Dyeing leather shoes may seem like a daunting task, but it just takes some patience and know-how. Believe it or not, you can dye brown shoes a lighter color -- such as beige -- with relative ease. Using water-based pigment dyes is quick, requires one color and cleans up with water. If you choose to use a solvent dye, you'll need two colors -- an intermediate brown as the first coat and the final beige color to finish your shoes. Either way, a new, refurbished pair of leather shoes are right around the corner to snazz up your wardrobe.
Pigment Leather Dye Method
Cover your entire work surface with several layers of newspaper and hold it down with masking tape so it doesn't shift. Tape a large garbage bag over the newspapers for extra protection. Remove shoelaces. Use masking tape to cover any areas -- such as the soles or designer labels -- that you don't want to dye.
Use a clean towel to rub deglazing solution on the shoes to remove dirt and prepare the leather so the dye can penetrate. Allow them to air dry completely. Wear latex gloves and shake the dye bottle or swirl it in a bowl with a paint stick to mix the pigments thoroughly. Saturate a dauber or a small sponge with the dye and rub it in one direction all over the shoes. Let the shoes dry completely. Repeat this step a second time, applying the dye at a 90-degree angle from the first direction, and let the shoes dry completely.
Rub the shoes with a towel to remove excess dye, using a new towel as each one accumulates dye residue. Remove the masking tape. Buff the shoes with leather finish or saddle soap to lock in the color and give them an even sheen.
Solvent Leather Dye Method
Prepare your work space in the same manner as for the pigment dye method and mask and deglaze the shoes in the same manner. Allow the shoes to air dry completely. Wear latex gloves and shake the tan leather dye -- which is the intermediary dye -- or mix it in a bowl with a paint stick to thoroughly blend the pigment.
Saturate a dauber or a small sponge with the tan dye and rub it in a thin, even coat all over the shoes. The tan dye is lighter than the original brown but a shade darker than the final beige dye; it neutralizes the brown and acts as a primer coat. Let the shoes dry completely. Wear latex gloves and shake the beige leather dye, or mix it in a bowl with a paint stick to blend the pigment. Saturate a dauber or a small sponge with the beige dye and rub it evenly in a thin coat all over the shoes. Let the shoes dry completely.
Rub the shoes with a towel to remove excess dye, using a new towel as each one accumulates dye residue. Remove the masking tape. Use a clean cloth to apply a thin top coat to the shoes and let them dry completely.
- Use a cotton swab to apply a color sample of the dye on a hidden part of the shoe to see if the finished color is what you want.
- Pigment dyes can be mixed to create a custom dye color.
- Leather dyes emit fumes that can aggravate breathing problems and irritate the skin, so wear latex gloves and make sure your workspace has adequate ventilation.
- Dye is permanent, so protect your work area and wear old clothes in case of splashes or spills.
Shelley Moench-Kelly is a writer and editor whose clients range from L'Oreal and www.Makeup.com to the McGraw-Hill Companies and FIDM. She has interviewed notables such as Dr. Andrew Ordon of “The Doctors” and the legendary Vidal Sassoon. Her first book, "Egg," is slated for release in 2016.