How To Prevent Leather From Fading In 4 Simple Steps

A few years ago, I purchased a high-end leather jacket from a dedicated leather shop in Panama while traveling.

The jacket faded so much that it went from black to grey in a matter of months. I was distraught.

And that’s when I decided to dig a bit deeper into the whole business of leather fading. And ever since that fruitful day, none of my leather pieces have had any discoloration or fading (well they have, but not in the way you think).

So, how did I pull this off? How did I prevent the leather from fading?

That’s what you would find out in this article.

How to prevent leather from fading?

Here are a few steps that would help you in keeping your leather from fading.

old leather jacket
My leather jacket that used to be black

Keep the leather clean

The first thing that you need to pay special attention to is how you actually clean your leather pieces. Many people I know either don’t clean their leather items at all or do it in such a way that it does more harm than good to the garment.

Clean your leather items once a week or so, depending on your usage. Take a damp cotton cloth and rub it all over the item – be it a leather jacket, shoe, sofa or couch, or something more exotic.

Keep the leather moisturized

Cleaning your leather pieces once a week isn’t going to do the trick alone. To actually prevent them from fading, you would also need to use specialized tools like leather conditioners and leather cleaners.

Condition your leather every 3 months or so, in order to keep it moisturized. If the leather becomes overly dry, the pH level of the fabric can become a nuisance to deal with, which would in turn increase the fading and discoloration.

Buy high-quality leather pieces in the first place

If you are just researching leather before making a purchase, I would highly recommend that you invest in good quality leather pieces, whether you are buying a jacket, shoe, belt, couch, or anything else.

Inferior quality leather tends to fade fast. While a high-quality leather item may go years without fading, faux leather may not even last an entire year. Besides this, cheaper leather tends to fade in a way that actually ruins the aesthetic value of the piece, unlike real good quality leather, whose patina actually improves the look of a piece.

Keep your leather away from sunshine

While you and I might love spending some time in the sunny world outdoors, our leather jackets would have a slight problem with it. Leather couches and shoes also fade very quickly if they are exposed to UV rays.

Therefore, pay close attention to where you are storing your leather. If it’s furniture, try to keep it away from windows. If your leather piece is a clothing item, store it in a cool and dry place away from the harmful rays of the sun.

Can faded leather be restored?

Yes, faded leather can be restored back to its original glory with the help of surface-level leather dyes and other such leather recoloring kits. Just make sure that the dye or kit which you are buying is close in color to the original leather.

These dyes and leather recoloring kits are usually available on Amazon for pretty cheap rates. Make sure you buy one that suits your particular needs because sometimes these dyes are product-specific.

I made the mistake of applying a leather dye for shoes on my trusty old leather jacket. It made matters much worse. So just take a look at the product details before actually purchasing the items. If you want to skip the hassle, here are my favorite leather recoloring kits for shoes, jackets, and couches respectively.

How to restore a faded leather jacket?

Most leather jackets gradually start fading around the seams. This is especially true for black leather jackets because the fading is much more prominent in them. Sometimes the fading can happen in other areas such as pockets, sleeves, and the back of the jacket.

Never use shoe polish to restore the color of a leather jacket. Instead use a black leather dye made specifically for jackets and rub it into the faded areas with the help of a soft cloth. Dry the area with a hairdryer. Repeat this process two-three times in order to fully restore the color.

Pro tip: Before you begin applying the dye to the leather, first thoroughly clean the jacket with rubbing alcohol. Just take a cloth, dip it into some rubbing alcohol, and wipe the entire jacket. This will make sure that all the dirt is gone from the jacket before the application of the dye.

Why does leather fade?

Leather fades over time due to alterations in its pH levels. The pH levels of a leather item are determined by the dye that is used to give a coating of color to the leather. These leather dyes are very sensitive, and their pH level can be affected quite easily.

The science lesson is great, but what are the things that actually affect the pH level of leather.

Friction, wear and tear, and sunlight are the major culprits behind the altered pH level of a leather item, and this altered pH level is the reason behind its fading. Even among these three, sunlight and UV rays are the biggest factor behind the fading of leather.

Apart from fading and discoloration, the harmful UV rays of the sun can also make your leather jacket or leather shoes start cracking. Dealing with cracked leather is a nightmare of its own, so focus on preventing sun damage to your pieces in the first place.

Does real leather fade?

Many people have the misconception that real leather will not fade, or that only faux leather and inferior grades of leather have to go through this process. The answer, as always, is a bit different.

real leather chelsea boots
A pair of Chelsea boots made from real leather.

So is it just fake and inferior quality leather that fades over time, or is it a problem that real leather also goes through?

Real leather also fades over time, especially if it is overexposed to sunlight. But the special thing about quality leather pieces is that they fade in such a way that they develop a natural-looking patina, which actually enhances their aesthetic value.

This “natural patina” that I speak of is slightly different from normal discoloration, in the sense that it actually makes the leather garment look better than before.

How to protect leather from sunlight?

Like I mentioned above, keeping your leather garments and furniture away from sunlight is extremely important to increasing their life and protecting them from fading and discoloration. Other issues like cracking, peeling, and dryness are also a direct result of harmful UV rays.

The first step to protecting your leather jacket from sunlight is storing it in a cool and dry place that does not receive direct sunlight. The same also goes for other wearable leather items such as shoes, belts, and more.

To protect your leather furniture from sunlight, try to change out its layout so that no leather piece is close to a window or a place where it might receive a lot of sunlight.

A final bonus tip from my side is to use UV protector sprays every month or so on your leather items. They are a bit difficult to find, but here’s my favorite one on Amazon. If you live near a leather shop, you might find more options there.