Can You Use Shoe Polish To Dye Leather? (Plus 9 Pros & Cons)

can you use shoe polish to dye leather

Do you have an old leather item that you would like to give it’s color a facelift? Or are you making a leather costume and the only thing you have readily available that you can use to dye leather is a shoe polish? And now you keep wondering if it’s possible for you to use shoe polish to dye your leather, then this article is going to be very useful to you.

I did some research on this topic and got some interesting findings. I’m ready to share with you all that I have found.

So, can you use shoe polish to dye leather? You will be able to successfully use shoe polish to dye your leather if the surface of the leather is not finished. The effect you’re going to get when you apply shoe polish on leather with the intention of dyeing it is going to be more of an antique or stain finish than a dyed leather finish.

While it’s possible to dye your leather using shoe polish, it will come with a lot of challenges. In the remaining part of this article, I’m going to delve into the pros and cons of using shoe polish to dye leather and a few suggestions on how to effectively use shoe polish as dyes. Keep reading this article to find out more.

Pros And Cons Of Using Shoe Polish To Dye Leather

As with all leather care products shoe polish has a variety of benefits that have made it an extremely popular shoe shine choice for both commercial and domestic leather goods. 

When it comes to using shoe polish to dye leather there are also some benefits but there are also a lot of drawbacks to using it. I must however add that many of these drawbacks are easy to overcome.

It’s important to understand how well the shoe polish is going to do on your leather as well as the cons before making your final dyeing decision (no pun intended).

The Cons

Let’s start by taking a look at the downsides to using shoe polish to dye leather.

1. Uneven Dyeing

Generally, there are a variety of colors when it comes to shoe polish.

This will particularly depend on the brand and the range of shoe polish colors they produce.

While a company like Saphir Shoe Polish has up to 16 different colors, others will pretty much have the standard brown and black colors of shoe polish.

On a normal day, you will be able to use these different colors of shoe polish to nicely give your shoes a great look.

But when it comes to using the shoe polish as dye, you will not be able to achieve a nice even dye effect on your leather items.

The final color you may end up with would probably not be an even color. Your leather may end up having a blotchy or streaked effect on its surface.

This may not be the case all the time as the color you end up with depends on the level of finish placed on the surface of the leather item.

But the fact is, more than 90% of all leathers on the market will usually come finished and this is going to make dyeing leather with shoe polish a hectic task.

2. Color Transfer

Even if you’re able to successfully dye your leather items with shoe polish, you will have to deal with some amounts of the shoe polish getting transferred onto your clothes, skin, and any other thing that comes into contact with it.

The worse part is shoe polish does not only result in a color stain but a combination of stain and an oily or waxy effect.

This will especially happen because using shoe polish to dye your leather items is not going to be what is typically known as a fast dye and in the end, this could lead to the shoe polish getting transferred onto garments.

3. Non Permanent Dye

You may not get the best of the best dyeing with a shoes polish. As mentioned before, a shoe polish will mainly be made up of a petroleum-based wax with a staining agent.

Actual leather dyes will dye your leather goods permanently and will hardly come off.

They will sink deep into the leather and result in a permanent bond that will last for years.

However, unlike leather dyes, the shoe polish will not be able to give your leather the kind of permanent dyeing you would expect.

This is because shoe polish will often come predominantly formulated with some form of pigmented wax.

Because of this, what you will realize is as the wax wears off, a lot of the pigment will wear off too and this is not what you would typically want.

The way you would be able to get around shoe polish not being permanent on your leather items will be to apply some sort of top coating or sealer.

And you would want to apply the sealer or topcoat as soon as you’re done dyeing the leather with the shoe polish. This will help to protect the applied polish from wearing out.

But, hey, this sort of defeats the purpose of having to use shoe polish instead of leather dye. Think about it! If you would want to use shoe polish (especially if that all you have available) and have to buy a topcoat or sealer, then why not spend the same amount of money getting a leather dye that would be more effective and less time-consuming.

