How To Soften Leather

Leather, if it isn’t cared for over time breaks down. The natural fibres found in leather are vulnerable to red rot which changes the appearance of leather, as well as becoming stiff and hard over time. When leather is damaged like this it loses its look, changes colour and becomes flaky, dry and brittle.

For slight reworking of a leather garment, there are tons of options to choose from when it comes to conditioners and oils. We advise to avoid food oils as they may create any unwanted issues on your leather, causing it to turn rancid. Adding a specially formulated oil to the leather, and letting it sit for 24 hours will allow you to see if your leather is worth saving.

How can I soften leather?

Producing leather and making fabric out of animal hide, leather is widely used in rugged occupations as its very strong and isn’t easily replicated. For instance, motorcycle riders wear leather-based clothing which reduces wind blast and can protect from road rash. Leather is generally malleable and soft with a smooth finish. Because its animal hide, it has a grain like look and is widely popular among metal bands and goth rock groups.

When leather isn’t cared for it becomes brittle and loses its look, so its imperative that you keep it in an area that doesn’t expose it to high humidity. Critical damage to leather can also occur from it sitting in sunlight to long or from pollutants in the air.

When you have a leather piece of clothing that needs attention, how do you revitalize its former glory?

Saddle Soap vs Leather Conditioner

Saddle Soap is a cleaning agent for leather and can both clean and condition leather. Saddle soap is primarily used for cleaning leather, before applying leather conditioner that will replace any lost oils in the leather.

Saddle soaps can be high in alkaline that can damage the leather if not applied correctly and might not be the best choice in rehydrating your leather. Soap also removes tanning agents in the leather which can lead to hardening and cracking, reducing any sort of look your leather jacket or other garment might have. When using a saddle soap on leather, we recommend that you also follow up with a conditioning agent so that your leather is sealed and locked in.

Does Vaseline soften leather?

Petroleum jelly can help soften leather and can work on all sorts of leather-based items, including wallets, bags, gloves and jackets. Vaseline can help seal the leather and leave a protective coat over, preventing it from drying out and cracking. When applying Vaseline to soften leather, it is important to coat the leather in a high-quality wax prior to applying the Vaseline, and maybe going as far as heating up the leather and wax so that it seeps into the grain. A lot of people with leather-based garments will soften leather with beeswax.

If you are overly cautious and would like to test it out, a single application of Vaseline wont ruin your leather, however it may temporarily alter or change the colour. Leather is very resilient and wont be ruined by petroleum in the long term.

Is olive oil good for softening leather?

Olive oil may deteriorate your leather even faster and is not recommended to use on leather. Leather soaks up oil very fast so it is important to add the oils so that you stop it from drying out. You pretty much never want to soak leather in olive oil as it is a fatty acid and can cause the leather to harbour unwanted bacteria. When trying to restore life to your leather, there are great products out there like conditioners and saddle soaps that will be far more beneficial.

How do you soften a stiff leather purse for example?

As we have stated above, avoid using any natural oils like olive oil when trying to soften leather. It is important that you have the right conditioners for the job. If you are using a proper leather conditioner, you can gently dampen a cloth and apply the conditioner. You can spread the conditioner on the surface of the leather and repeat this process every month to soften the leather. If you are looking at conditioning a purse that is used daily, perhaps increasing the frequency to once a week, giving the purse time to absorb any conditioners you have applied.

How do you rehydrate leather?

This will depend on what kind of leather you have and how dry it is. If the leather is cracking and has lost the ability to bend it might be time for a new garment. It also might be worth taking it to a professional storer to have a look at and see if they can restore it.

If you are wanting to restore something that is heavy-duty like a saddle, it’s probably not worth it.

There are plenty of oils and conditioners out there that add resistance and seals to leather so it is also great to have some of these products handy.

Mild dryness will respond to liquid rehydration like spraying some water onto the leather. If you were to use small amounts of leather you may be able to rehydrate the leather over time. Make sure you are wiping away any excess moisture. Make sure that you aren’t applying water over any oils or seals, as it won’t penetrate as well.

If you have low-quality leather, it is all up to you about how much effort you are willing to put in when restoring leather. If you have bought low-quality leather, you might find that it has dried out faster than other leather garments you own, so investing in high-quality leather items is a must.

When trying out different methods it is very important that you make sure you are monitoring its progress. Regularly checking on your garments once a week might make the whole process easier.

If you succeed in restoring the flexibility, we recommend that you then alter where ever you are keeping the garment so that you monitor humidity levels to prevent any stiffness.