Leather is a beautiful and luxurious material, but over time it can start to look a bit worn out. One of the most common complaints about leather is that the dye starts to wear off, leaving the material looking patchy and faded.
If you’re a leather crafter or leather user and you’re concerned about this happening to the leather goods you make or the leather furniture or accessories you have, don’t worry–I have a couple of easy fixes for you! In this article, we will discuss what causes leather dye to wear off and how to prevent it.
What Causes Leather Dye to Wear Off?
There are a few reasons leather dyes wear off. Here are the most common;
1. Exposure To Sunlight
One of the biggest causes of leather dye fading is exposure to sunlight. The UV rays from the sun can cause the dye molecules in the leather to break down, causing the color to fade.
If you have a piece of leather furniture or an accessory that you love and don’t want to see the color fade, try keeping it out of direct sunlight.
If that’s not possible, consider using a UV-resistant spray or sealant on the leather to help protect it from the sun’s rays.
2. Exposure To Water
This is pretty common with water-based and aniline dyes.
Water-based dyes are very popular because they’re easy to apply, and they give a beautiful, deep color to the leather. However, they’re not as resistant to fading as other types of dyes.
Aniline dyes are also susceptible to fading when exposed to water. This is because aniline dyes are absorbed into the leather, so when water gets on the surface of the leather, it can cause the dye to bleed out.
To prevent your leather from fading due to exposure to water, try using a waterproofing spray or sealant. This will help create a barrier between the water and the leather, keeping the dye from bleeding out.
If you’re worried about your leather getting wet, try to avoid exposing it to water as much as possible. If it does get wet, be sure to dry it off as soon as possible.
3. Friction/ Rubbing
If the leather item gets a lot of friction or rubbing, it can start to wear down the top layer of dye, causing the color to fade or wear off.
This is most common with items that are worn often, like shoes or belts. But it can also happen with leather furniture that gets a lot of use, like a couch or chair.
It is also very common to see this kind of leather dye wear off on leather car seats the more you slide in and out of them.
You can try using a leather conditioner or sealant to prevent this kind of wear. This will help to create a barrier between the leather and the friction, preventing the dye from wearing off.
You can also try to avoid exposing your leather to excessive friction or rubbing. If you do, be sure to condition or seal the leather regularly to help prevent the dye from wearing off.
4. Exposure To Sweat
Sweats do not only stink, but it contains a high concentration of salt, which is one of the many enemies of leather.
When the leather item gets exposed to sweat, it can first cause the color to bleed out, and then it will slowly eat away at the fibers causing it to weaken and eventually break down.
This is also very common with leather items that get a lot of body contact, like watch straps, shoes, belts, jackets, etc.
If you want to prevent your leather from being damaged by sweat, try to avoid exposing it to it as much as possible. If you get sweaty while wearing your leather item, clean it off as soon as possible.
5. Type Of Leather Dye Used
The type of leather dye used can also affect how long the color will last. Some dyes are more resistant to fading than others.
For example, regular powder-based dyes are notorious for being very susceptible to fading and wear off, while oil-based dyes are much more resistant.
If you want your leather item to last longer and keep its color, try to use a dye that is more resistant to fading. This way, you can avoid having to re-dye your leather as often.
But this has more to do with the leather item manufacturer or crafter than the user.
As a user, you would want to ask questions about what kind of leather and dye was used and their effects when it comes to wear before you make a purchase.
6. The Color Of The Dye Used
The color of the dye can also affect how long it will last before it starts to wear off. For example, black dyes are the ultimate culprits in dye wearing or rubbing off.
This is because black dyes are highly concentrated, so they tend to rub off or fade more easily than other colors.
Again, this has more to do with the leather manufacturer or crafter than the user. As a user, you would want to test the leather item’s color fastness before making a purchase.
7. Type of Leather
There are different ways leather is tanned, and how these leathers are tanned goes a long way to determining how long the leather dye will last.
For example, chrome-tanned leathers are usually factory dyed and sealed, so the colors tend to last a lot longer.
On the other hand, vegetable-tanned leathers are usually left undyed or only dyed on the surface. These leathers will require more care and maintenance to prevent the color from wearing off.
8. Using Harsh Cleaners
Lastly, using harsh cleaners can also cause the leather dye to fade or wear off.
This is because these cleaners can strip away the natural oils in the leather, causing it to dry out and become brittle. When this happens, the color will start to fade and eventually wear off.
To prevent this from happening, only use mild soaps and cleaners on your leather items. Avoid using harsh chemicals or cleaners that are not specifically designed for use on leather.
How To Prevent Leather Dye Wear Off–If You Have Leather Items
Now that we understand why leather dye can wear off, let’s look at ways to prevent it if you have a bunch of leather goods at home.
The good news is that there are some things you can do to help prolong the life of your leather and prevent the color from fading or wearing off.
Here are some tips:
- Avoid exposing your leather to excessive friction or rubbing. If you must, be sure to condition or seal the leather regularly.
- If your leather gets exposed to sweat, clean it off as soon as possible.
- Store your leather in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
- If you have a piece of furniture upholstered in leather, rotate the cushions or pillows periodically to distribute wear and tear evenly.
