5 Easy Ways To Soften Leather After Dying

How to soften leather after dying

Leather becoming slightly or significantly stiff after dying is a very common thing. But how do you soften leather after you have dyed it? In this article, I’m going to show you 5 easy but effective ways of softening leather after dying it.

So how do you soften leather after dying? Using alcohol leather dyes and allowing dyed leather to dry too quickly are two of the main causes of leather. Some of the most effective ways to soften leather after dying include:

  1. Wax Finishing
  2. The Saddle Soap Method
  3. The Neatsfoot Oil Method
  4. The Heat Method
  5. Manual Method

In order to learn more about the individual processes or methods for softening leather after dying, keep reading this article.

How To Soften Leather After Dying – Details

Now that we have taken a look at the things that can possibly cause leather to become stiff after dying, let’s head over to the methods you can use to soften it.

1. Wax Finishing

Putting on wax finish timely as soon as you apply the last layer of leather dye to your leather is a step that most people miss and as a result, their dyed leather becomes unyielding, thus, requiring the leather to be softened. The Wax finish is placed after the final coat of the leather dye has completely dried.

Wax finishes are usually wax-based conditioners that will immediately re-hydrate the leather and prevent it from drying – caused by the dye itself or the leather dying process. These finishes are also able to help carry dyes into the pores of leather while sealing it off securely on the leather.

Thing Needed:

  • 2 Soft cotton rag
  • Wax-based leather conditioner


Step 1: Put a liberal amount of the wax-based leather conditioner on a soft cotton rag or microfiber cloth.

Step 2: Apply the cotton cloth with the conditioner over the surface of the dyed leather in a gentle circular motion. Ensure the entire dyed leather area is conditioned.

Step 3: Allow the conditioner to dry.

Step 4: Finally, lightly buff away any excess leather conditioner from the leather surface with a dry clean rag.

2. The Saddle Soap Method

Using saddle soap to soften leather after dying is another feasible way of solving stiff leather after dying. This is a great remedy if your dyed leather is not too stiff. The only thing you need to consider is to ensure you get a high-quality leather saddle soap in order for this to work.

While there are countless number of leather saddle soaps out there on the market, you would want one that will not only contain cleaning agents but also have conditioning prowess so that your leather will be softened nicely.

Things Needed:

  • Leather Saddle Soap
  • Soft cleaning rag
  • Drying Cloth


Step 1: After your dying is complete and the leather has thoroughly dried, put a small amount of saddle soap on your applicator rag.

Step 2: Now gently rub the rag over the entire surface of the leather. Use a clockwise rubbing motion and repeat the motion until the saddle soap disappears and is no longer visible.

Step 3: Use your drying cloth to wipe off any excess saddle soap residue from the dyed leather surface.

3. The Neatsfoot Oil Method

This is one of the several oiling methods you can use to make leather soft after dying. As this method’s name implies, it includes the use of Neatsfoot oil in a few steps to accomplish it. The main downside when it comes to using Neatsfoot oil is how it tends to darken leather after it’s applied.

So you would want to be particularly careful with light-colored leather in the browns and other light colors as they will appear black after the Neatsfoot oiling is done. Let’s first see what you will need and then follow a simple step-by-step process to soften your leather after it’s dyed.  

Things Needed:

  • Neatsfoot Oil
  • 2 Soft Clean Cloth – Microfiber Cloth Preferable


Step 1: Make sure the dye you applied is completely dry on the leather.

Step 2: Put a few drops of Neatsfoot oil on your soft clean cloth.

Step 3: Use the oiled cloth to wipe over the dyed leather surface. Make sure to apply the Neatsfoot oil as swiftly and evenly as possible. Be careful not to put too much Neatsfoot oil on the leather or over-saturate it.

Step 4: After applying a light coat of Neatsfoot oil on the leather allow it to air dry for about 24 hours. This will allow enough time for the Neatsfoot oil to soak completely into the leather.

Step 5: What I find interesting is that the leather may not soften immediately. So what you will have to do is to repeat the Neatsfoot oiling process 2 – 3 times before the dyed leather begins to soften.

You will sooner or later after a couple of projects be able to have a good feel for how much Neatsfoot oil is required to get the best softening result.

4. The Heat Method

The heat method of softening leather after dying is another interesting remedy. In this method, it’s required that you apply a moderate amount of heat to the dyed leather to get it to soften.

One simple way around this method is to basically leave the dyed leather in a warm, humid place. This can be in the bathroom while you’re taking a hot shower.

The steam from the shower will be able to sufficiently bathe the dyed leather in moisture. However, you’re not to let the dyed leather sit for so long in the bathroom.

Alternatively, you can use a hairdryer. The hairdryer is particularly great because it enables you to work on specific areas of the dyed leather that needs softening. Remember to keep the hairdryer at a safe distance from the dyed leather to avoid burning or causing severe wrinkle damage to the leather.

5. Manual Method

Last but not the least, is the manual method. In this method, there are about 2 basic ways you can do this. You can either break into the leather naturally or tenderize the dyed leather.

Tenderizing The Leather

This method of manually softening dyed leather involves using a soft rubber mallet to beat down the leather all over. Only a moderate amount of force or gentle taps is required for this method.

The taps should be evenly distributed on the entire surface of the dyed leather. Try not to hit the leather too hard that it damages it. Also, you would want to keep your blows away from the seams, flaps, straps, and any fasteners or fittings on the leather such as buttons, eyelets, rivets or zippers.

The blows you place on the leather with your rubber mallet will essentially compress the leather and by doing so, the leather will be tenderized just like a tough piece of beefsteak.

Breaking In

If the idea of landing blows on your dyed leather is simply too much for you, then you might find breaking in your leather naturally over a period of time to be a less brutal approach. This is basically putting your leather to use as often as possible and every time you get.

While this may not have instant results, it’s certainly a less costly, non-invasive approach to softening dyed leather.

TIPS On How To Prepare Leather For Dying So It Doesn’t Stiffen

  • When you dye your leather with a water-based leather dye, always apply some Neatsfoot oil on the leather after dying. This will help restore the natural oils of the leather.
  • If possible go for oil-based dyes
  • Slightly case your leather before dying
  • You can also put a light coat of oil on the leather before you begin dying


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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