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January 13, 2023 4 min read

by Moniqe Youzwa

Monique has been a full-time freelance writer for over 5 years, plus has a few fiction credits under her belt and is currently working on a novel. When not writing, she spends her time reading, playing video games, hiking, and camping with her husband and daughter.


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Leather is one of the most durable materials available, though it isn’t invincible. External factors can alter the state of leather items, and not always in a good way. When leather gets wet, the water molecules bind with the natural oils in the material, drawing them out as it dries. The sun can actually speed up this process, removing those oils even after the moisture is gone.

Of course, the sun can have a positive effect on the leather. Those UV rays can darken the leather’s natural shade, which many people find appealing. If attempting this process, it’s best to learn how to darken leather with sunlight safely to avoid permanent damage.

What You Need To Darken Leather

You can’t just lay your leather gear out in the sun and expect extraordinary results. The leather needs to be prepped first for even coloring and minimal damage. So, along with your leather item, you also need a leather cleaner, a microfiber or lint-free cloth, and a leather conditioner.

You’ll also need to choose the best spot to lay your leather once it’s prepped. It will take at least a couple of hours of direct sunlight to darken the leather, so be sure your chosen place gets full sun for the entire process.

Step-by-step Guide To Darken Leather

Once you’ve gathered your gear, it’s time to get started. You may need a few days to complete the entire method, so check your calendar before you begin.

Step 1 - Clean the leather

Use your leather cleaner to remove any trace of dirt, dust, or stains from the leather. Any trace of debris could result in uneven shading, so be sure the leather is as clean as possible. Then let the leather dry overnight.

Step 2 - Condition the leather

Condition your leather item, following the instructions on the bottle. Use the microfiber or lint-free cloth to apply it. Coat the entire surface evenly without saturating the leather.

Step 3 - Place the leather in the sun

Lay out your leather item in direct sunlight. Be sure to smooth out any wrinkles or creases since these can result in uneven coloring.

Step 4 - Check the leather

Check the leather frequently over the next few hours. There are two reasons for this. First, you need to be sure nothing is blocking the sun as it moves across the sky and causing shaded areas on the leather. Second, monitoring the leather ensures it reaches the desired shade without darkening too much.

Step 5 - Condition the leather

Once the leather has achieved the shade you want, remove it from the sunlight. Then wipe it down and condition it again. Doing so will replenish any oils that have been lost under the harsh UV rays. Then lay it out in a cool, dry place overnight.

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Tips For Success

For the best results when using the sun to darken leather, you may want to consider the following tips.

When using leather conditioner or oils, keep in mind that some products can alter the coloring of the leather. Choose a product that will give the leather a color you like. You can also make your own leather conditioner using baby soap, beeswax, or essential oils for the perfect shade.

Darkening leather works best when it’s new since the leather still contains all of its natural oils. There is less risk of permanent damage with new leather than with older pieces.

Never pour leather conditioner or oil directly on the leather. Use a cloth to apply it to avoid saturating the material.

If you’re darkening a large piece with more than one side, like a leather jacket, keep a close eye on the clock. Mark how long the first side spends in the sun. Then set a timer for the second side to avoid varying shades.

How to darken leather with sunlight

Final Word

Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause damage to all of your leather items, though it can also have some benefits. With the right amount of preparation and care, you can use the sun to darken your leather, creating the perfect, unique shade for all your gear.


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