How to dye leather at home

While you can take leather items to a professional to be dyed, it is easy to see why many people decide to dye leather at home.

Why you should dye leather at home

Reasons to dye leather at home include:

  • Its convenient and quick
  • You don’t need to move large items
  • You save money
  • Personal satisfaction from the job
  • You can trial and error with more dye and thin layers

These are all fantastic reasons to apply the dye at home, and it is no surprise many people choose this option, the same goes for car interiors.

Products you need to dye leather

If you are preparing a shopping list or you are grabbing household items from around the home, make sure you have access to these items:

  • A leather deglazer and leather conditioner you can use a wax based conditioner)
  • A spray bottle filled with water
  • A paint brush
  • Your choice of leather dye
  • A clean cloth or sponge
  • A rag or scrap piece of fabric you can wipe excess dye with
  • Protective clothing such as gloves or an apron (you should wear gloves as a minimum)
  • A bucket or bin bag so you can dispose of items cleanly and quickly

With these items to hand, you should work more effectively.

Where should I dye leather at home?

If you are going to dye leather at home, you want to find the best possible room, and there are essential things to consider. You want space to work, proper ventilation, and ideally, you want a space that can withstand some mess. You should take steps to cover the working area, but accidents can happen in a trial and error environment. You shouldn’t dye leather in a room; you don’t want any mess.

A garage or a well-covered dining room are good examples of spaces where you can dye leather at home.

What type of leather dyes can I choose when dyeing leather at home?

There is a broad range of leather dye products, not including dyes intended for specific colours or finishes. Options to consider include:

Shoe polish is a temporary kind of leather dye, and not one you should consider when looking to change the colour of a leather product permanently. Of course, shoe polish is good to test a colour or need a temporary solution.

Alcohol-based dye makes its way into the leather’s surface, resulting in bright colours that stand out. This is a great leather dye if you want a striking finish. However, alcohol-based dyes often remove moisture from leather items, so be sure to use them in conjunction with a conditioner or finisher to keep the leather supple.

Oil-based dyes differ from alcohol-based dyes because they don’t remove moisture or liquid from leather. Oil based works best with a full or top grain leather where there isn’t a surface finish. You can still enjoy a vibrant colour with this dye.

Water-based dyes don’t draw moisture from your leather, but the finished colour isn’t as bright or as vibrant. These are often used on sofas & couches.

Applying leather dye at home

Once you know where you will dye and what dye you’ll use, it is time to start the leather dyeing process.

Prepare yourself and your workstation

You want a large table or flat surfaces to work on, and only work in a well ventilated area. It would help if you opened windows or used a fan to circulate air, ensuring the dye fumes don’t overpower you. Make sure you wear gloves and try to cover as many surfaces as you can with paper or towels.

Apply a deglazer to your leather surface

The first step is to ensure your leather surface is clear of lingering dust, dirt and debris. Wipe it off with a clean cloth or sponge; once it is dry, you can begin the preparation stage.

You should apply the deglazer, sometimes called a leather preparer, which takes the seal off the leather. This makes it easier for the leather to absorb your dye, ensuring a stronger profound impact and richer colour.

After this, dampen the leather, even vegetable tanned leather, ensuring there is an even coverage across the material.

Apply the first layer of leather dye

With a paint brush and your chosen dye, apply a thin layer of dye to the leather. It makes sense to start around the edges if you are covering a large area. There is no need to be rough or robust when you apply the dye; paint gently.

Dyeing the leather in a circular motion

If you are concerned about the appearance of brush strokes on the dye, you can use a sponge, a wool dauber, cotton swabs, soft cotton rags or cotton balls to smooth the dye over the surface for an even coat. You can even cover the cotton balls in dye and then move them around the leather in a circular motion to apply your own leather dye.

Let the dye dry

Depending on the area of leather covered, you might need to let it dry overnight. A small area might need a few hours to dry. Please allow adequate time, even though you will likely be keen to continue with the dyeing process.

Apply more coats to dyed leather

Once the leather is dry, return to it, and apply more coats, depending on how deep the colour you need to be. Remember that you cannot dye leather a lighter colour, only the original or something darker.

So, slowly apply a thin layer in coats to achieve the desired saturation. Don’t be surprised if you need several thin coats to achieve the finished leather colour you want, so have enough dye for the job. It’s often a trial and error task.

Buff the leather to create a shiny finish

Once the layers have dried, it is time to buff the material with a cloth to ensure it is shiny and looking its best, even with vegetable tanned leather. No matter the product or item you have dyed, you want dyed leather to look great, and this final touch is an excellent way to create a finished look you are proud of.

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