How to Soften Leather—5 Effective Methods

Durability, strength, smooth feel, aesthetics, and more are the fruits of leather crafts. For varying reasons like these, leather lovers choose this exquisite material for making multiple products like leather purses, couches, and clothing. Because of the less vulnerability of leather to damage, you can find leather crafts lasting for long periods.

However, lack of maintenance and improper care could stiffen your leather piece, leaving it prone to cracks and leather peeling. Hence, knowing how to soften leather would help you salvage it whenever the need arises.

The good news is that you can handle this task yourself at home, using such supplies as a leather conditioner, mink oil, and other appropriate solutions. This guide would take you through making your treasured leather artifacts supple, soft, and elegant again.

What Causes Leather Stiffness?

Before starting softening leather belts, shoes, and other items, have you ever thought of what could cause this stiffness? Most people think that the stiffness of leather would often result from the animal hide.

But, this might not be the case always, as leather hides from goatskin and lambskin are distinct and supple compared to the buffalo skin and the likes. Irrespective of the leather type, improper storage and less care for the leather is the common cause behind leather stiffness.

Leather artifacts need the right storage conditions–a cool and dry place, as high humidity makes such pieces prone to stiffness.

how to soften leather purse

Methods for Softening Leather

As you kick softening your leather shoes, belts, or any other item, it is essential to prepare them first. To begin with, cleaning the entire surface of the leathercraft as well as using a damp cloth and suitable leather cleaners is wise and effective.

Once done, let the leather piece dry away from direct sunlight and heat–you can use an electric fan or blower with medium settings to dry it faster. That said, the following are some effective methods for softening leather.

Method 1: Leather Conditioner

Using appropriate leather conditioners is the way to go on how to soften leather straps and other accessories. You can get suitable options from various leather and hardware stores out there. Then, apply the product following the manufacturer’s instructions and expect your leather item to appear better.

Method 2: Coconut Oil

You can use coconut oil to condition your leather piece and soften them. Thus, it would help to learn how to soften leather with coconut oil to help achieve the right results. This hack works better with “lightly” heating the leather clothing or accessory.

So, begin by setting your hair dryer on low heat and work on the leather. Then, start rubbing the coconut oil onto the leather surface, covering small areas at a time. However, it would help conduct a spot test first, as this solution could darken leather surfaces.

Method 3: Mink Oil

Mink oil is another alternative, which is a handy option for folks searching for how to soften leather trousers or jackets with homemade supplies. Start by saturating a clean and soft rag with mink oil and apply evenly on the surface of the leather accessory.

You may need to apply in two or more layers; however, it would be best to rub in circular motions and dry each oil layer before rubbing another. After the leather absorbs the oil for a couple of days, you will find a noticeable difference.

Method 4: Rubbing Alcohol and Vaseline

Another effective technique for making leather soft and supple involves rubbing alcohol and Vaseline. Knowing how to soften leather shoes with Vaseline and isopropyl alcohol can help restore your leather items, and guess what? It is less expensive!

Damp a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol on the prepared leather surface. Then, start applying a generous amount of Vaseline on the item’s surface, and let the mix sit overnight and work into the piece.

Method 5: Commercial Creams and Waxes

Are you interested in learning how to soften leather boots? Then, you should know that there are a vast number of commercial products in the form of waxes and creams that could help with such.

Applying such supplies to the leather and letting them rest on the piece for a few minutes before wiping them off with a cloth would work the magic. However, it is crucial to read the product’s instructions first and conduct a spot test on an insignificant area of the leather artifact to prevent likely damage.

Caring for Softened Leather

After achieving the desired result from using any of the leather softening methods mentioned above, it is crucial to care for the piece and preserve this upshot. Thus, you can maintain your softened leather with the following best practices.

  • Keep leather items away from excessive heat and avoid exposing them to prolonged sunlight.
  • A good cleaning schedule would suffice, depending on how often you use your leather items, and please ensure you use the right supplies to prevent possible damages.
  • Kindly ensure that you don’t use dye-contained products for polishing or conditioning your leather artifacts.
  • Don’t seal leather in plastic bags and store it in cool, dry, well-ventilated places.
  • Always read the labels and tags of leather products and keep the manufacturer’s instructions upon caring for them.
  • It is highly effective to conduct “spot tests” on inconspicuous leather pieces before applying products on the entire leather surface – such action would prevent likely damages.

how to soften leather hide

Read Also: How to Soften Leather Belts – Top Tips


Q: What can you soak leather in to soften it?

