5 Reasons Leather Turns Black & Guide On How To Prevent Each

Why Does Leather Turn Black

Has your leather turned black or very dark and you cannot seem to phantom why and how this happened? Well, in this article, I’m going to help you find not only the answers to this question but also ways to prevent your leather from turning black.

So, why does leather turn black? There are a couple of reasons why leather will turn black or dark when you haven’t intended it to be. These reasons include:

  1. Hard Water Can React With Leather Tannins and Turn It Black
  2. Dirt And Mold Growth Can Turn Leather Black
  3. Metal Reacting With Leather Can Turn It Black
  4. Color Or Dye Transfer
  5. Body Oils Can Turn Leather Black

To learn more about why leather turns black, continue reading this article.

1. Hard Water On Leather Can Turn It Black

Hard water is basically water with high volumes of dissolved minerals mainly magnesium and calcium (that is a substantial amount of iron).

This will usually not pose any serious health risk but can be sometimes destructive on our skins and also leather over a period of time.

So if you happen to have hard water running through your taps where you live, this could be a serious problem for your leather items when you clean or they get stained with it.

The constituents of hard water when it comes into contact with wet leather will react to the tannins in the leather and will eventually result in the leather turning black.

The minerals contained in hard water can also cause the leather cleaner you use to clean your leather to build up soap residue. With time, this will begin to clog the pores of the leather, cause a reaction that can often lead to the leather turning black.

Preventing Hard Water From Turning Leather Black

The way of preventing this from happening is obviously not using hard water. You may be asking yourself: how do I know whether this is hard water or not?

The simple answer is, hard water does not lather easily with soap. Also, it results in the accumulation of some sort of white crust around faucets and drains.

What you would want to be using when cleaning your leather items is distilled water.

2. Mold Growth Can Turn Leather Black

Mold is a fungus and under certain conditions such as humidity and temperature, it will grow on your leather and cause serious undesirable effects like all manner of color stains from green, grey, all the way to black.

Mold is a common thing that affects natural leather. It will typically happen if the leather is stored in a damp place, or kept in an air-tight place, or prolonged usage can promote mold growth.

What makes mold growth one leather a very tricky thing is that when it starts growing on leather, it’s always not visible. The only time mold will become visible is when the mold attack has become worse and has seriously multiplied.

At this point, the mold on the leather may be more difficult to remove and may require a more drastic approach to dealing with it.

Leather turning black from mold stains if care is not taken will generally be permanent on light-colored leathers.

Preventing Mold From Turning Leather Black

When it comes to mold growth on leather, prevention! prevention!! prevention!!! is all you would want to focus your attention on.

So here are a couple of my best practices to ensure my leather items do not get attacked by mold.

1. Clean your leather as regularly as possible.

Doing this will not give dirt or dust the chance to build up on your leather item. This is important because mold or mildew thrive where dirt lives.

You can simply use my home remedy approach to cleaning my leather goods – which is wiping my leather items with equal parts of white vinegar and water using white vinegar.

This is always effective because vinegar contains natural anti-fungal properties that will help combat mold growth.

2. Use Aerosol Sprays

Using aerosol sprays will help protect your leather items from moisture.

Keeping moisture at bay from your leather goods using aerosol sprays is key because, without moisture, mold or mildew cannot grow.

If you’ve already started seeing signs of mold growth on your leather, you can

One important thing you need to remember when doing this is to ensure that you test your aerosol spray on a small, inconspicuous part of the leather item to ensure it does not ruin the color of your leather.

3. Wax The Leather to Prevent Mold Growth

Putting a layer of wax over the surface of your leather item(s) is definitely a great way to keep mold away.

This will particularly work because some specialized waxes come with mildewcides and other properties that will effectively keep mold away from the leather.

You would also want to test out the wax on a small portion of the leather first before applying it to the entire leather. Wax can darken leather but not as much as the mold would.

4. Apply An Anti-Mold Fungicide

Using an anti-mold fungicide solution will do one main thing for your leather item and that will be to prevent the further reoccurrence of mold on the leather.

5. Store Leather In a Dry Place

Another way of preventing mold growth on your leather is proper storage. I cannot over-emphasize this as this is one of the main reasons why leather will develop mold.

You should never store or leave your leather item outdoors or at a place with moisture or high humidity. If your leather item somehow becomes damp or gets affected by extreme humidity, make sure to dry thoroughly.

3. Metals Reacting With Leather Can Turn It Black

You might have probably seen this a couple of times on leather items such as bags, boots, sandals, jackets, to mention a few.

Leather goods that come with some metal hardware such as zippers, rivets, eyelets, press studs, etc. to help decorate the leather article or facilitate the closing and opening of the leather article can turn black from these metal components.

While these metal hardware can be a great stylistic touch to leather goods, the metals can cause the leather to turn dark.

Leather will turn black from metal fittings especially when the leather is damp or wet. The moisture causes the metals to rust which then reacts with the tannins in the leather to turn the leather black.

This will be seen as black rust stains which may be very difficult to remove.

Not only metal fittings on leather but if a particular leather item has any kind of metal component and the metal part comes into contact with the leather when the leather is wet, then this can cause your leather to gradually turn black.

Preventing Metals From Turning Leather Black

To prevent this from happening to your leather, you would want to ensure the leather goods you buy do not have metal fittings or components.

