knowledge and enthusiasm, readers can access researched pieces on various leather types and the best techniques that work on them. Naomi is here to lead you through the journey of choosing excellent leather products and ensure you handle them rightly. So you can embark on your leather sewing and crafting journey with her and have an incredible experience.

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