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How to dye leather with rit brand dye

Updated February 21, 2017

You can give an old piece of leather a new look by dyeing it with Rit brand clothing dye. This is a cheap and easy way to update anything from trousers to purses. The dyeing process will work best on light-coloured, rawhide or full aniline leather. Full-grain leather is leather in its most natural form and is able to absorb the dye better than lesser quality leather that has been coated with polyurethane. However, if you dye low-quality leather--which has cracks on the surface, revealing a smooth layer underneath--you may create an interesting two-tone effect.

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  1. Soak the leather in warm water in your sink or bathtub just long enough to saturate the leather.

  2. Fill the plastic tub or metal washbasin with hot water; or, you can also use a wringer washing machine if you have one. Use one box of powdered dye or a half-bottle of liquid Rit and three pounds of hot water for every pound of fabric you will dye.

  3. Pre-dissolve liquid powder in two cups of hot water. Add the dissolved Rit powder or liquid Rit dye to the water and mix well.

  4. Add the wet leather to the prepared Rit dye solution and push it into the water to make sure it is completely covered with dye.

  5. Stir the leather with a long, sturdy stick to agitate the leather. Items you might use include a piece of wood, boat oar or piece of metal pole.

  6. Continue to agitate the leather in the Rit dye constantly for about 10 to 45 minutes or until you achieve the desired colour. You should note that the clothing dye dries lighter than it appears on wet fabric, but leather will take longer to dye than cotton or polyester.

  7. Wring the excess water from the leather by hand. Don't twist it too much because you risk distressing the leather.

  8. Set the Rit dye in the leather by soaking it in cold water for about 30 minutes.

  9. Wring the excess water from the leather and hang it up until it is completely dry. If you have a wringer washing machine, you can run it through the wringer once or twice to squeeze the water out of the leather.

  10. Tip

    If you are unsure about what the leather will look like when dry, test a small piece of leather before dyeing an irreplaceable leather item.


    Always hang-dry leather because electric dryers can destroy leather.

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Things You'll Need

  • Leather
  • Rit clothing dye
  • Plastic tub or washbasin
  • Long stick

About the Author

Amelia Allonsy

A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.

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