There are a lot of alternatives in terms of fittings you can go for. A good example is using plastic hardware for leather goods. Also, instead of metal, wood is a great option so the leather does not in no way come into contact with metals.

If you simply want the durability and material contrast metal hardware and components added to leather goods, then you can go for metal fittings that do not rust such as stainless steel, galvanized steel, aluminum, etc.

In case your leather has already turned black from the leather material reacting with metals, I read from a couple of people who claim to have tried oxalic acid say it’s great for removing this type of stains from your leather.

You would want to proceed with caution on this as oxalic acid can significantly lighten leather.

4. Accummulated Body Oils Can Turn Leather Black

We all have natural body oils present on our skins. The oils on our skins are made up of enzymes, acids, salts, that can, unfortunately, damage leather with time.

Leather can become very dark or black from body oil buildup. The darkening of leather may occur when oils from our skin begin to congest the pores of the leather.

Not only do our body oils darken leather but it can also weaken the fibers of the leather and actually lead to the leather cracking and tearing.

This can happen in all types of leather materials such as automotive leather, furniture leather, leather jackets, etc – in fact, any leather item that comes into direct contact with our bodies will have oil buildup that can lead to the leather turning black or dark.

Body oils will turn leather very dark or black because leather is a highly porous material and will soak up body oils even if the leather has been coated. The oils will still penetrate the leather and create a dark or black spot.

The only good that body oils do for leather is to help break into the leather item nicely to create a character on the leather that’s only peculiar to an item.

I have always known this saying about leather which is “Leather becomes richer and darker with time” and this is how leather basically becomes richer and darker with time.

While the richness and darkness can be appealing to many leather users, it can actually get to a point where the natural look of the leather is simply distorted.

Preventing Body Oils From Turning Leather Black

Darkened leather can be very difficult to deal with just like faded leather, but the good news is, leather darkening from body oils can be easily prevented.

You can generally prevent body oil buildup on leather by 2 simple approaches: protection and regular care.

1. Protecting The Leather

Here are two main tips for protecting the leather from body oils that can potentially cause the leather to turn black or very dark:

Use Cases or Covers

If possible, you can cover your leather furniture, car seats, and other leather items. This is definitely a great way to protect the leather from having direct contact with body oils.

You can go for specially made covers to simply throw on blankets or towels. The key thing is you do not have to cover the entire leather item, just the parts that are frequently in contact with the body.

Use Leather Protectants

There are leather protectants you can use to preserve the surface of your leather to prevent body oils from getting in. A good example is the Chemical Guys SPI Leather Protectant. It’s formulated to offer the best of the best protection against discoloration, cracking, and one single application can last 12-16months.

2. Regularly Caring For The Leather: Cleaning & Conditioning

Leather is a material that needs a lot of babying to ensure it lasts lifelong. Having good and regular cleaning and conditioning routines for your leather items is also a good way to maintain their look and keep it looking new while keeping body oils at bay.

As far as cleaning goes, removing those body oils is a necessity. This is so that going forward you are able to recondition the leather well and if you would want to dye the leather someday, it will also be very important to remove those body oils – body oils can be an adhesion deterrent to dyes.

On a weekly or monthly basis, you would want to use a dust brush to remove any dust settlements or debris on the leather and then use a clean cloth dampened with warm water to wipe the surface of the leather items.

Related Article: 4 Best Leather Conditioners For Black Car Seats

5. Color Or Dye Transfer Can Turn Leather Black

Color transfer is also another way in which leather can turn not only black but literally any other color of a material that has its dyes unfixed. Another common leather dye transfer you will often see is leather turning blue.

Color transfer, especially from clothing on leather is a common problem among most leather users.

Clothing and accessories such as belts, jackets, trousers, jeans, etc can all easily transfer their dyes onto your leather especially when there’s a bit of moisture in the mix.

Color or dye transfer will usually be a lot more obvious on lighter-colored leathers like ivory or white and can be such a heartbreaking thing to see your leather go through.

In many cases, you should be able to remove color or dye transfer by your regular cleaning processes.

It will only become a lot difficult if you wait too long and the dyes have already penetrated deep into the pores of the leather making it almost impossible to remove the stains with regular water-based leather cleaners.

Related Article: 7 Awesome Hacks For Preventing Jeans Stains On Leather

Preventing Dye Transfer From Turning Leather Black

In order to prevent color or dye transfer on your leather items, you would want to regularly apply a leather protector to the surface of the leather.

The leather protector is going to shield your leather from any form of dye or color transfer. 


In this article, my goal was to furnish you with the major possible reasons why leather turns black. I know there are definitely a lot more reasons apart from the 5 provided in this article why leather may turn black.

But what I attempted to do was to give you some ideas on the possible causes so that you can have a couple of factors to evaluate your leather by.

From my research, any reason for leather becoming very dark or black outside the reasons stated in this article are going to be reasons peculiar or specific to your lifestyle.

I hope this post was helpful! Feel free to look at my related articles below.

Related Articles

  1. Why Does Leather Turn Blue?
  2. 3 Ways Leather Turns Brass Green (Plus 2 Simple Home Remedies)
  3. Why Does Leather Turn White? (Plus Simple Ways To Fix It)
  4. 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!

Recent Posts