How to Soften Leather?
How to Soften Leather?
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Nowadays, leather products are in high demand because they are practical, comfortable, and durable. The list of their advantages may be endless. Such clothes and accessories are always in fashion because of their elegant and stylish look. Moreover, they allow you to emphasize your taste and style and look high whatever you are wearing. However, like any other material, leather requires proper care, since, with the process of time, it may become stiff and rough. Why does it happen? Many factors such as:

  • sunlight;
  • heat;
  • cold;
  • rain

as well as improper storage may disrupt both the structure of the material and its general appearance. The impact of such factors leads to the fact that your accessories and clothes become rougher and don’t look so great as when you purchase them.

Softening Leather

Most often, the leather becomes rough after it has been soaked to the inner layer. In such cases, after drying, it becomes stiff and unfit for further use. It is impossible to wear such things but it is also a pity to throw them away. Of course, you can carry a leather jacket or shoes in dry cleaning or a shoe repair but if this is not possible, you can try softening the leather on your favorite cloth or shoes by yourself.

So, you have two options:

  1. purchase special leather softeners that are sold at any household chemical store;
  2. use the improvised means which will provide you with the same good result.

Chemical softeners work faster but are more expensive. So, if you are going to save your money and get the desired result, all you need is patience, the presence of free time, and the right approach to cleaning. So, to soften the leather belt, jacket, or shoes at home, you can use the following means and methods. Before reading the review, note that all the reviewed methods for softening the leather are intended only for natural material. In case if you decide to use them for artificial leather – you can completely ruin your favorite clothes (or shoes).

Case #1: methods of leather shoes softening

Our shoes are the most often affected by moisture, which significantly worsens the material structure. Besides, wet shoes can not only become stiff and rough but also decrease in size. To prevent coarsening of your new boots, you need clean and dry them after each exposure to rain or dirt. Note, that it is strictly forbidden to put shoes near a battery or gas stove. Such drying will result in the leather roughing and decreasing in size after which you will not be able to wear them again.

Softening Leather

To dry your pair of boots after the downpour, you can use the excellent old method – to stuff a piece of a crumpled newspaper or any other paper inside them. If the boots are soaked wet, then you need to pull out the insoles and periodically change the newspaper. If after this procedure, your shoes became stiff, you can try to soften the leather. Let’s take a look at how to do this:

  • The best method is to use oil for leather or Vaseline. It is necessary to apply it to the whole shoe surface, wipe well and let it dry completely.
  • A flaxseed oil can also help restore skin softness and will make your shoes waterproof.
  • In cases, if the backs or spout in the boot became rough, they can be treated with paraffin or wax.
  • Special cream for shoes based on beeswax will soften the natural leather perfectly, make it soft and comfortable to wear again. You can also try to mix it with the usual cosmetic cream.
  • The shoes will also be softer if you add a little fat cow milk to the shoe cream. Apply it to the surface, wipe well and allow to dry.
Red Wing Heritage Mink Oil-UDoes Red Wing Footwear ring a bell? The company is well-known for producing U.S. military footwear. With original marketing done by painter Norman Rockwell, the company has earned its well-established reputation for retro chic designs.

All of these tips are among the most effective ones against the rough leather. They allow returning softness and elasticity to your favorite leather things, thereby increasing their service life.

Case #2: methods of leather clothes softening

One of the clothes that after getting into the rain or sleet becomes stiff is a leather jacket. If this happened, don’t worry – you still can bring it back to life. There are several ways to soften leather clothing and return them to the initial look.

  • Perhaps the easiest way is to use castor oil. You can buy it in any pharmacy without the prescription. Apply it on a dry sponge (or cloth) and wipe the material gently. You should repeat this procedure several times but note that right after applying the oil on the jacket, you should leave it for several hours. During this period the castor oil will soak the material well. If you have light-colored leather clothes, you can use another method. To soften it and save the color, you need a usual baby cream. You also should wipe the leather gently and leave it to dry completely.
  • In cases when you don’t have castor oil or simply don’t want to go out to buy it, you can use Vaseline. You can also use other products which contain wax but be very careful. Before applying them, you should attentively read the instructions on the package and also wipe the surface of your clothes well.
  • One more good method for the leather softening is a baby cream + any leather care product. Take them in equal parts, mix and apply on the entire surface with a soft sponge or cloth. Wait a few hours and then wear your favorite thing. This method also will help restore the former shine and newness to the leather clothing.

