Why Does Leather Smell So Good?

Bad odors can damage the ability to smell that’s why we’re all drawn to good smells and natural fragrances. Like all other natural items, leather has its own unique smell. There are so many factors that can be attributed to the sweet-scents of leather. I did the research and here’s what I found on the reasons why leather smells so good.

So, why does leather smell so good? Leather smell so good because it’s perfumed in the tanneries especially with tanning processes that involve the use of chemicals. However, you will find vegetable tanned leather to have a neutral or musky smell which represents the staple of leather smell due to the use of plant extracts.

Aside from the tanning process being a major determinant of how good the leather smell, there are other reasons that cause leather smell so good. Let’s jump right in!

Reasons Why Leather Smell So Good

1. Source of The Animal

The smell of leather can be traced back to the animal it was gotten from but not in the case of all animal leathers though. The smell of diary animals like cowhide is very gentle with no extreme fragrance unlike leather from the aquatic group animals like the stingray which has a more grounded strong fragrance.

2. The Type of Dyes used

Leather dyes are coloring agents used to make leather look more attractive. There are different categories of dyes which can be classified by solvent types: water-soluble dyes and non-water-soluble dyes. I will not bore you with too many details!

While dyes made of vegetable colors and natural oils results in the natural musky smell of leather, chemical mixed dyes result in a plastic leather smell which may or may not be considered good smell depending on the one doing the smelling.

The use of dyes is mostly applied in the tannery as a form of finishing for the leather and by doing this the leather gets its initial trademark smell. The tanneries are often aware of the artificial smell leather may have due to the chemical processes they use so what they do is to mix up fragrance for the leather to imitate the natural smell of leather.

In some instances after leather craftsmen and women buy leather from the market, they may also sometimes feel the need to re-dye the leather to suit what a customer wants. The artists who use organic dyes from plant extracts often are able to maintain the rich natural smell we all enjoy in leather.

This then will reflect on the smell of the final product the end-users (You and I) get to have.

2. Cleaners and Conditioner Used

Cleaners and conditioners contribute to the smell of leather at least for a few days or weeks depending on the conditioner you used. To have your leather product looking great all the time, cleaning and conditioning is done.

Check out an article I wrote on Leather cleaners and conditioners

All-natural, chemical-free conditioners make leather smell great. You will find that some conditioners use unnatural chemicals in their products that leave a weird smell. Conditioners that are water-based and contain vital oils that nourish and strengthen leather leaves the leather smelling awesome and will naturally dissipate leaving behind a neutral leathery smell.

There are several conditioners out there but I have found that this conditioner on Amazon that is great and will leave your leather item with a great light almond smell. You could check it out if you’re interested.

3. The Leather Items Making Process

Leather also inherits good smells (although not always good smell though) from the artist who makes the leather items. Wierd! but what I mean is that the various materials like glue, dyes, polish, threads, etc the leather artist apply on the leather causes the leather to have a smell hopefully a good one.

4. Where the Leather is Stored

Leather has a unique quality of picking up and storing smells from a host like a wardrobe or a storeroom. Where leather or leather items are stored can also determine how good the leather will smell. Usually, a cool dry well-ventilated place is the best place to store leather items.

5. Reflects The Leather User

Leather will always reflect the personality of the user. If the user is, for example, a smoker smells of tobacco or whatever the person smokes can be traced to the person’s leather items such as gloves, garments, or even furniture. Leather can indeed retain smells. Do a quick check with your leather item and you will find your smell on most of your leather items.

Same way if the leather user likes to put nice fragrance items in or on the leather item, the leather item will always smell great.

How to Make Leather Smell Good

First of all, you would be thinking of making your leather item smell good if it’s not actually smelling as good as it should. There are severally reasons that can cause the leather to smell bad such as mold, mildew, etc. You should definitely try to get rid of such bad odor.

Or you may just be thinking of giving your leather item a better fragrance although it isn’t smelling bad, that might also be fine only if you don’t go overboard with it.

Before we get into it, How should leather actually smell? While leather should have a mild smell, you can make leather to smell however you want to reflect the kind of person you are or just to make smell pleasant to everyone that comes around it. With that established, now let’s get into it.

There are several ways to make leather smell good. Here are a few tips:

1. Newspaper Storage

Let’s start with the basics; Leather storage! How you store your leather item is one of the basic ways to ensure your leather items remain smelling fresh.

You can make your leather smell good by wrapping and stuffing small leather items with newspaper. Newspapers are more porous compared to leather. A newspaper due to its porosity is good for absorbing odor from leather (Not any other paper though, Newspaper!).

All you do is wrap and stuff them up and leave it for at least 24 hours and voila! smells good as new.

2. Fresh Air

Drying out leather especially after cleaning in an airy place is great for making your leather smell good. One important trick is while drying the leather item, place a sweet-scented bar of soap or your favorite flower fragrance close to the leather item as it dries for about a day and you will be amazed by how well the leather will take in the smell into its fibers.

3. Sunlight

Place your leather item at a spot where the sunlight isn’t direct. This will make the leather item dry as mold and mildew thrive and causes smell when the leather is quite damp.

4. Apply Vinegar

Vinegar is highly acidic but it’s perfect for killing bad odor-causing bacteria in leather. This method is perfect for both big and small leather items.

Spray your leather with the white vinegar and rub it in for the leather to absorb it for a few seconds. Now you can just buff it with a clean cloth and you should have your leather item smelling good.

You can check out this white vinegar on Amazon here or you can but it from any supermarket near you. It’s only a few bucks.

5. Use Baking

Baking soda is also great for removing bad smells from leather as it neutralizes smells. This is also great for getting rid of bad odor from large leather items.

Apply a layer of baking soda on your leather item overnight and dust off the baking soda with a soft sable brush or you can use a vacuum cleaner. The leather should smell great after you have thoroughly removed the baking soda from it.

6. Use Odor Eliminator

This is for sure a much simpler way of removing stubborn odor from leather items. All you do is to follow the instruction on your preferred odor eliminator and your leather item should smell great.

If you are interested you can check out this odor eliminator on amazon. It is cool but you can aswell browse around for better options.

These are alternatives you can try to remove bad odor from your leather items. You can also combine some of the alternatives for a much better result. Good luck!!!

Related Question

Why does leather smell so bad? Leather that smells bad is as a result of odor-causing bacteria, mold, or mildew that has infested the leather items causing it to smell so bad.

Leather will also smell bad if it is chemically tanned for example chrome tanning can cause a plastic smell on the leather which many people may not appreciate and consider it as a bad smell.


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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