How to Soften / Smooth Vegetable Tanned Leather

How to Soften Veg Tan Leather and make sure that it’s nice and smooth; The benefits of vegetable-tanned leather when it comes to wallets, belts, and other leather goods include excellent durability, affordability, and the ability to dye in colors that match your wardrobe.

The only problem is that veg-tan leather is stiff and difficult to work with initially, so softening it can be challenging. There are a number of ways to make softening veg tan leather a breeze, and understanding them doesn’t require a lot of knowledge.

Why is Veg Tan Leather So Popular?

Veg tan leather also has several other benefits, including the ability to be formed into many different shapes easily and quickly. As well as keeping its shape considerably better than other types of leather, it also dries quickly when wet.

What this means in practical terms is that you can use water to control creases and folds in the leather. When you do this, it won’t ruin the look or feel of the item but instead will remain the same when it comes to its look and feel.

While some types of leather get sticky with age, veg tan leather does not. In fact, over time, veg tan leather develops a shininess that some people think looks better than brand-new veg tan leather.

People love this type of leather due to its ability to be dyed to a specific color, so you can always match an item made from veg tan leather to another item if you like. And as the item ages, the natural sheen changes according to the oils in your skin, meaning it is genuinely uniquely yours.

How Do You Soften Veg Tan Leather?

The first thing you need to do when you wish to soften veg-tan leather is to make sure your hands are as clean and dry as possible. Please make sure the area is well-ventilated and place newspapers or plastic underneath the item so that nothing spills over onto something it shouldn’t.

If you notice dirt on the leather, wipe it off well before you start to work. This is important because if you don’t get the dirt off at this point, it may get pushed further into the item later on during the process.

Most people will dye their leather before softening it, not only because it allows the dye color to adhere to the leather better at this point but also because, in some ways, dyed leather is easier to soften than leather that hasn’t been dyed.

Choose your dye carefully, and keep in mind that mink oil dyes, which have gorgeous colors, are usually very dark. Avoid this type of dye unless you want a very dark color for your veg tan leather.

When you apply your dye, paint it on in 1/4-inch layers, and keep applying those layers until you notice that the dye is no longer sinking into the leather. Wipe off the excess dye with a paper towel, and keep wiping until no more dye comes off; then, let the item dry for several minutes.

If you’re not happy with the color, you can add more dye to the item, and once it gets to the color you want, it is time to start applying some oil to soften the leather.

What Type of Oil Should You Use?

There are numerous types of oil you can use to soften your veg tan leather. Most people recommend mink oil, natural olive oil, or neatsfoot oil, which are relatively inexpensive and easy to use.

Wear gloves before applying the oil, and brush the oil onto the entire surface of the leather until the oil has penetrated through to the other side of the leather. Make sure that the oil penetrates the leather completely.

Once you apply the oil, let the item sit for 15-20 minutes to absorb it into the leather fully. Darker colors may require you to wait longer than 15-20 minutes, so you’ll have to observe it to know precisely how long to let the oil absorb.

What Every Leather Crafter Needs

After 20 minutes or so, look at the leather and, if necessary, reapply more oil and wait another 15-20 minutes. Once you’re happy with the leather item looks, you can move on to the next step. The key is to make sure you’ve applied enough oil so that it penetrates the leather item. Using more oil will make it darker.

Next Step

After this step, you’ll want to let the leather item dry completely, which usually takes a minimum of eight hours. Many people choose to let the thing dry overnight to be on the safe side.

Once it’s completely dry, apply a very thin layer of lotion or soap to the leather with your fingers, using a circular motion.

Do this for up to 10 minutes but no longer. Let the leather item dry overnight after wiping away all excess oil. Between each coat of oil, let it dry for at least 2-3 hours. Overnight is best, since it ensures that the oil is completely dry.


Keep in mind that you can also use wax or glycerin to soften your veg tan leather and the oils listed above.

Oils leave a lovely sheen and usually darken the color slightly, making the leather more pliable. Glycerin will remove impurities in the leather fibers.

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