How to Darken Leather Boots

Darkening leather boots is a common way to change their style and keep old boots looking fresh.

Chances are high that the pair of leather boots you’ve been wearing for ages are cracked, worn, or faded, and learning how to darken leather boots can enable you to give your shoes a second life.

Plus, darkening leather boots is a great way to make a new pair of shoes look exactly the way you would like.

Can I dye my leather boots


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The trouble with darkening leather boots is that there are a thousand different ways to go about it, but not all of them are flawless.

It is essential to find the right methods for darkening your boots so that they do not end up cracked, shrunken, or discolored at the end of the process.

In addition, not all leathers darken in the same way, since different leathers will absorb the darkening agent more or less than others.


Thankfully, darkening leather boots is easy once you know the techniques that work and their pros and cons.

This article will take you through everything you need to know about how to darken leather boots using several different methods so you can revitalize your old pair of shoes or modify the color on your shiny new boots.


What You Need

Option 1: Vegetable oil

Vegetable oils are not the best method for the long-term health of your leather boots, but they will certainly work to darken the leather and chances are very high you have a bottle of vegetable oil around the house already.

The additional advantages to using a vegetable oil are that it is inexpensive and that the essential oils found in all vegetable oils will work to replenish and moisturize your leather.

On the other hand, whatever smells are present in the oil will work into your boot during the darkening process, so it is essential that your oil is not rancid.

Vegetable oils can also stain your leather if you darken too much

The best oils to use are olive oil, coconut oil, or canola oil, and you’ll also need one rag to rub the oil in and another to wipe excess oil off.


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Option 2: Neatsfoot or mink oil

Animal-based oils derived from neatsfoot or mink are typically sold specifically for darkening boots and are a more serious darkening product compared to vegetable oils.

In addition to darkening your leather, these oils will also serve to waterproof and condition your boots, which is great for the long-term health of the leather.

The downside is that compared to vegetable oils, animal oil products are significantly more expensive and can quickly over saturate and stain your leather if you do not carefully follow the instructions for the product you choose.


Option 3: Synthetic blends

Synthetic blends are even more expensive than neatsfoot or mink oil for darkening your leather boots, but they also provide the safest and most effective darkening.

Depending on the blend you choose, the synthetic products typically offer waterproofing, conditioning, and adding shine to your leather in combination with the darkening process.

Some synthetic blends are also designed to impart a pleasant smell to your boots, like pine or honey scents, or to increase the suppleness of your boots.

Another advantage to blend products is that they cannot be over applied and will not stain your boots even if you use the whole container, in stark contrast to animal and vegetable oils.

Although they are expensive, synthetic blends are one of the best choices for boot darkening and care for boots that you plan to keep around for years to come.


Option 4: Leather dye

Leather dyes are commercial products like synthetic blends that are specifically designed for darkening leather.

The main difference that sets leather dyes apart is that dyes allow you to choose the color you will be applying to your boots.

In general, alcohol-based dyes may stiffen the leather while water-based dyes will moisten and soften the leather, so consider this when choosing a product.

Typically, these products come with additional materials to prepare the leather and clean it after the dye application is finished, but you may also need a spray bottle to wet the boot, a paintbrush and sponge to paint on the dye, and latex gloves to protect your skin from the dye.


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Option 1: Vegetable oil

Measure out about three cupfuls of oil into your clean rag, then coat the boot with oil by brushing it lightly with the rag.

Once the boot is coated, use your hands to massage the oil into the leather and remove any pools of oil.

Let the boot sit coated in oil for up to 24 hours, then clean it off. If the boot needs to be darkened further, you can repeat these steps.


Option 2: Neatsfoot or mink oil

Take a thimble’s worth of oil between your thumb and forefinger and massage it into your boot by hand.

Be sure to coat the boot evenly during this process.

Once finished, place the boots outside in the sun for 4-6 hours to dry (you can also place them near a fire or space heater).

If after the boots are dry you would like the leather to be darker, you can repeat these steps.

However, allow the boots to dry for at least 12 hours more after your last coast or else dirt may accumulate quickly by sticking to residual oil.


Option 3: Synthetic blends

Grab a grape-sized glob of the synthetic blend from the container with your fingers and then use your hand to thoroughly brush it all over the outside of your boot.

In places where the boot is especially stiff, faded, or cracked, use your hands to massage some additional blend into the leather.

Then simply let the boot sit for about 10 minutes, after which time you can either wear it or apply as many additional coats as you need to darken the leather further.


Option 4: Leather dye

Whenever you are working with leather dye, wear a pair of latex gloves in order to protect your skin from the chemicals in the dye.

It is also important to work in a well-ventilated area so you aren’t breathing in the dye chemicals, and to work on a plastic sheeting or outside since the dye can permanently stain your floor or carpet if it spills.

Start by applying the leather preparer included with your dye to the outside of the boot using a rag.

This preparer will remove the finish on the leather and allow the leather to fully absorb the dye.

Once the finish is removed, wet the leather by using a spray bottle to cover it in a fine mist of water.

The goal here is simply to moisten, rather than to soak the leather, so apply water sparingly.

Use a paintbrush and sponge to apply the dye to the boot.

The paintbrush can be helpful in getting at hard to reach places around seams and reinforced parts of the boot, while the sponge is better for quickly covering the majority of the boot.

Once the first coat is done, wait a few minutes for it to dry and then begin applying a second coat.

Typically, it will take three to six coats to achieve a darker look, and It is best to work in thin coats since this will give the darkening a more even look.

When finished, allow the leather to dry for at least 24 hours and then use a clean rag to wipe off any residual dye and to buff the leather for a polished look.


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The most important thing to remember when darkening leather boots is that it is very easy to darken leather boots multiple times, but almost impossible to lighten them once they have been darkened.

Therefore, it is safest to always opt for darkening less rather than darkening more in a given sitting – using too little darkener is preferable over using too much.

For the same reason, it is worth considering a more expensive option like synthetic boot blends that will not stain your leather, no matter how much you use.

The nice thing about darkening, though, is that it can rejuvenate your boots by giving them a new look while at the same time adding moisture and suppleness to old leather.

The darkening effect typically lasts for a long time before needing to be reapplied, and you can and should polish your boots in the intervening period to keep them looking fresh.

Darkening your boots is a great do-it-yourself project to keep your leather at its best.

If you found this article helpful, we’d love to hear about your boot darkening experience in the comments section.

In addition, we always appreciate your sharing the article if you found it to be helpful!

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