How to Restore Hard Leather

Updated February 21, 2017

Leather goods such as furniture, apparel, handbags and sports equipment can all be quite expensive and are very easily ruined if you do not take care of them. Heat, sunlight, pollution and low humidity can cause leather to dry out and harden. Cleaning, conditioning and sealing leather can restore your leather goods and prevent them from hardening again. There are a few simple techniques you can try to soften hard leather.

Put some isopropyl rubbing alcohol on a clean rag and use it to test a small area of the hardened leather. If the colour does not come off, cover the leather completely with the rubbing alcohol, and rub in a circular motion to ensure that the alcohol is absorbed.

Use saddle soap and a moistened rag to remove any dirt and debris that may have hardened the leather. Work the saddle soap into the leather with a rag, rub in circles until you feel the leather starting to give and soften. Wipe off any excess saddle soap and moisture, and let the leather dry in the sun for about 10 minutes.

Bring the warmed leather inside, and apply some coconut oil to a small, inconspicuous area to make sure that the colour of the leather isn't affected. If the colour is unchanged, continue until the leather is oiled completely. Let the leather sit overnight.

Apply a commercial leather conditioner to the leather, following the manufacturer's instructions. Test a small area first to ensure that the conditioner will not discolour the leather. Let the leather dry. Repeat this process as many times as needed to keep the leather soft.

Spray or rub on a commercial leather sealer and stain repellent. Let the leather dry completely. Reapply the sealer periodically, as recommended by the manufacturer.


Coconut oil may permanently darken the leather. Alcohol will break down the leather fibres, but it will also dry out the leather. Make sure you have enough time to condition the leather right after applying the rubbing alcohol, or the leather could harden even more.

Things You'll Need

  • Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
  • Saddle soap
  • Coconut oil
  • Leather conditioner
  • Leather sealer
  • Clean rags
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About the Author

Mary McNally has been writing and editing for over 13 years, including publications at Cornell University Press, Larson Publications and College Athletic Magazines. McNally also wrote and edited career and computer materials for Stanford University and Ithaca College. She holds a master's degree in career development from John F. Kennedy University and a bachelor's degree from Cornell University in counseling.