How To Soften Old Leather

Updated on August 12, 2022

Want to know how to soften old leather? Whether you found your dream couch at an estate sale or inherited grandpa’s old chair, there are a few ways you can breathe life back into that old piece of leather.

Always be sure to start with clean leather. You may need to give your item a wash. Simply do this by wiping the jacket or piece of furniture down with a damp rag and mild soap of your choice. You may want to use saddle soap or other leather specific cleanser.

Next, let it dry completely. Finally, finish off with a leather conditioner so you can remoisturize the leather and replenish some of the moisture that has been lost over the years.

Restoration of Old Leather

When it comes to leather, you need to be careful cleaning it. While good leather can last you a lifetime, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about maintenance. It’s quite the opposite, actually. If you inherited an older piece of leather that needs some attention, there are some things you can do to bring it back to its former glory.

Inspect The Leather

Take a look at the surface of the leather you are working with. Make note of any stains, discoloration, or damage you may see. If the skin has been torn or perforated, you will need to be extra careful in these areas when it comes time for the soap and water.


If your leather is stained, that doesn’t mean the piece is not salvageable. There are ways you can remove stains and fix discoloration. If you have any stains, treat them now.

Hand Washing

Now it is time to clean the leather. In a dish, mix warm water with a gentle cleanser such as unscented Dove, baby shampoo, or leather soap. Dip a soft rag in the soapy water and squeeze out any extra.

Wipe the jacket down and gently scrub any areas that are particularly dirty. Wipe away and suds or moisture with a dry microfiber towel.

Conditioning Vintage Leather

Conditioning is the best way to soften leather. When you are shopping around for a leather conditioner, always make sure you read the label to make sure the product is compatible with your piece of material. Avoid anything that contains silicone or wax as they will cause build up on the leather and won’t allow it to breathe properly.

Here’s how to condition vintage leather:

  1. Starting with a lint-free cloth such as microfiber, dampen the cloth slightly and apply the conditioner to the cloth.
  2. Gently massage the conditioner into the surface of the leather.
  3. Rather than a heavy soaking of conditioner, several lighter applications is preferable so you don’t damage the leather.
  4. Allow the conditioner to soak into the material for 30 minutes between coats so you don’t over condition the leather.