6 Reasons Leather Changes Color & How To Preserve The Color

why does leather change color

The allure of leather as a material cannot be disputed. It comes with a luxurious style, extreme durability, and long-lasting properties. But the special appeal in terms of the color leather comes with is fleeting. So in today’s post, I did research about why leather changes color and how to prevent or slow down its occurrence.

So, why does leather change color? Leather will change color when its pH balance is affected by factors such as body oils, dirt, sunlight (or light), temperature, etc. These factors accelerate the leather surface to wear (patina) which gradually causes the microscopic bits of leather’s color to change (that is, it will either become darker, faded or a completely different color).

To learn more details on why leather changes its color, continue reading this article!

1. Leather Will Change Color Because It’s Dyed

The majority of natural leathers are dyed and due to this leather will change color gradually with time.

Dyed leather will change color because leather dyes are highly susceptible and sensitive to variations in their pH balance.

pH, measures how acidic or alkaline dyes are. Usually a pH 7 indicates a neutral balance on a pH scale from 1-14 with below 7 being alkaline and above 7 being acidic.

One particular type of leather dyes that have a very sensitive pH are water-based leather dyes. 

These dyes when used for leather result in the leather having an exceptional hue but if not properly protected, dyed leather will be prone to drastic color changes – which is gradually becoming lighter and lighter over the years.

2. Skin or Body Oils Can Change The Color of Leather

We all have natural body oils on our skin and while this is very helpful to us as human, it doesn’t do a lot of good for our leather items that comes into contact with it.

A lot of the leather items we use often come into contact with our bodies. Leather items like furniture, accessories, and apparel are usually in constant contact with our bodies from daily use.

Meaning body oils and sweats get deposited on the leather and gradually build up.

These oils are made up of acids, salts, and enzymes that can weaken the structural integrity of the leather and also change the overall appearance of the leather – with common effects or outcomes of the overall leather darkening or developing dark spots.

Not only will body oils change the color and appearance of your leather item but it can also lead to the leather actually cracking, peeling, and tearing.

3. Accumulated Dirt Can Change The Color of Leather

Dirt is inevitable. Whether an item is in use or not, usually you will still be able to mysteriously find traces of dirt, dust, and stains on them.

Leather is no exception. Leather takes on dirt too. Sometimes a bit too much.

So when you begin to notice any color changes on your leather and you can’t seem to remember the last time you cleaned or conditioned your leather, then the cause for your leather changing color will be simply because of accumulated dirt on the leather.

Usually, leather obviously takes up dirt from the item being used, and often times this on a normal day, will be little bits of dirt stains here and a few scuffs there.

But at other times you will notice your leather attracting too much dirt and very quickly. This can often be attributed to the leather conditioners you use leaving sticky residue on the surface of the leather which is then causing the leather to attract more and more dirt very quickly.

What you normally need to do is to routinely clean your leather and oil it with a conditioner that does not leave any sticky residue on the leather.

Related Article: 5 Best Non Sticky Leather Conditioners

4. Harsh Chemicals In Cleaners Will Change The Color of Leather

Wrongly choosing or making leather cleaners for your leather items can also contribute to the color of the leather item changing.

This can range from using soaps or detergents that are not specially formulated for leather to making cleaning concoctions that will damage your leather.

But the number one culprit is innocently purchasing products with harsh cleaning agents.

The harsh chemical ingredients in some of the leather cleaners out there can actually result in the leather not only changing color but also damaged leather instead of cleaning it.

What you want to get is a specially made leather cleaner from well-known brands.

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

5. Exposure To Sunlight Changes Leather Color

One of leather’s arch-nemesis is the sunlight. The sun regardless of the type of leather, whether fully finished, semi-finished, or unfinished leather can severely damage both the look and the structure of the leather.

Sunlight posses two of the biggest challenges with it comes to using leather. The two main damages the sun will inflict on your leather items are causing the leather to dry and color change.

The way sunlight causes these damages is to slowly and gradually evaporate the natural oils contained in the leather.

This will then change the color (sometimes makes the leather significantly becomes lighter and in some other instances, sunlight makes the leather darker or tan) and then dry up the leather, stiffen, and crack.

So should you always keep or use your leather item only when it’s dark? Of course NOT! I’m not in any way saying you have to live in darkness 24/7 with your leather.

However, what you can do is take preventive measures to ensure the negative impacts of the sunlight is avoided.

Some of these preventive practices will include: not leaving your leather outdoors, applying leather UV protectors, proper storage, ensuring leather items like furniture are well positioned away from windows, putting up tainted glasses for your car windows, and a host of other good preventive practices.

6. Too Much Heat And Extreme Temperature Changes

There are two parts to how leather can change color when it comes to temperature.

The first is that the color of leather can be significantly altered when for example a piece of leather furniture is suddenly moved from a place or area of relatively stable temperature to another that is not stable or different (colder or hotter).

Like most of us used to do (at least in my house), we often used to change the positions of our leather furniture from time to time. We could move our leather sofa from the living room to an outdoor balcony.

The contrast in temperatures can affect the look of the leather and in some instances cause other forms of damage to the leather items.

So you would want to ensure your leather furniture, garments, and other upholsteries are kept consistently in areas where the temperature remains the same.

The second part is, when leather items are exposed to too much heat, it can change the color of the leather.

So you would want to position your leather furniture or other related items too close to the heating vents. And also, do not dry your leather items directly over a heat source.

How To Preserve The Color of Your Leather

As stated above, color changes will usually occur with dyed leather. Leather dyes are mainly organic compounds that have some kind of a molecular structure.

Usually, the color changes leather goes through will in the initial stages will be hard to see, but over time the original color you once knew will begin to change. So you do not want to wait! Follow the instructions below to ensure your leather does not change color.

Use Leather Conditioners and Moisturizers

While leather color changes and color loss is inevitable, one of the best and easy ways to slow down or ensure the color of your leather items do not change too quickly is by using a good leather moisturizer or conditioner.

You would have to religiously follow the instructions on the leather conditioner you choose to a T.

While some leather conditioners and moisturizers will require monthly applications, others like The Leather Honey Leather Conditioner can help keep your leather items moisturized for up to 6 months per application.

Not caring for and maintaining your leather with good leather conditioners will cause the color of your leather to change just from normal everyday use.

You would want to use leather conditioners and moisturizers so that the microscopic bits that give leather its color identity is fixed. It will also ensure the color of the leather does not rub off with time.


One of the biggest factors we consider when purchasing leather items is picking out the perfect color that’s going to match the interior of our homes, office, cars, and even the kind of outfits we wear from time to time.

So it’s always such a bummer having to see a specific color you fell in love with and chose change. While some of the color changes (patina) leather often goes through are unavoidable, this article provided a comprehensive look at some factors that could get the color of leather to not only change but rapidly.

If you have been reading this article, then I’m sure you have a few ideas on how to significantly slow down or prevent certain avoidable color changes to leather.

Thanks for sticking around! You’re welcome to check out my related articles below.

Related Articles:

  1. 5 Reasons Leather Turns Black & Guide On How To Prevent Each
  2. Why Does Leather Turn Blue?
  3. 3 Ways Leather Turns Brass Green (Plus 2 Simple Home Remedies)
  4. Why Does Leather Turn White? (Plus Simple Ways To Fix It)
  5. 6 Things That Turn White Patent Leather Yellow


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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