How To Darken Leather Without Dyes

Knowing a few methods for how to make leather darker means you have some choices in your leather darkening locker.

You don’t need dyes to darken leather with many natural ways to achieve the same effect that include using the natural UV from the sun, a cheap but effective method using brewed coffee and a surprisingly effective process with the juices of soaked walnuts.

To answer of We will go into detail on all those and a few more, leaving you to choose which method to use.

A. Sunlight

When you spend time in the sun, your skin will darken unless you use some protective cream or lotion.

Remember, leather IS skin.

So, it makes sense that laving leather out in the sun for a significant amount of time would be one way of darkening leather.

Therefore, the question is not, will sunlight darken leather, but rather – how much sunlight is needed to darken leather? And what other factors impact the darkening when this method is being used?

What Impacts Sunlight Darkening?

The cheaper, or lesser quality, the leather, the quicker the sunlight will darken it. Judging the darkening time required, however, will require a little bit of experimentation on your part.

Testing Method:

Step 1: Take a piece of leather (12 inches is perfect) and put it into direct sunlight.

Step 2: Take another bit of material so that you can cover the leather. Whatever the size of leather you are testing, try to leave around 2 inchesgetting sunlight.

Step 3: Leave the covered leather for an hour, then uncover it to the point that an extra 2 inches are exposed. You should now have 4-inches of leather getting darkened by sunlight.

Step 4: Wait another hour, then expose another 2 inches of leather. This will mean there are 6 exposed inches in total.

Step 5:Let another hour go by, then uncover another 2 inches of leather. You should now have 8 inches exposed and 4 inches still undercover.

Step 6: After another hour, expose another 2 inches of leather so that you have only 2 inches undercover and 10 inches getting direct sunlight.

Step 7: For the final hour, allow the full 12-inch piece of leather to get direct sunlight.

Step 8: Following the 6 hour darkening period, take the leather indoors, away from sunlight, and allow it to rest for a few hours.

Step 9:Analyse each section of leather, and see how well it has darkened. You will be able to use this piece of leather to determine how long you need to keep leather in the sun to get the darkening you require.

Should sunning the leather not make it dark enough for your liking, you can try other methods from this list.

B. Neatsfoot Oil

Many types of oil can be used for darkening leather. However, we think Neatsfoot oil is the most effective.

Can you use coconut oil on leather instead?

The answer is yes if you want an alternative to the neatsfoot oil. Mink oil is also another excellent alternative.

If using this method, ensure you have:

  1. The oil of your choosing
  2. 2 lint-free cloths (microfiber is the best option)

What to do:

  1. Dampen Your Cloth

Take a teaspoon of oil and dampen your lint-free cloth with it. You shouldn’t over-saturate either the cloth or the leather. Therefore, just a small amount of oil needs to be applied to a small leather section, with this process repeated in sections. When applying to your sections, ensure this is done in a circular motion.

2. Apply Your Oil

Eventually, all your small sections should have oil applied to them. The layer of oil across the whole leather product needs to be equal. As you are applying the oil, it may run out from the cloth, especially if darkening a larger product. You can add a couple of drops more oil whenever this occurs.

3. Allow To Dry

You will need to let the oil dry for around 10 to 12 hours. With oil, you should get darkening in this time which is two to three shades darker than the leather’s initial coloration.

4. Repeat The Process (If Required)

Should you require further darkening, repeat this process, ensuring the same drying time until your leather is darkened to your satisfaction.


C. Neatsfoot Oil And Sunlight Combo

The combination of oil and the UV rays from the sun has an impact that combined is one of the best ways to darken leather.

For this method, follow the oiling process above and then allow the leather in question to get 24 hours of direct sunlight.

After 24 hours, should your leather not be as dark as you desire, you can give another oil coating followed by another session out in the sun.

Remember, areas that have been worked on with tools, where designs are rising from the leather, will darken to deeper shades than leather that hasn’t been tooled. Keep an eye on these leather products; otherwise, you could end up with leather turning black.

NOTE: If you live in an area where sunshine is insufficient to go through this process, you can instead use a UV lamp. In fact, a UV lamp may darken your leather quicker than sticking it out in the sun.

D. Coffee

Yes, you read that correctly! Coffee can be used to darken leather a couple of shades. And, no, you don’t need any expensive coffee to do it.

A cup of cheap, brewed black coffee will do the trick. This method is a way to darken leather without any chemicals and use something most of us already have in our homes.

To use this method, ensure you have:

  1. A brewed cup of coffee
  2. Water (Distilled)
  3. A sponge
  4. A lint-free cloth (microfiber is the best option)
  5. Conditioner for leather

What to do:


You will need a really strong cup or mug of coffee to do this. Perhaps more depending on the size of the leather product, you will be darkening.


On a medium-high flame, boil the coffee and keep it simmering at boiling point for roughly 2 minutes. Keep stirring the coffee so that nothing burns to the bottom of the pan.


Allow the coffee to cool for at least 5 minutes or ten if needed.


With the coffee cooled a bit, you can begin darkening.

You have two options here.

Option 1: Apply coffee to the leather with a cloth, doing so one layer at a time, and giving time to air dry in between each coating. This can be done until the leather is darkened to your satisfaction.

Option 2:Let the leather sit in the coffee for between 12 to 24 hours. Once the time is up, rinse the leather with clean distilled water, or wipe it with a damp cloth.

Ensure that the leather is allowed to air dry completely when using this option.


With the conditioner of your choice, condition the leather. This step is vital when using coffee to ensure the fibers of the leather are well maintained.

E. Walnut Hulls

Walnut hulls will give the leather a lovely, deep brown color. If you can find some where you live, this is a brilliant, natural option.

So, how to darken leather with walnut hulls?

You will require:

  1. Apron
  2. Conditioner for leather
  3. Container
  4. Gloves
  5. Lint-free cloth
  6. Sponge
  7. Strainer
  8. Walnut Hulls
  9. WATER

What to do:


Walnut hulls will stain your skin and your clothes, and the stain is very difficult to remove.  Wear a pair of gloves and an apron before attempting this method.


Fill your container half full with walnuts.


Your container should be half-filled with walnuts. You now need to fill the rest of it with water.


The walnut/water container should be left to sit for at least a week, but ideally up to two weeks. If you can get a two-week soak, you will find a much darker tone.


This step is where the strainer comes in. You want to strain all that dark walnut juice into another vessel.

NOTE: The walnuts you soaked can actually be reused. Give them a dry, if possible, in the sun.


There are two options for this:

Option 1: Apply the solution with a lint-free cloth, one layer at a time, letting the leather air dry between each application.

Option 2: Soak the leather in the solution for between 12 to 24 hours.


Once the leather is the color you desire, rinse the leather (if using option 2) or just wipe it with a damp cloth (if using option 1).

8. DRY

Allow the leather to air dry completely. Do not move onto Step IX  unless the leather has dried completely.


Giving the leather a good condition with the conditioner of your choice will restore the health of the leather after it has undergone this process. This conditioning is especially important for leather if you used option 2 and saturated the leather for between 12 and 24 hours.


There are so many alternatives to darken leather without dyes, and what we have shown you in this article is just a handful of the techniques you have available to you.

What we’ve shown you are some of the best out there, so please give them a go and see which one works best for you.

All provide a different level of darkening so that you may need a bit of trial and error first.

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