Step-By-Step Guide On How To Darken Leather With Sunlight

how to darken leather with sun

You don’t always need leather dyes to darken the color of your leather goods and if you’re reading this article, then chances are that you know you can actually darken your leather using sunlight. In this article, I’m going to share with you the best ways of using the sun to darken leather without ruining your leather items.

So, how do you darken leather with the sun? Here’s a summary step-by-guide on how to darken your leather with sunlight;

  • Step 1: Prepare The Leather Item(s) To Be Darkened By Cleaning
  • Step 2: Oil or Condition Your Leather
  • Step 3: Place The Leather Item At A Place With Direct Sunlight
  • Step 4: Re-Condition The Darkened Leather With A Good Leather Conditioner
  • Step 5: Allow The Leather To Air-Dry

Obviously, there’s more to the summary above. To learn more about how to darken leather with the sun, continue reading this article.

Things Needed

There are a few things you would need to be able to darken leather with the sun the proper way. These things include:

  • Leather or item to be darkened
  • Microfiber Cloth or Any Lint Free Cloth
  • Leather Conditioner or Leather Oil
  • A Good Sun Spot

Below are details on the things you will need to be able to successfully darken your leather items. You can Click Here To Skip directly to procedures on how to darken leather with the sun.

1. Leather or Leather Item:

The choice of leather item to be darkened by using the sun is very important. Darkening leather items like belts, wallets, leather watch straps, and other leather items will usually be a lot easier since they only come with just one side.

But other types of leather goods such as bags, jackets, shoes, etc will require good timing in sunlight and timely rotating or turning the leather item so that it’s darkened evenly.

For crafters, you would want to get all the patterns of the leather item you’re making ready to be darkened before assembly. This way, all of the various parts of the leather item would be evenly and nicely darkened.

Pro Tip: The best type of leather that will enable you to achieve a very nice even burn, tan, or darkening is going to be unfinished or semi-finished vegetable-tanned leather. This type of leather will generally become darker easily and will also build up a nice patina over time.

2. Leather Deglazer or Rubbing Alcohol:

A Leather Deglazer will be useful for removing any form of grease on the surface of the leather to be darkened. It can also be used to remove wax, oil, dirt, fingerprints, stains, or glaze build-up from the surface of either old or new leather items.

Chances are if you refuse to deglaze your leather goods, the stains, dirt, wax, or grease buildup can resist the leather conditioner or leather oils from spreading evenly and this can affect the overall quality of the leather tan you’re going to get.

Related Article: 2 Leather Deglazer Alternatives: How To Use Plus Pros & Cons

3. Microfiber Cloth or Any Lint Free Cloth:

You will need to use a good lint-free cloth to help you apply and evenly spread the oil or conditioner on the leather.

Failure to use such clothes can cause you to leave scratch marks on your leather during the conditioning or oiling processes before and after the darkening is complete.

4. Leather Conditioner:

Using a leather conditioner when darkening leather is a great way to allow the leather to achieve a really great tan right of the back. Not only does it initiate the first instance of the leather darkening but it’s also used to keep the leather protected from the harmful rays of the sun during the sunbathing process.

Generally, the sun has really bad effects such as drying, cracking, discoloration on leather. So using the leather conditioner is to ensure the sun only darkens it as it’s intended to be and nothing else.

Related Article: 3 Best Leather Cleaners And Conditioners For Matte Finish

5. Leather Oil:

Instead of a leather conditioner, you can also use any leather appropriate oil such as mink oil or coconut oil. This will also have an effect similar to what you’re going to have with a leather conditioner. It will ensure the leather doesn’t dry up while allowing the leather to have a good tan.

There are a lot of other natural leather oils and conditioners out there like beeswax and a host of others that will also serve almost the same purpose.

Pro Tip: Most of the leather conditioners and oils you use for the purposes of darkening leather is going to cause the leather to have a different color to its shade. While leather conditioners like the RedWing All Natural Oil will result in an ochre color which is a lot more browny in shade, others like beeswax will give you a yellowish tan on leather.