- Use a leather conditioner or sealant on your leather goods regularly. This will help to create a barrier against dirt, moisture, and other elements that can cause the color to fade or rub off.
- When cleaning your leather goods, use a mild soap and water solution. Avoid using harsh chemicals or cleaners, as this can strip away the natural oils in the leather and cause it to dry out.
By following these tips, you can help prolong the life of your leather goods and prevent the color from wearing or rubbing off.
Of course, no matter how well you take care of your leather items, eventually, the color will start to fade and wear off.
When this happens, you can always have your leather goods re-dyed to restore them to their original beauty. More on this later!
How To Prevent Leather Dye Wear Off–If You’re A Crafter
Now, if you’re a crafter, you have a responsibility to your customers to make sure the leather goods you sell will hold up over time.
To do this, here are a few tips that can help you out;
- As I would explain in detail later, if you’re a crafter, as far as dyeing goes, it has a lot to do with the processes you use in dyeing the leather although using good quality leather dyes help.
- You should also educate your customers on properly caring for their leather goods, as this will help prolong the item’s life and prevent the color from fading or wearing off.
- Make sure you use a high-quality leather dye that is designed to resist fading and wear. This will give your customers the best chance of their leather goods lasting for years to come.
- Use a sealant or conditioner on the leather after dying it. This will help create a barrier against dirt, moisture, and other elements that can cause the color to fade or wear off.
- When you’re finished crafting the item, give your customer care instructions on how to care for their new leather goods properly.
- This will help them prolong the item’s life and keep the color from fading or wearing off.
- It’s important to use high-quality leather dyes that are designed to resist fading and wear.
- One of my go-to leather dyes for leather crafting is the Fiebing’s Pro Dye. It comes in a limited range of colors, but the colors are very rich and vibrant.
- You can choose not to dye the underside or flesh-side of your leather goods to limit the chance of the dyes rubbing off or fading over time.
- Another thing you can do is to line the back of your leather goods with leather or fabric to prevent friction and also protect the dyes from rubbing off onto clothing or skin.
- Make sure the Edges of your leather products are properly sealed.
- Acrylic Finishes, leather balms, neatsfoot oils, and waxes on dyed leather help a lot in providing a good seal on the edges and the surface of your leather products and also helps to protect the dyes from fading or excessive wear.
How To Dye Or Re-dye Leather So It Does Not Wear Off
So we now see that most leather that is not factory dyed is more likely to wear off. Let’s take a look at how to properly dye leather so that it does not wear off.
Step One: Choose The Right Kind of Dye
- The first step to ensuring your leather dye does not wear off is to choose the right kind of dye.
- You’ll want to use an oil-based leather dye instead of a powder-based or water-based dye for this project.
- Oil-based leather dyes are the least likely to wear or rub off.
- A good example is the Fiebings Pro Dye which you can find on Amazon!
Step Two: Prep The Leather For Dyeing
- If you’ve had the leather for some time and it’s already been dyed, you’ll want to strip the old dye off before applying the new one.
- From experience, it is also good to even prep leather that has never been dyed.
- You can do this by using a leather prep solution like Fiebings Deglazer.
- Just apply it to a clean rag and wipe down the entire leather surface.
- Once you’re done, allow the leather to dry completely.
Step Two: Dye The Leather
- Now that you have the right kind of dye and have prepped the leather, it’s time to start dying the leather.
- The process is pretty simple and only requires a few supplies you probably already have around the house.
- You’ll need some gloves, a clean cloth, and your oil-based leather dye.
- Start by putting on the gloves and shaking the leather dye well.
- Then, using the clean cloth, apply the leather dye to the entire surface of the leather.
- Be sure to work it into all of the nooks and crannies.
Step Three: Leave The Dyed Leather To Air Dry
- Once you’re done, set the piece aside and allow it to dry for 2 hours to 24 hours.
- You’ll know it’s dry when it feels stiff to the touch.
Step Four: Lightly Oil The Leather
- Use neatsfoot oil (preferably compound-based, but pure neatsfoot oil works fine too) to lightly oil the surface of the leather.
- You’re only looking to put a thin layer on, so don’t go crazy with it!
- Once you’ve oiled the leather, buff it with a clean cloth to help work the oil into the material.
- It is important to note that you will see a bit of dye rub off during the oiling process.
- This is very normal, so don’t worry.
Step Five: Add A Top Coat To The Dyed Leather
- After you’ve oiled the leather, it’s time to add a top coat.
- A top coat helps to protect the dye job and makes the leather more resistant to wearing off or rubbing off.
- I like to use Fiebings Leather Balm with atom wax for this step, but any good quality leather balm will work just fine.
- Dilute the leather balm with some water (about 50/50) and apply it to the leather with a clean cloth.
- Be sure to work it into all of the nooks and crannies.
Step Six: Buff The Leather Surface
- Once you’re done, use a dry clean cloth to buff the surface of the leather.
- This will help to remove any excess leather balm and give the leather a nice shine.
- Then give the leather 5 to 10 minutes to air dry.
- And voila! You’re all done.
Pro Tip: Dyeing so the color does not wear off or rub off, has more to do with the processes used rather than the products used, so be sure to follow the steps closely!