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

What can you use to deglaze leather? Can you use acetone as a leather deglazer? These are just some of the few questions you may ask when you’re trying to find the best and possibly cheap alternatives to leather deglazers that won’t cause any damage to your precious leather item.

In this article, I’m going to show you 2 of the best alternatives to leather deglazers, how to use them, and how they’re going to work on your leather.

The best leather deglazer alternatives are 70%, 90% Rubbing Alcohol or Denatured Alcohol and Oxalic acid. While the oxalic acid will be great for safely removing harsh or stubborn glazes, grease or stains, the alcohol will be milder and safer for all your general leather deglazing activities.

There are a lot of things you need to understand about finding alternatives to leather deglazers since you’re basically going to be dealing with chemicals.

So for the remaining part of this article, I’m going to carefully walk you through the details on the best leather deglazer alternatives I have highlighted above so that you don’t damage your leather items in any way.

What is Leather Deglazer?

A leather deglazer is a chemical substance specially formulated to remove the topcoat of finished leather.

It’s generally used to remove any form of wax, grease, oil, dirt, fingerprints, stains, or glaze from the surface of either old or new leather items like shoes, bags, belts, wallets, sheaths, etc so that they can be dyed, redyed, or painted.

A leather deglazer removes the finish placed on the surface of the leather and open up the leather so that the leather is able to take up new dyes or paint easily.

A leather deglazer will also take care of any buildups on the leather after it has been used for so long.

To do this, it’s always essential the right deglazer is used so that the top finish of the leather is safely removed without damage the leather.

While leather deglazer is a very common liquid in most leather crafters tools box, it has also seen a lot of use among leather users especially in this era of DIYs – as a lot of people are DIY painting and dyeing their leather items.

Related Article: A Guide To The 2 Best Leather Deglazers

Details On The Best Leather Deglazer Alternatives

Here are the 2 best leather deglazer alternatives or substitutes you can use to safely deglaze your leather items. These alternatives are generally a lot cheaper and may be a lot more easier to find than your regular leather deglazer.

1. 70%, 90% Rubbing Alcohol or Denatured Alcohol

Using plain alcohol is a great alternative to deglazing leather. Generally, rubbing alcohol is one of the underrated substances by most leathercrafters and leather users.

While this may usually be kept as an essential element in a first aid box due to its disinfectant prowess, it will surely work magic for your leather item when you want to deglaze for leather re-dyeing or painting.

Generally, rubbing alcohol will have ethanol or isopropyl as its key ingredient.

These ingredients will usually also be the main ingredients in the ready-made leather deglazers you will often find on the market – with an addition of some kind of acetic or citric acid.

So yes! Your regular rubbing alcohol will do just fine whenever you want to deglaze your leather.

Usually, I will say go for the regular 70% rubbing alcohol, but you will also be able to use the 90% rubbing alcohol or the denatured alcohol in place of a typical leather deglazer to deglaze your leather without causing any damage.  

This is basically a matter of preference as any of the rubbing alcohol mentioned above will work just fine for you.

How To Use Alcohol To Deglaze Leather

Using rubbing or denatured alcohol is a pretty safe and easy way to deglaze leather. Here’s how you do it.

Things Needed:

  • Soft cotton cloth or Microfiber cloth
  • 70%, 90% Rubbing Alcohol or Denatured Alcohol


Step 1: Put a few squirts of rubbing alcohol on your cloth.

Step 2: Immediately rub it over the surface of your leather.

Step 3: Allow the leather to air dry. This will only take a few seconds for the leather to dry and ready for redyeing, painting, finishing, or tooling.

Cons Of Using Alcohol As A Deglazer

The only caveat to using rubbing alcohol just like you would have with most deglazers is the fact that rubbing alcohol will steal the natural oils from your leather causing your leather to dry out.

Because of this, it’s important to ensure that the leather is conditioned or oiled as soon as you’re done redyeing, painting, or finishing your leather to help restore the oils back to the leather.

2. Oxalic Acid

Oxalic acid is a common wood bleach often referred to as Oxalic crystals or wood bleach crystals.

Often times you will be able to find it a lot easier and faster if you ask for wood bleach instead of oxalic acid.

So if you have this laying around your house or cannot find a regular leather deglazer, you can certainly use or get Oxalic acid to deglaze leather for redyeing or painting.

Using oxalic acid compared to rubbing alcohol is a more rigorous approach and will also work great if your leather item has a lot of grease, oil, or wax buildup on the leather surface. 

It’s useful if you have some serious spots, stains, or glaze you would like to remove so that redyeing is a lot easier.

Not only will you be able to use oxalic acid to knock off the top coat of your leather but also you will be able to remove any form of mildew and mold buildup on your old leather items and have it properly prepped for redyeing and refinishing.

Generally, you will find the oxalic acid you can use to deglaze leather in leather stores and craft stores like Tandy Leather, soap making supplies stores, paint stores, or auto parts stores.

How To Use Oxalic Acid To Deglaze Leather

Here’s how you safely use oxalic acid in place of leather deglazer. First, let’s take a look at what you will need.

Things Needed:

  • Oxalic acid
  • Warm water
  • Measuring cup and a Teaspoon
  • Microfiber or cotton cloth
  • Saddle soap


Step 1: Mix 1 Teaspoon of Oxalic acid or crystals to 1 pint of warm water. Allow the mixture to dissolve.

You wouldn’t want to get your water super hot as you will most likely inhale the vapor from the hot water that has been mixed up with the oxalic acid.

I will always recommend going for warm water but just warm enough so much so that you don’t see any vapor. Better still ensure you’re working in a well ventilated place.

Alternatively, you can use a very small amount of hot water to properly dissolve the oxalic acid and then add a pint of cool water.

Step 2: Dampen your cotton or microfiber cloth with the solution and then rub it evenly over the leather surface.

Step 3: Allow the application to soak in for about 3-5 minutes so that the solution dissolves the glaze, dirt, grease or whatever the buildup is on your leather.

Step 4: Clean the leather with a soapy water to stop the acids reaction on your leather. You can use any mild soap like dish soap.

You can also use glycerine saddle soap or any leather saddle soap. Saddle soaps like the glycerine soap when used will replace the natural oils removed when you were cleaning your leather with the oxalic acid.

Step 5: Allow the leather to air dry. Your leather should now be ready for redyeing, painting, or finishing.

Important Tips To Remember When Using Oxalic Acid

  • Using warm or hot water will speed up the dissolving process of the water and oxalic acid.
  • Always start with a very weak solution of oxalic acid and water and if you’re not getting the result you desire, you can gradually increase the strength by increasing the quantity of the oxalic acid in the solution.
  • Always ensure your crystals have dissolved properly. You don’t want any crystal pieces settling on the surface of your leather when you’re wiping or deglazing the leather surface.
  • You can put a small amount of oxalic acid and a small amount of hot water into a jar and swish or shake the solution around each time you want to use the solution.
  • Remember, a little bit of oxalic acid will go a long way.
  • Always wear latex or vinyl gloves to keep the solution off your skin and fingers.
  • Don’t drench or soak your leather with the solution.
  • This solution can dry up your leather so always use sparingly.

Cons Of Using Oxalic Acid As A Deglazer

The biggest con to using oxalic acid is that it can bleach the leather which in most cases may be fine since the leather is going to be redyed anyway.

It becomes a bit of a problem when not properly applied. When not properly applied, it has the tendency of causing leather to develop very tiny or what I will call micro-cracks especially if you’re deglazing your leather for tooling.


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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