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The Journal

How to Age Leather

When it comes to listing the benefits of leather as a material, there is a great deal to be said - It’s strong, durable, and can be used in a wide range of different applications. But perhaps even more desirable is the grace with which it ages. Instead of just wearing down and becoming unusable like many other materials, leather gets more beautiful with time. It takes on a sheen, and its texture becomes increasingly more interesting. This evolving appearance and texture that comes with the aging of leather is known as a patina, and it is a significant part of what makes leather such a great material; it tells a story. But how does leather acquire a patina? And how can you get that same look without waiting forever? Today, we’ll show you the two ways you can age your leather. 


How to Age Leather the Traditional Way

You may have guessed what the “traditional” method of aging leather is: just let it age! If you don’t mind being patient and you want to watch your leather develop its own unique patina as it travels with you, then this hands-off approach might be a good fit for you. While aging your leather this way does not require a lot of preparation on your part, it is still useful to know the factors that will shape the way your leather looks. 

That list of factors is quite extensive - many common situations a piece of leather might find itself in contribute to aging. High quality leather - full-grain and top-grain - is susceptible to the elements. Sunlight and moisture will both have an effect on how it looks. Leather that is frequently handled or worn will also age faster as oils from the skin build up and break down the surface of the material. The takeaway here is that the more general exposure a leather gets, the faster it will age. If you plan to age your leather the old fashioned way, use it!

How to Distress Leather 

However alluring it may sound to age your leather naturally, not everyone has the time for the traditional way. A leather piece doesn’t always get enough use to age as fast as desired, and sometimes distressing your leather manually is the best option. Using the method below, you will be able to get leather that looks authentically aged without any of the waiting.  

What You’ll Need to Distress Leather


  • Rubbing Alcohol (preferably 90% rubbing alcohol)
  • A spray bottle
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Leather Conditioner
  • A heavy bristled brush
  • Dry Dirt (optional)

How to Do It

  • Apply the Alcohol

Using a rag or a spray bottle, apply the rubbing alcohol to your leather. The alcohol will dry the leather out and begin to create the appearance of wear. 

  • Massage the Leather

By folding and ruffling the leather while it is covered in alcohol, you will be able to bring out creases and patterns. Try to put it through an exaggerated version of what it might experience when in use. 

  • Apply the Sandpaper

Use the sandpaper to give certain spots some extra wear. This technique is a great way to make a piece of leather look like it has been around a while. Wear away spots that would likely see the most wear in real life. 

  • Brush The Leather 

After using the sandpaper, give the leather a brushing with your heavy bristled brush. This will increase the overall look of wear.

  • Apply Some Dirt, If Applicable

As an optional last step, adding some actual dirt, or something similar, to the mix can complete the look of an aged piece of leather. Throw some dirt at it or rub it on to make your leather look extra lived-in.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does it Take to Age Leather?

This is a tricky question with no single answer. The time it takes for leather to develop a patina is dependent on a number of factors. How and how much you are using the leather, as well as the kind of leather, makes all the difference here. Every situation is different.

Does The Tanning Method Have an Effect?

Leather that is tanned using the vegetable tanning method will usually be able to develop a patina, while leather tanned using the chrome tanning method will usually not. 

How Do You Slow Down the Aging Process?

The best way to keep your leather from aging too fast is to simply be careful with it. Reduce the amount of exposure it gets to sunlight, humidity, and bodily contact to keep it looking brand new for as long as possible. 


With this information, you should be able to enjoy the look of aged leather no matter your situation. So get your supplies, or simply put your leather to good use, and get ready to see a beautiful patina in no time.