How to darken leather

Updated July 19, 2017

Leather darkens with an application of oil. While neat's-foot oil works best and is manufactured specifically to darken leather, you can use good-quality vegetable oil from your grocery store, as well. You can darken any item made of light-coloured leather, from sofas to handbags, jackets and horse tack, with just a few tools and a few hours of your time. The oil also conditions the leather, making treated items more flexible.

Clean the leather with leather cleaner and a rag.

Soak a clean rag or sponge with oil. Rub it evenly onto the leather item.

Remove excess oil with a clean rag and put the item out in the sun to dry.

Apply a second coat to darken the leather even more. Let it dry.


For smaller items, like reins, bridles, or breast collars, put the item into a bucket and leave overnight. Remove the item in the morning, clean it, and let it dry. Good-quality leather soaks up oil more quickly and will have a more uniform look. Applying oil will not produce the same results with fake leather products. Natural-coloured leather will tan naturally in the sun.

Things You'll Need

  • Neat's-foot oil
  • Bucket or container
  • Rags
  • Leather cleaner
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