8 Easy Ways To Protect Leather From Color Transfer

how do you protect leather from color transfer

Leather is a beautiful material with many benefits. It’s durable, it doesn’t show dirt too easily, and it looks incredible in modern homes. But leather needs to be protected to prevent color transfer.

So how do you protect leather from color transfer? Here is how to protect your leather from color transfer;

  1. Be Careful With What You Wear
  2. Use A Sealant, Protector, Or Waterproofer
  3. Avoid Getting Your Leather Wet
  4. Storing The Leather Properly
  5. Use A Leather Conditioner
  6. Remove Stains As Soon As Possible
  7. Avoid Prolonged Exposure To Direct Sunshine
  8. Avoid Using Ammonia-Based Cleaners

Keep reading for more details about how to protect leather from color transfer. But first, how does leather get color transfer?

How Does Leather Get Color Transfer?

Leather is a natural material, and as such, it can be affected by color transfer. Color transfer happens when the dyes or colors from one object come in contact with another object.

In the case of leather, this means that if you aren’t careful about what you wear, the colors from your clothes can transfer to the leather and leave a mark.

This can be a particular issue with light-colored leather, as it is more likely to show marks or stains.

But color transfer isn’t just limited to clothes; it can also happen when you eat or drink near your leather items such as furniture or accessories.

Not forgetting make-up such as foundation, blush, and lipstick which will also discolor leather over time.

Leather with time and age can also have certain color transfers that you often would not know how they happen or occur.

So now that you know a little more about how leather can get color transfer, let’s take a look at how to protect it from happening.

How To Prevent Color Transfer On Leather

Allowing color to get transferred onto your leather items can leave your leather items looking dull and stained.

The good news is that there are several methods you can use to prevent color transfer on leather, and we will discuss some of them below;

1. Be Careful With What You Wear

One of the main ways to protect leather from color transfer is to be careful with what you wear while you’re around your leather items.

If you know that you’re going to be near your leather furniture or accessories, try not to wear clothing that is prone to staining, like dark denim jeans or fleece-lined coats.

Instead, opt for lighter colors like white and cream to prevent color transfer onto your leather items.

You can also use a barrier between you and the leather item that you’d like to protect from color transfer. For example, if you’re wearing denim jeans over your leather shoes, you can fold the cuffs of your pants down.

This will prevent color transfer onto the leather part of the shoes while allowing you to wear typical denin jeans with your outfit.

2. Use A Sealant, Protector, Or Waterproofer

One of the best ways to prevent color transfer on leather is to use a sealant, protector, or waterproofer.

These products will help create a barrier between your leather and any potential staining or discoloring agents, which will help keep your leather looking its best for years to come.

When you apply a leather sealant or protector, make sure you read the instructions carefully and follow them to a tee.

This will help to maximize your chances of preventing color transfer on leather.

3. Avoid Getting Your Leather Wet

In addition to using a sealant, protector, or waterproofer, you should avoid getting your leather items wet as much as possible to avoid color transfer.

Water can cause significant damage and destruction to the fibers that make up your leather item which will result in discoloration and potential cracking or tearing – neither of which are fun!

When leather is wet its becomes risky or susceptible to color transfer. This is why before the leather is dyed it is first dampened with water so that the dye is able to soak into the leather more thoroughly.

If you have a pair of leather boots, for instance, it’s best not to wear them when it is raining outside. If you do get caught in the rain and your boots are wet or dampened by water anything that can color your leather would easily do so.

You should also avoid getting your leather couch wet and if you do, make sure to dry it immediately and thoroughly before use.

4. Storing The Leather Properly

Another way to protect leather from color transfer is by storing your leather items properly.

For example, you do not want to store patent leather items close together. You always want to leave ample space between them so that they don’t rub up against each other and cause color transfer.

You should also store your leather items in a cool, dry place where there is little to no humidity.

This will help keep the fibers in your leather strong and less likely to absorb any unwanted colors from external sources.

5. Use A Leather Conditioner

Using a leather conditioner is also another great way to protect your leather from color transfer.

Leather conditioners can be used to help nourish and moisturize your leather, which will keep it looking great for years to come.