If you are keen on how to soften rawhide leather, you should know that it gets soft and starts stretching if soaked in water. Thus, you can leave the leather hide in water for a day and expect tremendous results.

Nevertheless, this method does not apply to finished leather goods, as the excess moisture can cause likely damages. You can subject such products to leather conditioner, coconut oil, mink oil, or a blend of rubbing alcohol and Vaseline. And you would find them looking supple and soft.

Q: How do you treat hard leather?

Several methods are popular in treating hard leather and restoring the suppleness of leather artifacts. Some of the commonest options include:

  • Using an appropriate leather conditioner would work on softening the leather piece, but it is crucial to first clean the leather surface with a suitable leather cleaner before conditioning it.
  • You can employ coconut oil also to treat hard leather. First, keep the leather “lightly” heated and apply the oil using a cotton ball.
  • Rubbing alcohol and Vaseline can also work wonders–dab rubbing alcohol across the prepared leather surface and rub Vaseline on the leather afterward.

Q: Does WD-40 soften leather?

From baseball gloves to dog collars, various leather items exist can soften with WD-40 spray. It may seem unusual, but this lubricant applied generously on a leather shoe can help soften it and make it pretty comfy to wear.

Work onto the leather furniture or accessory once you spray this product on the leather surface with a soft and clean cloth. Let it sit for some time and expect tremendous results afterward. It is recommended to perform a spot test beforehand, ensuring that this spray would not damage the leather piece.

Q: How do you restore old dry leather?

Start the leather restoration process by wiping dust and debris off the product’s surface and cleaning with a leather cleaner or mild dishwashing soap. Allow the leather piece to dry away from direct sunlight and excess heat; you can employ an electric fan to hasten the process.

If the old leather surface appears cracked, it will help fix this solution. Apply some leather fillers and let them dry for some hours. Then, consider conditioning the leather product to make it look nicer.

Q: How do you condition old leather?

You can condition an old leather piece using an appropriate leather conditioner or other household supplies like coconut oil, mink oil, or even olive oil. First, remove the straps or laces (if any) on the leather and start wiping out dust with a dry rag.

Move further to damp soft cloth or soft-bristled brush with good leather cleaner and start cleaning the product’s surface. Wipe the cleaning residue with a dry cloth and air dry the leather. Perform a spot test with the conditioning product and condition the leather appropriately if suitable.

Q: How do you soften a hard leather bag?

There are various methods to soften stiff leather bags, and one of the common and efficient options is using a leather conditioner. To start with, remove the contents in the bag and get its surface prepared by cleaning appropriately with a suitable cleaning agent for leather.

Allow the leather air to dry and apply a generous amount of your leather conditioner, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Aside from this method, you can employ other fitting commercial creams and waxes or use suitable household supplies like coconut oil and mink oil.

Q: How do you soften fake leather?

Unlike genuine leather, vegan leather is not made from animal skin. Still, you can also get and apply suitable conditioners to help soften such leather products. You can rub some vinyl leather conditioner in small circular motions using a soft and clean rag for faux leather.

Then, use another dry cloth to get out the excess conditioner on the leather piece and let this product air dry.

Q: Can you soften leather using coconut oil?

Coconut oil works well as a leather conditioner and is handy for softening stiff leather items. Briskly heat the leather using a hairdryer set on low heat (for about ten minutes).

Then, massage the oil onto the leather surface using your fingers and let it sit for several hours. Such an action would help make the leather softener and look nicer – but conduct a spot test beforehand, as coconut oil may darken the leather’s color.

Wrap Up

People who love and use leather items can testify to this material’s durability. However, it is not uncommon to notice leather items getting pretty stiff or cracking with little or no care. Hence, the need to maintain and store leather artifacts properly.

Do you find your leather products appearing stiff? You can learn how to soften leather using suitable household supplies. It is rare to find the home remedies explained above not working for softening leather pieces. Nevertheless, you can take your leathercrafts to an expert if the need arises.

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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