turn brown leather into dark brown without dye?

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by johnnyjohnny, Nov 28, 2009.

  1. johnnyjohnny

    johnnyjohnny Practically Family

    lake balboa
    wondering if anyone knows, aside from using dye, what type of conditioner or leather cream can safely darken medium brown jacket leather as shown in the pic below into almost an A-2 or G-1 degree of dark brown?

    i know many creams or conditioners will normally darken leather...wanted or not...and many people like that affect...but i'm looking for whatever will do that as extremely as possible, safely, and not being a dye...any help is appreciated...below is the color, cowhide i believe, that i'd like to turn into an A-2 or G-1 level of dark brown:


  2. Corky

    Corky Practically Family

    West Los Angeles
    An odd request, to be sure...

    An odd request, to be sure.

    First, I don't think you are going to find any product out there that will satisfy your request.

    Let's assume that the leather surface has a porous surface and is not covered by a hard, waterproof surface treatment. If it has a hard shiny waterproof finish, any treatment or dye is not going to sink into the pores.

    But if I wanted to darken any leather that was relatively unfinished and amiable to taking a liquid into the pores, my initial suggestion would be to take it outdoors on a sunny day and put a coat of standard Vaseline Petroleum jelly all over it and let it sit in the warmth of the sun for a while, then take a soft cotton cloth and wipe off as much vaseline as you can.

    That should have the effect of darkening the garment approximately one shade. And it won't hurt your leather item and it might just make it softer and more pliable.

    Beyond that, I recall that Neatsfoot oil will also cause leather to undergo a color change to a shade or two darker. And I understand that Mink oil also has this color darkening effect. I have not used these products in quite a while, so I can't say for sure how they will react with your jacket.

    But you are seeking a property in the leather treatment - a radical darkening of color - that most leather treatments avoid like the plague.

    I advise you to consider the use of a stain or a dye.

    I have achieved my favorite results with an Antique Stain, rather than a dye. You wipe it on, let it sit for a while, then wipe it off. Some of the stain darkens the surface and the worn, creased or scratched parts of the surface take more of the stain and get darker, creating some interesting visual effects.

    Antique stain has the property of making the abrasions and scuff marks darker than the surrounding leather and tends to give an older, well-worn item a really cool vintage look.

    One can also use a darker shade of staining shoe polish. But the results you get tend to be unpredictable, the color might not turn out the way you want or it might not be as permanent as you want, or you might hate the color and it turns out to be permanent.

    Best of luck
  3. johnnyjohnny

    johnnyjohnny Practically Family

    lake balboa
    not sO oDD i hope

    thanks mr. cork...didn't think my request was so odd...i just like a darker jacket, but have found one i can buy that i love the styling of, but i don't like leather that light

    after going to your link there were enough caveats there about dying leather that i think my original caution was warranted...i think i'll stick with conditioners that turn it darker, so will continue to ask those who know which ones have the 'worst' reputation for doing that, to let me know

    now, i have to admit i'm a bit fearful to slather vaseline over the jacket...everything i've read has said NOT to use petrol products on leather...do you agree corky?

    also, i've heard the same thing about neatsfoot, that it will over time dissolve the thread used to sew your jacket...

    i know pecards does have petrol product in it, but everyone swears by it

    anyway, any more info is appreciated...and then, if anyone has good conditioners or creams that have nevertheless turned their jackets really darker, i'd love to know about that product

  4. Corky

    Corky Practically Family

    West Los Angeles
    I can only speak from my limited experience...

    I can only speak from my limited experience. And I respect your knowledge and expertise in this area. If you don't like the color of a jacket, the best approach might be to simply find another jacket in a color that you like.

    One really has to know some more about the jacket in question, the animal it came from (horse, cow, goat, kangaroo, etc. have different properties) and how the leather was tanned, plus some details on the pigment and the finish to even consider going about the task you have in mind.

    But the jacket you are describing (particularly if it is new) probably has a finish or surface coating that will inhibit a color change, however modest.

    I have put a coating of vaseline on many natural or unfinished leather items: holsters, handbags, belts, etc. with no ill effects. It simply replaces some of the natural oils which have dried out of the leather. It simply makes the item a shade darker, maybe a little softer or more pliable, but that's about it.

    I agree that one should avoid using distilled petroleum products on most leathers, but common vaseline seems pretty much inert. I appreciate what you're saying, but I have no problem using it on most undyed, or unfinished cowhide leather items. Particularly if they are dried out or beat-up.

