How to remove leather luster

Updated July 13, 2018

Leather is a timelessly stylish fabric with a beauty that doesn't fade with age. To the eyes of many, as leather loses its lustre, it gains texture, wearable comfort and aesthetic quality. Natural oils give new leather its lustre, but you can distress leather with a variety of household items and simple processes. Customise leather to your liking by distressing gently before moving on to harsher methods.

Saturate a lint-free cloth with rubbing alcohol.

Rub the cloth over the surface of the leather. The alcohol will remove the leather's lustre and take off protective coatings.

Dip a lint-free cloth into acetone nail polish remover.

Rub the cloth over the surface of the leather. The acetone removes dye in the leather.

Rub the surface of the leather, still damp with acetone, with fine-grain sandpaper. Rub gently to lightly distress the leather. Apply more pressure to darken the leather and completely remove its lustre.

Lightly dab a shoe brush in black shoe polish.

Scrub the surface of the leather with the brush, applying more or less polish depending on how distressed and dull you wish the leather to appear.

Wash your leather in a washing machine on gentle cycle, if you're working with a garment. This will agitate the leather and remove additional dyes.

Dry the leather garment in the clothes dryer, using no heat.


Use high-grain sandpaper if fine-grain sandpaper doesn't do the trick. Rub in leather conditioner before using sandpaper to prevent cracking and damage. For a truly dull and distressed look, apply a sparing coat of fuller's earth to leather. Wearing leather garments over time will naturally cause them to lose their lustre.


Avoid contact with your eyes when using rubbing alcohol or acetone.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Acetone nail polish remover
  • Fine-grain sandpaper
  • Black shoe polish
  • Shoe brush
  • Washing machine
  • Clothes dryer
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About the Author

Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.