Distressed leather is softer and more comfortable than new leather, which tends to feel stiff and look clean. Incorporating distressed leather into any clothing ensemble will give it a rugged and trendy feel. While you can wait years for leather to develop that coveted distressed look, you may want to speed the process up on your own. Almost any leather item can be distressed manually, whether it's a leather belt, jacket or pair of gloves.
Wet a clean towel in the sink, ensuring it's completely soaked. Apply this towel to your leather item, thoroughly wetting the entire leather surface. This moisture softens the leather.
Dry parts of the leather with your hair dryer to slightly shrink the leather and give it a cracked, pinched look. Keep the hair dryer on low or medium heat. Place the leather item in your clothes dryer, without heat, if you need a faster method of drying.
Crumple your leather while it's still damp, if possible. Wad, roll or twist the leather while you wait for the remainder to dry. For best results, perform this step with loose, large leather items like jackets and purses.
Rub leather balm or mink oil to the leather with a clean towel or cloth. Apply it all over for a uniform worn, darkened look; rub it only on certain sections to achieve a multi-toned hue. The more balm or oil you apply, the more worn and aged the leather will look. When you've finished, buff the leather with a dry cloth.
Brush the leather with a wire brush in the areas you want to appear especially worn; this will loosen the leather up and prepare it for the sandpaper.
Rub ultra-fine grained sandpaper on the same leather areas from Step 5. You will notice the colour begin to lighten. Proceed gently at first, gradually rubbing harder to achieve your desired level of distressing.
Always dry your leather with low or no heat unless you want it to shrink up. Put your leather item in a pillowcase if you put it in the dryer; this will protect the inside of the dryer from any scratches. If you're after a dull, matt look, apply alcohol to the leather instead of balm or oil, as alcohol takes the shine off leather.
Tips and warnings
- Always dry your leather with low or no heat unless you want it to shrink up.
- Put your leather item in a pillowcase if you put it in the dryer; this will protect the inside of the dryer from any scratches.
- If you're after a dull, matt look, apply alcohol to the leather instead of balm or oil, as alcohol takes the shine off leather.