How to Dye Leather Shoes at Home

Need to dye your leather shoes but not sure how? Here’s a simple guide to help you!

how to dye leather shoes at home

Dyeing leather is a popular way of giving a pair of leather shoes a new lease of life. It is a creative, fun and relatively simple way of making an old pair of leather shoes feel brand new and giving them a much-needed coat of colour.

It is important, though, when thinking about whether to purchase leather dyes for your shoes, to remember that dye is permanent. It’s a change that cannot be undone on leather, and there is no guarantee that it will look how you originally envisioned it. So yes, you can dye leather shoes a different colour but it can be very difficult if not impossible to return the leather to its original colour, especially if you dyed very light shoes. You might want to consider purchasing new shoes if you are concerned about the result.

Likewise, even if you use leather shoe dye for leather boots or leather shoes, it is unlikely to cover or hide any blemishes or stains on the leather, as the leather dye is inherently transparent.

Tips for dyeing your shoes

There are a few things to remember as you start your dye projects. They are:

  • Nail polish remover will bleach and discolour leather (check these nail polish storage ideas)
  • Using a sponge on natural leather to dye it may result in oversaturating the material
  • Angelus Dye is often used to dye shoes, and has a range of leather dye products available. But if unavailable, any alcohol based dyes marketed towards leather will work. Ensuring that you have the correct dye is very important
  • For a darker blend, you can mix dyes together. But be sure to test your concoction somewhere before painting it onto the shoes

What you’ll need to dye leather boots, shoes or sneakers

Dyeing leather is a relatively simple process. However, there are a fair few tools involved to help you do a good job. Before you start to dye leather shoes, you will need:

  • Leather preparer or leather deglazer (Angelus Leather Preparer is a highly rated product)
  • Alcohol-based dyes (LCD Leather Dye is well reviewed)
  • Shoe polish (Wax polish or cream polish will work)
  • A tarp or bin bag to protect the workspace
  • A few rags or pieces of soft cloth
  • Small plastic cups
  • Nitrile gloves or latex gloves
  • Small paint brushes
  • A few test swatches of leather (as close in colour to the leather shoes as possible)
  • Horsehair brush
  • Polishing cloth
  • Masking tape

How to dye leather shoes

1. Prepare the shoes.

Most commercially finished leather will have an acrylic finisher applied to it that will prevent the dye from adhering. You should first remove this coating using a leather deglazer or leather preparer. To do so, coat a clean cloth with the deglazer and then use the cloth to rub away the glaze. You should be able to see the difference.

Once done, remove the laces. Then use masking tape to cover up all of the places on the shoe that you do not intend to dye. Then, use a leather cleaner to wipe down your now natural smooth leather and leave the shoes to dry completely.

2. Test the colours of the dye.

While you wait for your shoes to dry, get the test swatches of leather and test out your dye on them. This will help you to determine how many coats it will take to dye the shoe. This will also show you whether or not the dye is going to go the colour you intended.

3. Dye the leather shoes.

It is now time to dye the shoes. Before you begin, put some nitrile gloves on and place your dye into a plastic cup (or several if using multiple colours). Shake the dye before opening.

Then, using a wet paintbrush, make long brush strokes in line with the material of the shoe. You can do this by making sure that you paint the dye in the same direction and by being sure to follow stitch lines. Make sure to use consistent strokes and that the brush is kept wet. After each coat, stop to let the liquid dye dry. This will allow you to see the colour and thus decide whether or not to paint another coat onto the leather.

You will likely need multiple coats. But ensure that you paint the dye on in thin layers to create the best final product. If the first coat or even the second coat isn’t the colour you were after, do not be disheartened. Two coats of dye are still relatively thin.

Be careful where you leave your dyed shoe to dry as you wouldn’t want it to ruin your shoe rack.

4. Finish the shoes.

Once your leather shoes have been painted, they will need to be polished and conditioned. The dyed surface will likely be relatively dry after being coloured. And so, it will benefit from a buff, condition and a good polish.

Use a clear wax polish or a clear cream polish and a horsehair brush to carefully buff the shoes once dry, ensuring that you are gentle and moving the brush in clockwise movements. Doing this will give your shoes a deeper shine, and it may also make the colour appear slightly darker initially.

Once polished, use a straight up conditioner to help you create that natural waxed finish that new shoes have and to make sure that you’re properly protecting the shoe.

How to care for dyed leather shoes

Once you have dyed your shoes, you will need to be a bit more careful when it comes to caring for the material. The dyeing process can dry leather out a little bit. So it is important to avoid leaving your leather in direct sunlight, and to be sure that you keep up with shoe polishing. We covered some great ideas on benches for shoe storage & IKEA hacks for unique shoe storage.

If you need to clean your newly dyed shoes, you can do so using a soft cloth and mild dish soap mixed with water. To remove stains from your dyed leather, try using cornstarch and then shoe polish to cover any residue marks. Be sure that the polish matches the colour of your leather, or that it is a clear polish.

Ready to dye your leather shoes?

If it’s your first time to dye leather shoes, it can be really scary. It’s understandable if you feel hesitant. But how will you learn if you don’t try?

Hence, if you want to learn to dye your leather shoes yourself, it’s worth giving it a try! You already have a guide at your fingertips. Just follow it and you’re good to go!

Ready to try other DIY projects? Check these out!

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A simple guide to help you dye leather shoes and get the colour that you want!

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