Softening Leather

It is also essential to notice that it is prohibited to treat the leather with sunflower oil or glycerin. Such methods will make the material soft, but eventually, when glycerol or sunflower oil is dry, and the leather is saturated completely, the jacket becomes even rougher.

Case #3: methods of leather belts softening

The next thing on our list is leather belts that, as well as any other products made of the genuine materials, require proper care. Only then they will serve you more than one season and save the great look. Belts made of genuine leather should be protected from any moisture impact and temperature changes. In cases if the leather on the belt has become rough, you need to soften It as soon as possible; otherwise, it can crack and tear quickly.

  • To soften the belt, you can use any fat. It is enough to moisten a cloth in a fat, wipe the belt, and leave until it is completely dry.
  • Also, you can use castor oil, a baby cream or any other special care product for belts (or any other goods) made of leather. If necessary or when the material badly absorbs the remedies used, the procedure can be repeated several times. The material of your belt should be always soft and elastic, only then it will serve you a long time and look stylish and new.

Softening Leather

Tips on how to store goods made of leather

It directly depends on you how long your leather goods will serve you and save their initial stylish and new look. To keep your favorite clothes in an excellent form for many years, you need to store them properly. We have prepared some useful tips for you:

  1. Leather things must be stored in special linen or cotton bags;
  2. You should always dry leather goods in a well-ventilated area at room temperature;
  3. The leather material has a thin protective layer, so it should not be cleaned too often. Also, it is not recommended to use hard brushes when cleaning;
  4. You shouldn’t use any solvents for cleaning the leather, it can spoil the material;
  5. Before hiding leather clothing or shoes for long-term storage, they must be cleaned well and dried completely;
  6. If the leather clothes or shoes got soaked, they need to be wiped with a dry cloth and then dried at a temperature of around 20 degrees. Do not dry leather items near the battery or gas stove.

Video Guide: How to Soften Leather

Finally, when deciding whether to purchase such goods or not, just take into account that the leather is durable and at the same time, soft material. As well as other materials, it requires regular and proper care, which can significantly increase the life of your favorite thing.


Steve Coltharp
Hello, my name is Steve and I’m an author of the blog “Leather Toolkits“. The beauty is in simplicity, so learn, train, and make your life maximally simple by creating things that will please people for many years. Let your hobby grow into something more and make this world brighter! Hope, in this blog you will find answers to all of your questions.

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  1. Thank you so much for your knowledge sharing tips. But I also have an opinion about making the soften the leather. There are many ways to soften the leather. Of course, you can go out and buy a skin conditioner cream, but there are a few inexpensive methods. You could soak a cotton ball into some isopropyl rubbing alcohol And rub that onto the skin several times; you can rub the vaseline, or hair conditioner in the skin, soft it. Most households have at least one of these items already on hand, meaning you don’t have to go to the store and make a special purchase.

  2. Thanks for sharing this article! I finally know how to soften the leather I have sitting around for an upcoming project. I have tried before and failed, and also have wanted to avoid chemical softeners, so it has been nice to read about some of the more natural ways to go about doing it.

  3. Hello Sam. Thank you for your advice on softening shoe leather. I have heard that coconut oil also helps. My question is, how often and at what intervals would you apply either the coconut oil or the vaseline that you recommend? And further, can you mix them i.e. if one has already been tried, can you put the other on at a later stage? I have tried coconut oil once and it hasn’t really made the leather softer nor restored the size of my boot that got blood in it from an accident and had to be washed. It dried hard and tight – seemingly a smaller size!
    Many thanks.

    1. Hello, Sandra! I would recommend softening leather every few months to keep it in good condition. Now, I’m using Obenaufs Leather Oil, it’s my go-to leather oil.

  4. Very good read, excellent tips on leather care. I have a new leather rifle cheek pad that is anchored to the butt of the stock on one side, then laced with a leather lace to hold it around the stock. Id like to darken it and make it really soft and tight to the stock, I’m not really sure which method you mentioned would be the best to use, any thoughts?

    1. Hello, George! I would recommend to use method #1.

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