So when choosing oils or leather conditioners for your leather darkening, it comes down to personal preferences and what you like.

If you want to darken your leather with the sun but only make use of household items, then you can go for coconut oil – a very common household item.

If you would prefer oil or conditioner that will give your leather absolute protection while achieving a very nice darkened effect on your leather, then you might want to get any of the top-rated leather conditioners on the market.

Most leather conditioners have the quality of making leather darker after application. This will generally result in a good tan.

You might want to also experiment with different leather oils and conditioners to see which effect you like the most.

Tip: When it comes to leather conditioners and leather oils you would want to limit it to All Natural Products.

Related Article: Difference Between Leather Conditioner and Mink Oil (Plus Which is Best!)

6. A Good Sun Spot:

You need to find a good spot with direct sunlight where you can safely place the leather. You would want to find a spot where the leather item can be left for a really long time if necessary.

Procedure On How To Darken Leather With The Sun

Follow these simple steps to darken your leather goods with sunlight.

Step 1: Prepare The Leather Item(s) To Be Darkened By Cleaning

  • The first step is to dust and clean off any dirt your leather item may have accumulated especially if the leather item is old. These may include any form of dust, debris, and stains.
  • Or just to be sure your leather item is void of any form of dirt or grease, you can use a leather deglazer to remove any traces of dirt and grease to help prepare the surface so that the leather conditioner you’re going to apply spreads evenly without leaving any blotches.
  • Clean as gently as possible and as thorough as you can.

Step 2: Oil or Condition You Leather

  • Load your microfiber cloth with the leather conditioner or oil and start oiling the surface of the leather.
  • Apply as thoroughly as possible and do not oversaturate any section of the leather.

Step 3: Place The Leather Item Under Direct Sunlight

  • Put the leather item under direct sunlight.
  • Leave the leather item in the sun for some time depending on how dark you would want your leather item to be.
  • So basically, the longer you leave the leather item under direct sunlight, the more darker it’s going to be.
  • But from time to time, you would want to be checking on how darker the leather is becoming and decide whether you would want it to stay a bit longer or not.
  • For a pretty standard dark tone you would want to aim for about 1 to 2 hours.
  • But it basically comes down to personal preference. With that said, you, however, do not want to leave the leather too long under direct sunlight as it can cause all the essential oils and natural moisture including the leather oil and conditioner you just applied (in step 2) on the leather to dry up leading the leather to dry, crack, or peel.

Related Article: Why Does Leather Peel?

Step 4: Clean and Condition The Leather

  • Leather after it is oiled will sometimes easily trap dirt or dust so you would want to clean or wipe it down a bit with a clean cloth.
  • Now that you have achieved the level of darkness you want, you can now condition the leather in case the leather lost some of its essential oils and moisture.
  • Not only is this important to replenish and nourish the leather but to also keep the leather looking good after the leather has been darkened.

Step 5: Dry

  • Allow the leather to air in a cool dry place.

Quick Tips To Remember When Darkening Leather With Sunlight

  • Although you can darkening old leather goods with sun, the best time to do it is when the leather item is new.
  • You would also want to always apply the leather oil on the grain side (the smooth side) of the leather. Never apply leather oil or conditioner on the flesh or rough side of leather as it’s too porous.
  • Apply enough oil on the surface of the leather as evenly as possible to get an even tone. Don’t apply oil on the leather in a sparing or random manner. This can result in blotches of tan on the surface of the leather.
  • Generally, oiling leather before sunbathing it will take a bit of time. But you would want to do it as quickly and as evenly as possible so that you don’t oversaturate one portion of the leather.
  • Do not put leather oil or conditioner directly on the leather. Always load the applicator cloth first before applying it to the leather.
  • After the application of the leather oil or conditioner, your leather will generally darken.


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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