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How to Darken Faded Black Leather

by Hilary White, studioD

While you might happily pay a premium to get an edgy, distressed finish on a designer motorcycle jacket, other black leather pieces aren't as well suited to a care-worn, vintage look. Know the right products and techniques that can help you restore your faded black leather clothes and accessories to their former glory and keep them protected from future damage.

Determine if you have aniline leather, commonly used in garments and handbags, which can be restored using aniline dye. Pigmented leather, sometimes called protected leather, cannot be restored with dyes and instead requires pigments. Test a spot by lightly scratching the surface with your nail. If it leaves a lighter mark afterward, it is likely aniline leather. Unprotected aniline leather will also soak up moisture and darken where a drop of water has been applied instead of the drop remaining on the surface.

Clean the item using leather cleaner. Removing soil on the surface will help ensure that the dye adheres well to the garments and colors evenly. Apply as directed, wiping off any residue with a clean, lint-free cloth or sponge.

Wearing rubber gloves, apply the leather dye with a sponge, wiping it onto the leather. Treat the most faded and more difficult areas first, such as zippers, pockets, collars, sleeves and seams before applying to the main area of the garment or accessory and blending for an even finish. Apply a second coat as directed.

Hang garment to dry. Apply a third coat of dye, if necessary, to even the color or achieve a more uniform look. Buff gently with a soft cloth to remove excess dye.

Use a leather protectant, which can help repel dirt, liquid and body oil to keep your garment clean and free of damage.

Protect against future cracking and fading by using a leather conditioner regularly. Wipe off moisture immediately if your garment gets wet and hang it in a well ventilated area, avoiding hot air vents to let it dry naturally.

Items you will need
  •  Leather cleaner
  •  Rubber gloves
  •  Black aniline dye
  •  Sponge
  •  Leather protectant
  •  Leather conditioner


  • Never restore aniline leather using colored balms, which contain pigments that won't soak into this type of leather.

About the Author

Hilary White is a professional writer and editor based in San Diego. White has been writing articles on fashion, style, fitness, nutrition, movies and entertainment since 1994. Her articles have been published in "Westways" magazine, "Pages" magazine, "Book Street USA," "Magill's Cinema Annual," and numerous titles from Visible Ink Press. White holds a bachelor's degree in English from Michigan State University.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images