    And again, my method is to get the item a little warm to open the pores, like by taking it outside in direct sunlight on a sunny day, put on some vaseline, let it sit for a while, then wipe it off. One might have to let it sit for a while and then repeat the wiping process, but it does little more than to restore some moisture to the item.

    I would never do this to my horsehide A-2 because the vaseline would just sit on the surface of the leather, but I have done it to my well-worn, scratched and beat-up cowhide ANJ-3 with no ill effects. In fact, a week or so afterward, it's hard to tell if anything has ever been done to the item.

    Maybe we should both get some Pecard's, experiment with it on different types of leather, and compare our notes.
  5. johnnyjohnny

    johnnyjohnny Practically Family

    lake balboa
    hearT of darkNESS

    thanks for taking the time corky...in the interim i googled turning leather darker and found a couple of things:

    1. obenauf's leather oil...a quote from a customer: "My wife has just completed applying two treatments of leather oil to our sofa and we are tickled to death with the results. The sofa was a very lite color and the oil changed the color to a dark rich looking color"

    2. and then, Apache Crème Oil Restorer

    • Will darken leather.
    • Specially formulated to
    rehydrate oiled leathers.
    • Perfect for oiled work boots.

    ...sounds like i'll try the apache creme...hmmm, saw a special tonite on kcet about geronimo...wonder if it was an omen...hmmmmmmmmmm
  6. BellyTank

    BellyTank I'll Lock Up

    I think it would depend on how the leather is finished(maybe even tanned)-
    a natural finish will darken with oil but a (frinstance)spray-dyed/opaque colour finish surely will not.

  7. atkins

    atkins Familiar Face

  8. Peacoat

    Peacoat Bartender Bartender

    South of Nashville
    B.T. is right about the tanning/finishing process used being determinative.

    For several years now, chrome dye products have been banned from retail sale in this country for perceived environmental reasons. Only vegetable dyes are allowed to be sold to the public. If an article of clothing is chrome tanned, the vegetable dyes will have no effect on it. As a general rule, most boots and shoes are chrome dyed; most jackets are not. If one applies a vegetable dye to a chrome tanned piece of leather, the dye will just rub off without penetrating. The old chrome dye will penetrate and permanently change the color of the leather.

    Now, with all of that in mind, and as you noted, Obenauf's will change the the color on lighter shades of leather to a rich and luxurious darker color. I just finished working on a pair of my wife's brown foxhunting boots that looked as if they were ready for the trash. After working with them for an hour or so, the finish is back to where it was when they were new, and is a deep dark brown--darker than when new. This is the result I usually have when working with Obenauf's.

    On these boots I used both the Leather Preservative (wax/grease) and their
    Leather Oil. I see no reason why you shouldn't have the same results on a light color jacket. For restoration of a really nice and vintage leather jacket, I would follow the recommendations of experience on this board, and go with Pecards, but yours is a project of a different color.

    Just be careful about how many coats you apply. In other words don't follow your usual procedure of much more is much better! I would think if you don't get the result you seek with one coat, you might try it one more time, but no more. You are running the risk of damaging the leather by applying to much preservative to a new? jacket.

    Good luck and please let us know how it turns out with before and after photos.
  9. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

    It will lighten up after a few weeks

    Pecard and others will darken the leather. But in my experience nothign stays dark for long. It will lighten up. Only a professional redye will work and then watch out in the rain as the colour will run.
  10. Mr. Scratch

    Mr. Scratch New in Town

    Eugene, Oregon
    This might not be what Johnny had in mind, but I wonder what it would look like with a substantially darker shade of shoe polish or meltonian cream over the top. Naturally the color would be easily susceptable to wear, but I suspect the end result could resemble some of the well-worn seal brown A-2s, where the dark brown was sprayed over a russet surface; as the darker color is worn away, it creates an antiquing effect where the highlights are lighter than the creases.

    I've tried this on sample leather with a nice effect, though I can't say how well the finish would last. I suspect it would come off eventually. Anyone else given it a shot on an actual jacket?
  11. "I just darkened a pair of Tan leather sandals by soaking them overnight in a bucket of water, they look perfect!, they are now a chocolate brown"


  12. deanglen

    deanglen My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Fenton, Michigan, USA
    I used furniture scratch cover. It worked great, but takes a day or so to dry and uniformity of finish will depend on cracks in the leather, they darken moreso.

  13. Spitfire

    Spitfire I'll Lock Up

    Copenhagen, Denmark.
    I onced tanned a A2 jacket by swimming in a swedish river wearing it.
    Not that I wanted to - it just sort of happened.
    Canoes+waterfalls = swimming:eusa_doh:

    The jacket was definately darker, when it dried up.

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