9 Awful Ways Bleach Affects Leather

Does bleach affect leather

We all know that bleach is great for cleaning, but did you know it also has some not so desirable effects on all leather items like shoes, jackets, bags, etc. In this article, I’m going to share with you 9 awful ways bleach affects leather.

Does bleach affect leather? Not to mince words, bleach is absolutely terrible for leather as it can cause the leather to dry out, shrink, loose its natural smell, and remove the natural smell and finish of the leather.

In fact, it can cause all sorts of problems – some that you may not even be aware of and some that will simply be irreparable. So, without further ado, let’s take a detailed look at the top 9 ways bleach can ruin your leather belongings.

1. Bleach Causes Leather To Becomes Brittle and Starts To Crack

One of the most common ways bleach affects leather is by making it brittle. Over time, this can cause the leather to start cracking and come apart.

When you use bleach on your leather items the bleach strips the natural essential oils from the fibres of the leather cause it to become brittle which in all instances leads to cracks.

As you may already know, leather needs to be nourished and lubricated in order for its fibres to stay together and keep it supple.

By using bleach, you’re essentially stripping the leather of all its lubricants which results in a more rigid texture that’s susceptible to cracking or splitting.

In most cases the result is an irreparable tear, split or crack.

2. Bleach Will Cause The Leather To Discolor, Fade, and Bleached

Another common side effect of bleach on leather is that it will cause the item to discolor.

Over time, this can lead to a significant loss of color – and in some cases, the leather may even start to look faded.

What usually happen is you see some stain on your leather item that you try to clean with bleach and instead of the bleach targeting the stains or dirt, it starts to bleach out the leather.

This will leave your leather looking blotchy, stained or faded in certain areas.

In some cases, you may even see a white film form on the surface of the leather – and this is definitely not a good sign.

If you are experiencing any of these discoloration problems, please stop using bleach immediately.

In all likelihood, your leather item will not return to its original color after it has been bleached.

3. Bleach Causes Leather To Dry Out and Shrink

One of the worst things bleach can do to leather is cause it to dry out and shrink.

This often happens when bleach is used in conjunction with heat, such as when you use a blow dryer on your leather item.

The combination of bleach and heat will quickly dehydrate the leather, causing it to shrink and become even more brittle.

This is a clear sign that the leather has lost it essential oils and moisture and therefore will become even more vulnerable to cracking and splitting.

If you notice your leather item has started to dry out, shrink or crack, please refrain from using bleach on it.

Not only does this reaction speed up the aging process of the leather but can actually cause permanent damage as well.

Leather is an expensive material, so it’s important to take care of it.

4. Bleach Can Cause Permanent Stains

Another thing bleach can do to leather is cause permanent stains.

When you use bleach on your leather item, it will strip the surface of any color – and this means that even if you remove the original stain with a cleaner or soap and water, bleached out area may still be visible.

This often happens when grease from food or other dirt gets onto the leather.

The bleach will remove the color of the leather and leave a permanent, unsightly stain in its place.

This will happen no matter how much you dilute the bleach.

5. Bleach Can Make Leather Lose Its Shape or Flexibility

There is a huge misconception that bleach can be used on white leather items to brighten them up.

This is not true – and if you try to use bleach on white leather, the result will be a destroyed item with no hope of repair.

When you use bleach on your leather it can weaken the leather causing the leather item to loose its shape and flexibility.

Leather as a material is able to hold its shape and once you bleach a leather item it causes the leather to become more rigid.

6. Leather May Become Hard and Uncomfortable to Wear or Use

We all love the luxurious feel of leather items such as jackets, shoes, hats, etc. We all love the way the leather breaks in to suit our body type and how it becomes more comfortable with use.

But, when you bleach leather, all of that changes. The leather will become less flexible and more difficult to wear or use – in fact, it may even be uncomfortable.

Over time, the leather may start to feel hard and stiff – which is definitely not what you want in your clothing, furniture or accessories.

An instead of the leather item becoming more supple and comfortable with use, it becomes less so.

7. Bleach Can Cause Leather to Lose Its Natural Smell

One of the most noticeable changes when you use bleach on leather is that it can cause the item to lose its natural smell.

Leather has a very distinct, unique fragrance which comes from all of the oils in the material. The rich leathery smell is so good that it causes the entire room to smell good.

But, when you use bleach on the leather item this smell fades away over time because it can remove all of those essential oils that give your leather its distinct fragrance.

This is just another reason to avoid using bleach on your leather items and instead opt for a cleaner or soap and water like I always recommend.

8. Bleach Will Damage The Natural Finish On The Leather

Leather is finished to make it look nicer and to protect it from becoming damaged. These finishes, often made up of waxes and oils, can be damaged or removed when you use bleach on your leather.

When the finish is removed, it leaves the leather item open to all sorts of damage including cracking, splitting, staining, to mention a few.

The natural finish is what protects the leather from these things and so by using bleach you are essentially removing this protection and making the leather item much more vulnerable.

The natural look of the leather will be replaced with a dull, faded appearance that is not at all pleasing to the eye.

9. Leather May Be Damaged Beyond All Repair

Ultimately, when you use bleach on your leather items, the result could be permanent damage.

The chemicals in bleach are so harsh that they can ruin leather permanently if exposed to them even for a short amount of time and even with very low concentration of bleach.

This is to tell you how distractive bleach can be to leather.

So if you use bleach on your leather, don’t expect it to “wash out” or come clean – in fact, there is a good chance that the damage may not even wash out with soap and water either.

This would make the item unusable which means you will have just wasted money too.

Final Thoughts

So as you can see, bleach is clearly not the best option when it comes to cleaning or maintaining your leather items.

There are plenty of other great, non-toxic and safe ways to clean your leather that I have mentioned in many of my other blog posts – so be sure to check those out.

Leather is a precious material that does not deserve to be treated harshly by bleach or any harsh chemical.

It deserves better and so do you, after all it is an heirloom piece of clothing or accessory – its a part of your life’s story. So keep it safe from destructive chemicals like bleach.


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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