How to Remove Dye From Leather

Updated April 17, 2017

Leather dye can be applied to items such as handbags or jackets to to give a familiar item a fresh look. Removing dye from leather can be a complicated process due to the nature of leather material. Leather dyes are designed to permanently stain leather, so it cannot be rubbed off as easily as it can with other materials. Certain techniques may be effective at restoring leather to its former colour, but there is a risk you will damage the leather in the process..

Rub a layer of fine-grit sandpaper across the surface of the leather. This technique scrapes away the top layer of the leather where the dye and protective coatings are most prevalent. Sanding a leather is often effective at removing dye, but it will damage the surface and make it coarser. If the leather in question is thin, avoid using sandpaper as you may tear the surface. Thicker cuts of leather tend to be more resilient.

Dab a clean cloth with denatured alcohol. Only slightly dampen the cloth, as soaking it risks causing significant damage to the leather. Rub the cloth around the surface of the dyed leather. This technique usually only works if the original dye used alcohol as the main dyeing ingredient. Wash the leather with clean water and apply a leather conditioner once you have finished cleaning it. Denatured alcohol erodes away natural oils present in the leather, which can be restored with a leather conditioner.

Prepare a mixture of bleach and warm water. Use two tablespoons of bleach for every litre of water. Wear gloves when applying the mixture, as bleach can cause the skin to burn. Dampen a clean cloth with the mixture and rub across the breadth of the leather. The bleach should remove the dye, but there is a significant risk it will turn the leather grey in the process and strip away its natural oils. Coat with leather conditioner once finished to stand the best chance of limiting damage to the leather.

Things You'll Need

  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Clean cloth
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Leather conditioner
  • Bleach
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About the Author

Wilkie Collins started writing professionally in 2007. She has submitted work for organizations including Venue, an arts-and-culture website for Bristol and Bath (U.K.), and "Sound and Vision," a technology magazine. Collins holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and media studies from the University of Bristol.