Conditioners keep your leather hydrated and supple, which prevents color transfer because there isn’t enough moisture present for the dye to adhere to.

You should only use an oil-based or silicone-based conditioner, as water-based conditioners will actually cause the leather to become more susceptible to color transfer.

For those that have a natural patina on their existing leather items, using a leather conditioner helps to keep the oils and conditioners in balance so that it does not look overdone.

6. Remove Stains As Soon As Possible

The best way to avoid any long-term damage to your leather is to clean any stains as soon as they occur.

If you catch a stain early on, and thoroughly remove it, then it is less likely that the stain will spread or get transferred to other parts of the leather.

For instance, if you spill a glass of red wine on your white leather couch and then immediately wipe it with a wet rag or paper towel before the color has time to set in, then there is less likely going to be any damage done than if you wait until later that night when all of the liquid has dried up.

7. Avoid Prolonged Exposure To Direct Sunshine

Direct sunlight is the number one cause of discoloration, dryness, and cracking in many types of leather furniture.

For this reason, it’s important to avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunshine by making sure your items are placed out of direct view or used with a protective cover if necessary.

Many leather cleaners now come with a protective spray that contains both cleaning agents as well as high levels of ultraviolet protection from direct or indirect sunlight exposure.

In general, this will be an aerosol-based product that you can apply to your leather on a regular basis.

Just be sure to test it in an inconspicuous area before spraying it all over your furniture!

If you are not able to find a leather cleaner with UV protection, then you can always buy a standalone product that provides this same level of protection. Just make sure that it is compatible with leather and that you apply it on a regular basis.

8. Avoid Using Ammonia-Based Cleaners

As we mentioned earlier, ammonia-based cleaners are the number one cause of color transfer on leather – so it’s important to avoid using them as much as possible.

These types of cleaners can be very harsh and damaging to your leather, and they can often strip away the surface color and leave behind a dull finish.

If you do need to clean your leather item, then I will recommend using a mild soap or detergent that is specifically designed for use on leather. These products can be found at most stores that carry leather care supplies.

How To Remove Color Transfer From Leather

If you have already transferred some unwanted color onto your leather, then don’t worry – there are ways to remove it.

Damp Cloth Method

The first thing you should try is to use a damp cloth or paper towel with mild soap or detergent on it.

This will help lift the color off of your leather without having to scrub too hard, which can damage the surface fibers if done excessively.

If this does not work then go ahead and move on to one of these other methods.

Leather Cleaner

One way is to use a commercial leather cleaner or degreaser that is specifically designed to remove dye transfer from leather.

If you don’t have access to a commercial cleaner, then you can also just use any type of mild dish soap or detergent that is designed for cleaning up grease and oil stains in general.

Just be sure not to overuse it because the idea here isn’t to strip away all of your leather’s natural oils – otherwise, you will end up with a dry and cracked leather item.

If you choose to use a commercial cleaner, then make sure that it is specifically designed for use on leather in general – don’t just grab anything from the cleaning aisle at your local store!

White Vinegar

Another way to remove color transfer from leather is by using white vinegar. Just mix it with water in a 50/50 ratio and apply it to a clean cloth. Then, use the cloth to gently rub the stained area until the stain starts to disappear.

Be sure not to saturate the leather with the vinegar mixture, as this can cause the color to bleed and create a bigger mess than before.

Instead, just focus on applying it directly over the stained area – be patient – and then use your rag or paper towel to blot up any excess liquid that remains after you’re done working with it.

White Magic Eraser

If all else fails, you can try using a white magic eraser. This is a type of sponge that is made from melamine foam and it’s designed to remove tough dirt and grime stains from a variety of surfaces.

Just wet the eraser, wring it out so that it’s not dripping wet, and then rub it in a back-and-forth motion over the stained area.

As long as you don’t press too hard and apply it evenly, then this should do the trick!

Just be sure to wash it off with soap and water after each use so that it does not become caked full of dirt and grime from your leather item.

Final Thoughts

Leather is an amazing material, but it needs to be protected from color transfer in order to maintain its beauty and durability.

By using a sealant, protector, or waterproofer; avoiding water damage; and using a protective spray with UV protection, you can keep your leather looking and feeling great for years to come.


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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