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The Ultimate Guide on How To Darken Leather

The Ultimate Guide on How To Darken Leather

If you’re looking to darken your leather goods, you’ll be happy to know that it can be a relatively easy and fast process. With some know-how, you can make your leather jacket, shoes, or furniture take on darker and earthier tones in no time. 

On top of having a richer tone, darkening leather can also rehydrate it, protect it from wear, repair creases, enhance flexibility, and even make scratches (sort of) vanish. There are various oils and other wares that can make your leather shine like new. 

At Andar, we’re passionate about leather care as we are full-grain leather, which is why we’ve devised this ultimate DIY guide on the many ways you can darken your leather right at home. Read along to learn the pros and cons of oils, dyes, and other tools, as well as how to apply them properly. 

Preparing Your Leather 

Before you can start the darkening process, it’s important that you take some precautions and prepare your leather item for the best results. Here’s our step-by-step guide: 

  • First, you’ll want to avoid exposing your leather goods to direct sunlight. Sun damage can make your leather dry out, losing its elasticity and causing its color to fade. It’s possible this may be why the color of the leather lost its original darkness in the first place. Work in a cooler, room-temperature space with mellow lighting. 
  • Use a dry cloth (microfiber) or soft brush to gently wipe down your leather, removing dust, dirt, and other grime from the surface of the leather. Consider using a horsehair brush to avoid scratching or cracking your goods.
  • Next, dab a little leather cleaner or soap onto a damp cloth. You’ll want to be careful not to use so much water that it drips off the cloth. Saddle soap is a great product to consider, especially for those shoes or jackets that see a lot of action. 
  • Run your cloth over the surface of the leather in gentle, circular motions. Afterward, rinse out the excess soap or cleaner with a second damp cloth.
  • Finally, dry your leather with a clean cloth to ensure none of that water stays behind. Let it sit for a while to air dry. Now you’re ready to work! 

How to Apply Your Leather Oils 

Before we get into the specific oils that can darken leather, let’s go over how to apply these products to get the best results. 

Many of these natural oils can help revitalize your leather, but only if applied with care. Otherwise, you might notice some adverse effects. 

Here are some protips to consider: 

  • Less is more: With leather darkening, exercise caution and start with less oil. Excess oil can easily become absorbed deep into your leather, causing it to deteriorate or break down. Dab a bit of oil onto a soft cloth, about a teaspoon. 
    • Apply evenly: For a consistent coating, run your cloth over the entire surface of the leather in small circular motions. Do your best to get a completely even coating. If you’re working on a bigger piece, like a leather couch, you may need to add more oil as you notice the cloth drying out. 
    • Judge after drying: After you’ve applied your leather oil or dye, it’s best to allow it to air dry overnight or for 24 hours. Only after drying will you get an accurate picture of the color change. If you find your leather is still too light-colored, you can always add another coat. 

    Types of Natural Oils

    When applied correctly, leather oils can work to darken and protect the material, enhance its flexibility, and repair damages like scratches or creases. 

    With that said, each oil has its own unique properties that make it better or worse for specific tasks. 

    Plant-Based, Vegan Oils 

    There are a few solid plant-based oils that can work to darken your leather and protect it. These are vegan alternatives that are safe for pets. 

    • Coconut oil is an effective alternative for darkening and waterproofing leather. However, it can sometimes leave behind a sticky residue. Heat up your coconut oil before applying it, and remember you might need to wash it off later. 
    • Beeswax is incredible for boosting your leather’s water resistance. At the same time, just like coconut oil, it can help you get a darker tone on your leather. 
    • While olive oil and vegetable oils can help repair some small scuffs and scratches, they’re not always recommended. They won’t darken your leather as much as some alternatives and can actually stain your leather or deteriorate it over time. 
    • Andar’s Leather Cream repairs, waterproofs, and restores your leather with a mixture of natural ingredients, including beeswax, seed oils, and naturally occurring lipids. This is a unique, handmade blend with all-natural ingredients. Speaking of vegan, check out vegan goods made from cactus “leather,” like The Indie.

    Mink Oil for Durability 

    Mink oil works for darkening leather while also acting as a leather conditioner, keeping it healthy, durable, and flexible. This is a popular choice for darkening leather boots or other outdoor leather goods, as it restores the natural oils in the leather and adds a layer of protection against the elements. 

    Mink oil is made from the natural oils present in hides, with added waxes for extra protection. It helps to soften your leather goods, making for a more comfortable wear. At the same time, you’ll have your desired darkness and a nice brilliant sheen to go with it. 

    After the oil has saturated your leather, take out your horsehair brush to buff out the leather and remove excess oils. Compared to a microfiber cloth, the fine hairs of this brush can be much more effective at getting into the creases and folds of your shoes, jacket, or other leather goods. 

    Neatsfoot Oil for Quick Fixes

    Neatsfoot oil is another popular choice for darkening leather. This is a natural oil made from the fats in cattle hooves, and it’s great at rehydrating and softening your leather. 

    However, it’s best to use neatsfoot oil sparingly, like shoe polish. Neatsfoot oil works best for quick fixes, like repairing creases, scuffs, or cracks. If you use too much of the oil or use it too often, its acidic qualities can start to deteriorate your leather. 

    Still, when used with discretion, neatsfoot oil can repair and waterproof your leather shoes, couches, and other goods, keeping them safe from the weather. As always, carefully buff your leather goods to ensure no globs of oil are left collecting in the cracks and folds. 

    Using Leather Dyes 

    Leather dyes are quite different from oils in that they’re alcohol-based rather than made from organic fats and oils. These can certainly change the color of your leather, but with some drawbacks. Since they’re alcohol-based, they can often dry out your leather over time. 

    Leather dyes can be applied much like the oils but typically require a few coats and work best on unfinished leather. It can be easy to apply an uneven coat if you’re not careful. Still, you can create some unique color changes with dyes. 

    Long-Lasting Leather With Andar

    We hope our ultimate guide on darkening leather has shown you some of the healthiest, most effective ways to darken your leather while keeping it flexible and strong. 

    Andar is the home of fine-quality, full-grain leather products made with durability in mind. We create wallets, cases, and bags with sophisticated designs that protect your goods with style. 

    Thanks for tuning in! 


    How to Protect a Leather Couch From the Sun | SFGate

    Microfiber Fabrics, Uses, and Care | The Spruce

    How to Dye a Leather Couch | The Spruce