How to Darken Your Leather Boots Without Ruining Them

Leather boots, especially brown or tan ones, tend to get discolored and faded over time. Or, you want to give your pair a bit darker shade than its original one.

Regardless of the reason, you can always darken your leather boots at home all by yourself. I wrote this guide to help you achieve the same without causing any damage to the pair.

Bear in mind that not all methods to darken your leather boots are flawless. A little tradeoff is acceptable though. Below is the list of side-effects that may occur to your boots while darkening them that we are trying to avoid:

  • Hardening of the leather.
  • Shrinkage of the leather.
  • Creases over the surface.
  • Discoloration of the leather.
  • An odor that does not leave.

Scared? Worry not! In this guide, I have included only safe methods to darken your leather boots. The methods suggested do the job without causing any harm to the pair. Here you are:

Prepare Your Leather Boots for the Darkening Treatment

darken brown or tan boots

Some preparations are necessary before starting to darken your leather boots. The preparation will make the pair ready to respond its best to the treatment. Please do not skip the steps below:

Remove Any Dirt Buildup

Clean your leather boots first to remove any dirt buildup. Otherwise, the dirt may settle deep into the leather and may cause two-tone color.

Here is how to clean your leather boots the right way:

  1. Pour a drop of dish soap on a clean rag.
  2. Put the rag under a running faucet.
  3. Wring the rag hard until most of the water leaves it.
  4. Use the dampened rag in a circular motion on the leather to clean any dirt on it.
  5. Wipe any excess water and lather off the leather with a clean & dry rag.

Before proceeding further, make sure the leather boots are completely dry. Better use this guide on how to dry leather boots to speed up the process.

Sidenote: If possible, wash your leather boots with saddle soap instead of regular soap.

Do A Small Patch Test

Some types of leather may not respond at all to the darkening methods given in this guide. Whereas, other types of leather may over-respond to the methods. Thus, the results are not typical.

Before you apply the boots darkening methods to the entire surface, test on an inconspicuous area such as near the heels. This will give you a fair idea of how to proceed.

Once you are happy with the result of the patch test, continue applying the technique to the entire boots.

5 Ways to Darken Leather Boots with Household Items

darkened brown boots

Below are my favorite methods to darken leather boots at home. You do not need to use them all. Pick and use any that suits your supplies at hand. They all are effective on most types of leather. Here you are:

Use Vegetable Oil Such as Olive or Coconut

Vegetable oil such as coconut or olive is very effective at darkening leather boots. They are available in most households as cooking oil or you may buy them from a store nearby.

Other than coconut and olive oil, sunflower and canola oil are also options. But, they may make your boots quite tacky. So, I would say, stick with olive and coconut oil only.

Here is how to darken your leather boots with coconut and olive oil the right way:

  1. Get handy a mixing bowl and a clean piece of cloth.
  2. Pour some oil into the bowl.
  3. Dip the rag into the oil.
  4. Wring the rag hard into the bowl to rid it of excessive oil.
  5. Rub the oil-smeared rag in a circular motion all over the leather boots.
  6. Wipe any excess oil off the leather boots.
  7. Let the leather boots air dry for at least 24 hours.

P.S. Before meeting oil with the leather, make sure it is liquid and not frozen. Feel free to heat the oil up by a little with a hairdryer to make it melt.

Use Animal Oil Such as Mink or Neatsfoot

Besides vegetable oil, you may also use animal oil such as mink or neatsfoot to darken your leather boots. The animal oil has a little advantage over vegetable oil when it comes to making leather darker.

Animal oil work better to darken your leather boots but this perk may cost you some money. Animal oil is not a common household item and you may have to buy it from a store nearby.

Here is how to darken your leather boots with mink or neatsfoot oil the right way:

  1. Take a small quantity of animal oil and apply it all over the leather surface using your fingers. Animal oil is extra-effective at darkening leather boots. So, take a small quantity only.
  2. Work the animal oil into the leather using your thumb. Make sure the oil seeps deep into the leather. Do not rush this step.
  3. Let the pair air dry for at least 24 hours.

P.S. One coat of oil (vegetable or animal) is enough to achieve a darker shade of color for your leather boots. If you want an even darker shade, you may repeat the process a couple more times but that’s it. More than this will make your boots tacky.

As an additional perk, the oil also helps to waterproof your leather boots.

Use Boot Polish of a Darker Shade

Polish is the easiest method to darken your leather boots. The only caveat here is that the results may not last for long and you may have to repeat the process quite so often.

Here is how to darken your leather boots with polish the right way:

  1. Get a polish of a color that is several shades darker than the current color of your leather boots.
  2. Apply the polish all over the leather surface using a soft horsehair brush.
  3. Buff the leather very well to achieve that spit shine and a darker color.

Use Specialized Oil Blend

A blend does a very good job of darkening your leather boots without making the pair look artificial. A blend is a mix of some oil, color tint, and added scent. If you don’t mind spending some money, this is your option to go with.

The process of using a blend on your boots to darken them is like the process of using oil for the purpose. Also, do not forget to read the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Use Leather Dye

Dye is a commercial solution to darken your leather boots. It coats a whole new color on the leather surface. Bear in mind that the color change with dye is permanent and difficult to reverse.

Darkening your leather boots with dye involves exposure to some nasty chemicals. So, I recommend you use this method as a last resort only.

The manufacturer’s guidelines will tell you how to darken your leather boots with dye. For a quick overview, here is a good article to check out.

What’s Next

That was pretty much everything you need to know about how to darken your leather boots. Try the techniques mentioned in the same manner as laid out in this article.

If you don’t mind shelling out some money then skip to the commercial solutions such as blend or dye. Otherwise, stick with the oil-based solutions only. In most cases, they are more than enough to do the job.

As an ending note, always lay newspaper on the floor before starting to darken your leather boots. Otherwise, the oil may leave some stubborn stains on the floor which are very hard to clean.

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Liam Scout

Hey, I’m Liam Scout. I teach my readers how to style boots & shoes with different pieces of clothing and how to take better care of them. Follow my guides to double the charm and lifespan of your footwear. Thanks!