Does Leather Dye Go Bad? (What To Look Out For!)

does leather dye go bad

Leather dye is a product that can be used to color, disguise or restore the natural color of leather. Leather dye comes in many different colors and has been available for years, but does leather dye go bad? In this article, I will take a look at how much time you have before your leather dye expires and what happens if you use expired dye on your leather.

Simply put, leather dyes can go bad. Leather dyes contain ingredients and chemicals that can weaken or stop reacting over time. The shelf life or how long a leather dye will last depends on how the dye is kept and other environmental factors.

Generally, an unopened box leather dye can last up to 5 years while leather dyes with broken seals could last 1 – 2 years. But it is important to test out the dye on a small inconspicuous part of your leather item.

Keep reading this article to find out more!

How Long Does Leather Dye Last?

It is difficult to know exactly how long it takes leather dye to expire because it is dependent on several different factors.

Some of these factors include how the leather dye is stored, how much time it spends in storage, and what happens to it after it has been opened.

A leather dye that is stored in a cool, dark place will last longer than one that has been left out where it can be exposed to sunlight.

Once a box of leather dye has been opened, the shelf life is shortened to about one year. Dyes that have been exposed to air, water, or other contaminants might not last even a full year.

If you are unsure about the expiration date on your leather dye box, it is best to err on the side of caution and not use it.

Not only will you be sure that your leather dye performs as expected, but you will also avoid any potential damage to your leather items and health risks.

How Does Leather Dye Expire?

1. Leather Dye Will Go Bad From Age

As leather dyes age, the chemicals in them begin to break down and eventually lose their effectiveness. If you use an old dye on your leather item, you might end up with an unsatisfactory result. You could also damage your leather and cause it to lose its color prematurely.

2. Leather Dye Will Go Bad If Exposed To Sunlight and Heat

Sunlight and heat can both have a negative effect on leather dye. This is because these things break down the chemicals in the dyes, which in turn causes them to stop working.

The longer leather dye is exposed to sunlight or heat, the less effective it becomes.

Sunlight and heat can have a big impact on leather dye because most people store their dyes in places that receive plenty of either.

For example, if you keep your leather dye in a cabinet that is located in the kitchen near your stove, there’s a good chance that it will be exposed to heat on an ongoing basis.

3. Leather Dye Can Change Colors or Stop Reacting After Being Exposed To Water or Other Contaminants

Water and other contaminants like dirt or grease can actually change the lifespan of a leather dye in the long term and its resulting color in the short term.

They might also stop it from reacting as they should at all. When leather dye comes into contact with water or other contaminants, it can discolor the leather or stop reacting.

Signs That Your Leather Dye Has Gone Bad

Before you use leather dye, it is important to check that it has not expired or gone bad. If your leather dye fails any of the following tests, it is likely that the dye has gone bad and should not be used on your leather items:

#The Color of the Liquid In The Leather Dye Bottle

If the color of your leather dye has changed, it is likely that its ability to produce a quality color on your leather items has also decreased.

#The Leather Dye Bottle Is Warped or The Seal is Broken

If your leather dye bottle appears warped or the seal has been broken, it is likely that contaminants and air have gotten into the product.

When this happens it is more likely to have an expired shelf life, which means that you should not use it on your leather items and achieve the desired results you may desire.

For alcohol or spirit dyes, once the seal is broken or the dye is left without a cover, it could essentially dry out.

#Strong Unusualy Smell

If your leather dye has a strong, unusual smell to it when you remove the lid or open up the bottle, this is usually a sign that the dye has gone bad.

Once leather dye is exposed to air, it typically takes on different chemical compositions and an unpleasant smell. The more time that goes by, the stronger this smell will become.

When the leather dye has gone bad, its ability to produce a quality color on your leather items will be compromised. To avoid this, it is best to always store your dyes in a cool, dry place and use them within one year of opening the bottle.

#Liquid that’s Streaked Or Separated

If your leather dye liquid is streaked or has separated, it typically means that the chemical composition of the dye no longer works as intended.

When this happens it is more likely to experience an expired shelf life, which means that you should throw the dye away and not use it on your leather items.

But it is important to add that most water-based leather dyes will get separated and wouldn’t have expired. In which case you typically need to mix it back together again before applying it to your leather item.

So it is important to know the vehicle for your leather dye before concluding it has gone bad or not.

#Caking Around The Bottle Cap

If you notice caking around the bottle cap or seams, it is likely that your leather dye has gone bad. The more time that goes by, the worse this caking will typically become.

For water-based leather dyes, if they are left without a cap or are exposed to air, they typically get caked around the bottle cap or gradually form a cake at the bottom of the bottle.

In both cases, you can often fix this issue by shaking, stirring, and adding some water. But first, you would want to test out the dye on a piece of leather first before putting it to use.

How To Make Leather Dye Last Longer

  • The best way to make leather dye last longer is by practicing proper storage techniques. Leather dye should be stored in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.
  • It can also help to store leather dye with other products that will not react with it.
  • Using distilled water in place of regular tap water is also helpful in making your leather dye last longer. This is because a lot of tap water contains mold which can react with the dye and affect its shelf life.
  • Keep lids on tight at all times when not in use.
  • Do not store near heat sources.
  • Do not mix dyes together (i.e. black and brown) as they could have difference vehicles. For example while some dyes are spirit based, there are also water-based dyes on the market today.
  • Storing leather dyes in refrigerators is something you would want to check with specific products before you do it. For example, I know about some leather dyes that are cold-processed that can be stored in refrigerators.
  • Keep a watchful eye for any change in color or smell.
  • If you need to store leather dye for more than one year, consider transferring it into smaller bottles if the original container is bigger than what’s inside.
  • Most water based leather dyes are going to separate and won’t expire although they may still smell. So shake it well or stir it up again before applying to your leather item.
  • You should never mix alcohol or spirit-based leather dyes together as they could have different vehicles. Vehicle is essentially the carrier of a particular dye and if mixed with another dye, the vehicle may change and cause streaking or uneven color.

What Happens If You Use Expired Leather Dye?

Generally, you can use an expired leather dye after it has expired within the first few months up to a year or two. But you would want to test it out on a small inconspicuous part of your leather item before using it on the entire surface of your leather.

In the worst-case scenario, if you use expired leather dye, and you’re trying to match an existing color of a leather item then the color will probably not match because it will have changed over time.

It is also possible that your leather dye will not be as strong and clean as you would want freshly dyed leather to be.


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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