How to Bleach Leather and Lighten it

Have you ever looked at a piece of dark leather item and thought to yourself, “I wish this was lighter?”

Well, you’re in luck my friend because, in this article, we’re going to talk about bleaching leather to make it lighter.

We’ll explore the dos and don’ts of bleaching leather and even throw in some tips on how to safely and effectively lighten the color of your leather items.

Can you bleach leather to lighten it?

Can you bleach leather to lighten the color?

Yes, you can bleach leather to lighten it using a recommended leather lightening product such as oxalic acid. When mixed with water, oxalic acid can help to lighten or remove stains and discoloration from leather since it is a strong reducing agent.

Disclaimer: As with any DIY project, please exercise caution and follow all safety instructions when working with bleach.

What you need to lighten the leather

To lighten leather through bleaching, you will need these items;

  • A bleaching product (oxalic acid in water)
  • Soft cloth or sponge
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Protective gear and gloves
  • Water
  • Leather conditioner
  • Well-ventilated working area

Tip 1: Don’t use chlorine-based bleach as it can damage the leather. Chlorine tends to break down the fibers of the leather causing it to become weak and brittle.

How to bleach leather (step by step)

Step 1: Clean and remove the leather finish

Before you can bleach leather, it’s important to remove any existing finish or dye on the leather.

This can be done by deglazing the leather finish using a deglazer like acetone that is effective at removing acrylic, lacquer, and other finishes from the surface of the leather.

Once done, wipe off the residue using a damp clean cloth and then leave the leather to dry completely.

Step 2: Prepare the Oxalic Acid solution

Next, prepare the oxalic acid solution to make it safe to use on leather.

The reason for this is that oxalic acid is a harsh chemical that comes in form of a fine, white crystalline powder. The powder is soluble in water, which makes it less harmful and safe to use as a cleaning agent.

In the context of bleaching leather, the oxalic acid powder is typically mixed with warm water to make the solution.

For the bleaching solution to be very effective, you need to mix 1 teaspoon of oxalic acid powder with 1 pint of warm water. Using warm water helps to dissolve the crystals quickly.

Tip 2: It is best to start with a weaker concentration of oxalic acid and increase the concentration if you do not get your desired bleaching results.

Step 4: Test the solution on a small area

Before applying the oxalic acid solution to the entire leather item, it’s important to test it on the leather that is not easily visible such as the back or underside of the item.

This will help you to determine whether the solution is safe to use on the rest of the leather and to avoid any potential damage.

Dip a cotton swab in the oxalic acid solution and apply it to the small area. Allow the solution to sit on the leather for 10-15 minutes to see its effect on the color of the leather.

Then, check for signs of damage such as leather darkening, discoloration, and dryness, if there is no damage and the color of the leather has lightened, you can proceed to the next step.

Step 5: Apply the Oxalic Acid solution to the Leather

Since oxalic acid can be harmful to the skin and eyes, it’s important to wear gloves and protective gear such as safety goggles, a mask, and long-sleeved clothing before applying the bleach solution.

Next, use a sponge or a soft cloth to apply the oxalic acid solution to the leather. Dip the cloth or sponge into the solution and wring out any excess liquid.

Begin by applying the solution to a small section of the leather, working in small areas to ensure that the solution is evenly distributed. Rub the solution gently into the leather using circular motions, making sure to cover the entire surface of the leather.

Depending on the desired level of lightening, you may need to repeat the application of the solution several times.

 Step 6: Rinse and dry the Leather item

Once done with the bleaching, rinse the leather thoroughly with clean water to remove any remaining oxalic acid solution.

You can use a bucket of water or a clean sponge to do this.

After rinsing the leather, use a clean sponge or cloth to wipe away any residue. Make sure to remove all traces of the oxalic acid solution to avoid damaging the leather.

Then, allow the leather to air dry completely and avoid using any heat sources or direct sunlight to dry the leather as this can cause it to crack or dry out and become stiff.

Step 7: Condition the Leather

The bleaching process can strip the leather of some of its natural oils, so it’s important to condition it to help restore its suppleness and prevent it from becoming brittle.

To condition, use a leather conditioner that is appropriate for the type of leather you have.

Apply a small amount of the conditioner to a clean and dry cloth and rub it gently into the leather in a circular motion.

Allow it to absorb the conditioner for a few minutes before wiping away any excess with a clean cloth.

Tip 3: Conditioning your leather item regularly can help to keep it well moisturized and prolong its lifespan.

What you might experience if lightening leather for the first time

From my experience, the end results when you bleach leather will depend on several factors including the type of leather, the color of the leather, and the strength of the bleaching product you use.

In some cases, the leather may lighten to the desired color but in other cases, it may not lighten enough. Also, it may lighten too much resulting in an uneven or blotchy appearance.

Moreover, if you do not use the bleaching product correctly or you leave it on the leather for too long, it might cause damage to the leather such as discoloration, stiffening, or cracking.

Tip 4: Test the bleaching product you use on a small and hidden area of your leather before applying it to the entire item.

In conclusion, bleaching leather with oxalic acid can be a great way to lighten the color of your leather item and give it a fresh new look.

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can safely and effectively lighten your leather item by bleaching it without causing any damage or discoloration.

However, it’s important to note that bleaching leather can be a tricky and delicate process, and it’s not suitable for all types of leather or all colors.

It’s always a good idea to test the solution first and to follow all safety precautions when working with oxalic acid.


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