Leather is a fantastic material that can be used in lots of different ways. A leather piece in a room can bring the whole look together, and a leather item of clothing can really elevate a look. But sometimes our leather loses colour, or we decide that we aren’t the same person that we were when we bought the bright yellow leather jacket. At that point, there’s only one thing to do: dye the leather.
You can dye leather in a number of ways, including using oil-based dyes, leather dyes, and acrylic paint. But all of these involve using chemicals that you can often get away without using. There are plenty of natural dyes out there that provide anything from a subtle colour to a big change.
One of the most popular natural dyes, and the one which is asked about the most, is coffee dye. So, can you use coffee to dye your leather? And if so, how?
How to use coffee as a leather dye
First of all, yes, you can use coffee as a leather dye. It works best on vegetable-tanned leather, and you must have sufficient leather conditioner around in order to dye your leather without ruining it, but you can very easily use coffee dye instead of a brown dye manufactured somewhere. The same methods can be used on sofas to make them look new.
To use coffee dye, follow these instructions:
- Clean your leather. Remove any dirt or dust from the leather using a warm water and soap mix and a soft microfiber cloth.
- Sand your leather to ensure that there is no protective coating or anything that might cause an inconsistent colour on your leather.
- Fill any cracks in your leather using liquid leather or leather filler. Apply this in thin coats using a palette knife, and then let it dry completely.
- You can either use instant coffee or coffee brew for this coffee dye, but both must be strong coffee such as a dark roast coffee. Make your coffee, ensuring that there is enough to cover the leather you wish to dye.
- Pour the coffee into a container such as a bathtub or large paddling pool, and submerge your leather into the coffee.
- Leave the leather in the coffee for 4 to 8 hours.
- Check on your leather at the 4, 5, 6 and 7-hour mark to see if it is dark enough. When satisfied, pull out the leather and remove any coffee dye residue from the surface.
- Use a generous amount of leather conditioner on the leather to bring back all of the moisture it will inevitably have lost. Neatsfoot oil is a very good conditioner for dry leather.
It is important that once you have dyed the leather, you must continue to condition and take care of it for the weeks that follow. Using coffee dye really dries out the leather, so to keep it flexible and prevent cracks forming, conditioning is essential.
If you are looking for a more subtle colour from your coffee dye, you can experiment with shorter timings in the dyeing process, likewise, longer will lead to darker colouring. However, longer will also result in dryer leather.
Other dyes that you can use for dyeing leather
Dyeing leather is by no means a new idea. It has been done for as long as leather has been about, and so there are plenty of ways to dye leather without having to rely on heavily manufactured and processed dyes. Some of the most popular natural dyes include:
Berries are incredibly colourful parts of nature, so it should come as no surprise that they are used to dye leather and not just berrie smoothies. To use crushed berries for dying leather, simply hand wash your leather items and wipe off any excess water. Then crush your berries (black berries and elderberries work the best!) into a large basin with some water. Place your leather in the dye bath and soak overnight in your natural leather dye!
When you come back in the morning, you will have freshly dyed leather. Simply wipe the excess off and condition, and your leather will be ready for use.
Acorns are great if you’re looking to dye leather. They have been used for a long time as a natural leather dye and are very easy to use. All you need to do is clean your leather, and then collect the following ingredients:
- 15 large acorns
- A cup of lemon juice
- 2 tbsp rust water
Grind your acorns up into a powder and mix with just enough water to create a dye bath. Place your clean leather into the dye bath and leave to soak. In the meantime, mix the lemon juice with the rust water, and after a few hours, take your leather out and bathe it in the second mixture.
This will cause a chemical reaction that will allow the acorn powder to work as a leather dye, creating a dark almost black colour on your leather.
Henna is a leather dye that is still used commonly around the world. It can be bought in most cosmetic stores and can be used to dye eyebrows, eyelashes, and even as a temporary tattoo. To use henna as a leather dye, you should simply follow the instructions on the henna and ensure that you condition your leather afterwards.
Bizarrely, wood stain works wonders as a leather dye. It is a great and easy, inexpensive way to get a lovely colour onto your leather. Simply brush the stain onto clean leather, keep it wet for around 5 minutes and then wipe off.
Steel wool and vinegar
In a process called vinegaroon, you can use steel wool and vinegar in order to activate a chemical reaction that works as a leather dye. Leave some steel wool in water and allow it to rust over days or weeks. Once rusted, pour boiling vinegar over the steel wool in a glass container. Cover the container and leave to stand for a few days. When you return, dip items into the mixture for at least five minutes in order to dye them.
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