I bought this worn leather purse at the thrift store thinking I would cannibalize it for the pretty hardware. And when I got it cleaned I noticed that the inside had crafty pocket construction so I set it aside thinking I’d wait to cut it apart until I could take some time exploring how the pockets were constructed. And after it had sat in my WIP pile long enough I decided that it was worth seeing if I could perk the leather back up and give it a second life as is. I think she’s looking good and ready to live her second life!
I’m certainly no expert, but I did do a fair bit of reading to figure out the best approach to bring old leather back to life and the following was my approach.
- Clean the bag. I had already given the purse a thorough cleaning with soap and water since it was pretty grimy (which isn’t an ideal approach since the soap can strip the leather of oils it needs to stay supple, but at the time I thought I was just going to be cutting it apart anyway). If you can get major grime off with just water that’s a better starting point.
- Deglaze the leather. This is an extra cleaning step which gets excess oils off the surface like oils from your hands (so wear gloves from this point on). There are specific leather deglazing products but I’ve read that isopropyl alcohol is sufficient and it’s what I used since we had some under the sink already.
- Apply leather dye. I bought Fiebing’s leather dye since it seems to be the most recommended. I applied it to the purse in two separate coats (it dried almost immediately so it didn’t take long). Make sure to wear gloves since it will definitely dye your hands too! The bottle of dye comes with a little applicator but I found it easier just to use a scrap of rag. Make sure you’re getting the dye rubbed into cracks and folds.
4. Seal and condition the leather. To seal the leather and recondition it, I used Sno-Seal (partially because I had seen it recommended and partially because I had some in the cupboard from when I sealed my hiking boots). It does make the leather a bit darker but it makes it a lot healthier so it will stay supple and it locks in the dye so it’s worth doing. One thing to pay attention to when applying Sno-Seal is that you want to heat the leather you’re sealing and then apply the Sno-Seal instead of melting the Sno-Seal and then applying it. (I stuck the purse in the oven and then when it was warm I rubbed in the Sno-Seal.) This does mean that you can end up with quite a bit of extra wax on the leather after application so you’ll need to buff it out. If you’re doing it over fresh dye it will buff out some of the dye and get your buffer cloth all waxy so you probably won’t want to use whatever you use as a buffer again – I grabbed some fabric scraps from my fabric recycle bin instead of a rag from the cupboard.
And that’s it! Easy peasy. Have you ever redyed or reconditioned leather? I was surprised by how easy it was and how satisfying the end results are! I’m definitely going to keep my eye out for similar projects in the future.