But, if you really like to use shoe polish as dye for whatever reason, you can still go ahead with it but be sure to get a sealer so that the dyeing is locked in and more permanent.

4. Time Consuming

Shoe polish whether liquid or wax will all take a longer time to dye your leather. Actual leather dyes will have the perfect viscosity, consistency, and saturation to get leather dyed in just a couple of minutes.

Shoe polish that comes in the form of wax will usually offer the best kind of dyeing on leather. However, it’s also the one that will take a really long time to complete.

You would have to take big chunks of shoe polish and then rub it into the leather over and over again working it deep into the pores of the leather.

Leather contains fibers that you would have to work the shoe polish into. And because of these leather fibers, you would want to work the shoe polish using different strokes and in different directions to be able to get a good and even coat.

This can sometimes take hours even if it’s only a pair of leather gloves.

The liquid shoe polish on the other hand will have a fairly good consistency to enable it to dye your leather. But you will have to apply it in a series of layers which will require some amount of waiting time for each layer to dry before proceeding to another layer application.

Since this will require a substantial amount of drying time in-between each layer application, it will take hours to be able to get the leather to the level of darkness you would require.

5. A Lot Of Shoe Polish Will Be Required

Using shoe polish to dye leather will need you to use a lot of polish. This means you will need a lot of polish to be able to successfully change the color of your leather.

On top of every thing, using shoe polish as dye can also be very messy. Your fingers may get a little dirty black from the shoe polish. The good thing is most shoe polish washes off easily.

The Pros:

Now that we have taken a look at the disadvantages of using shoe polish to dye leather, let’s now head over to the advantages of using it as a leather dye.

1. Results In a Nice Effect

Using shoe polish to dye leather will be particularly useful if you would like to give your leather some nice patina immediately.

The patina effect you will get when you use shoe polish to dye leather is simply amazing. The effect is going to be an antique finish especially on leather that’s coated.

If you do not want to go very crazy with dyeing your leather, using the shoe polish on your leather is going to put a tinge of your preferred shoe polish color on the leather.

2. Gives The Leather A Nice Texture

Using shoe polish on leather will give your leather a nice texture. Natural leather as a material will come with different natural textures and using shoe polish to dye leather is going to add a bit of extra texture to your leather.

3. Boost The Water Resistance of The Leather

Using shoe polish to dye leather will also put a protective layer on the surface of your leather.

This because most shoe polish, especially the ones that come in the form of paste will have its main ingredient being wax.

4. Helps To Remove Scuffs

Another great benefit of using shoe polish to dye leather is that the polish is going to help remove all scuffs and disguise all minor scratches on the surface of the leather.

Here’s How To Dye Leather With Shoe Polish

Spoiler alert! This method will still require the use of leather dyes. This is how I personally do it and have found it to be quite effective. Here’s how I go about it.


Step 1: What I always do is to first strip off any foreign materials off the surface of the leather with 91-99% isopropyl or rubbing alcohol.

Step 2: Once this is done, I then use 1500 grit wet-dry sandpaper to sand the surface of the leather. This will help to introduce some micro-scratches that help to remove imperfections from the leather surface.

Step 3: At this point, I now leave the leather to dry. Once the leather is dry, I apply leather dye over the surface of the leather. One of my most preferred leather dyes is fiebing’s leather dye.

Step 4: After the dyeing is complete, I let it air dry and then use shoe polish to simply add a shine.

Final Thoughts

All in all, you can see clearly that the disadvantages of using only shoe polish as a dye for leather far outweigh the advantages. Personally, I will always prefer using a regular leather dye to shoe polish as a dye because of the disadvantages I have highlighted above.

Or if I have to use shoe polish in any dyeing process, it will be done the exact way I have described in the paragraph above.

Thanks for checking out this article and I sure hope it was helpful to you.


Hi! I’m Kwabena, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leathercraft enthusiast and I’ve been that for almost 13 years now. I'm excited to share my experiences and all the new stuff I learn each day about leather craft, leather cleaning & care, and everything in-between!

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