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Find a way to soften your hardened genuine leather items, such as leather boots or jacket, or way to soften new leather shoes? In this blog, we will cover several easy methods that can be done at home. Besides leather conditioner, alcohol and Vaseline (petroleum jelly) can also help. We will also cover how to soften leather cord for jewelry making. But before we go into the topic, you should know why the leather become harder and stiff first, let’s check it out.

What Makes Leather Stiffen?


What makes leather stiffen?

There are some factors leading leather getting harden and stiffen.

1.Temperature and water

Temperature and water will make leather harden.

High temperature, such as sunlight and heat, will lead leather be aging, fading and even crack faster as its grease will be evaporated. Hence, avoid to place leather product near window.

On the other, do not place leather product at high humidity place/ wet environment. Moisture in air at humid place will make the leather easy to mold or even deteriorate and crack. Therefore, it should be placed at dry and confined place.

2.Non-use for a long period

Leather should be often used. If you did not use it for long time and without proper care,  its grease and moisture will be lost, then the leather will get harden.

3.Take care the leather in improper way

There are so many leather care products in the market, if you use the leather care product that make the surface of leather shiny, some of them may make the leather be harder. If you had been used it, that’s why your leather get stiff.

What Kind of Leather You Can Soften at Home?

a) Leather accessories

how to soften leather bag

How to soften leather bag?

It can be leather bags, leather shoes, leather boots, leather jacket, leather gloves, leather wallet and leather belt/strap, etc.

b) Leather furniture

how to soften leather soda

How to soften leather soda?

It can be leather soda, leather chair, etc.

c) Leather cord for jewelry making

It can be used to DIY leather bracelet, leather necklace, etc

No matter what leather you have, if your leather products get harder and you want to make it softer, let’s continue to scroll down to know how to soften leather.

How to Soften Leather: Shoes, Belt, Strap, Boots, Jacket..?

How to Soften hardened Leather

How to Soften Leather?

1. Use Leather Conditioner

The easiest way to soften your leather is to apply leather conditioner or leather oil. it can be penetrated into the leather’s pores to rejuvenate leather, make the leather be soften, moisturizes and more flexibility.

Step 1: Clean the surface of leather

Repair leather product just like repair your skin. Before putting anything on the leather, Cleaning is the first step. Use a clean wet towel/ tissue to wipe the leather’s surface to remove dust and sand. Cleaning the surface of leather is an important step because it will affect the penetration of the leather conditioner.

Step 2: Apply leather conditioner

Squeeze the leather conditioner onto a clean cloth and wipe in a circular motion. It can ensure the leather conditioner can be spreaded evenly. Work with small area until you wipe whole bag.  It is not recommended to apply the leather conditioner directly on the leather because it is harder to apply it evenly and make it too wet.

Reminder: When choosing leather conditioner, pick chemical-free conditioner since chemical will harm to fiber of leather.

Step 3: Maintenance regularly

To maintain your leather product in good condition, it is recommended to clean it and apply leather conditioner regularly. If you leather item is exposed at dry and warm environment, you may make it once in couple of week. Otherwise, you can make it once in half of year.


2. Use Rubbing Alcohol and Vaseline – an alternative of leather conditioner 

Another method is to apply rubbing alcohol and vaseline (sometimes called petroleum jelly). It is common method to soften leather as it will not affect the color and quality of the leather.

Step 1:  Use rubbing alcohol 

Take a cotton ball and coat with alcohol , then to wipe the surface of leather. Since alcohol would be evaporated quickly, you have to repeat this step until the alcohol is completely soaked into the leather.

Step 2: Use Vaseline

After this, take some Vaseline on your fingers and apply it to your leather item until you apply the whole surface.

Step 3 : Let them dry

Can You Use Natural Oil to Soften Stiffen Leather, such as belt?

Yes. Natural oils are also good leather conditioner alternative. Many oil can be used to soften leather belt, such as coconut oil, almond oil, olive oil, jojoba oil and avocado oil, just pick the oil which can also moisture your skin.

When you start to soften your leather belt, leave it under the sun for around 10 mins. Let it open the pores and loose its fiber. Then, take some natural oil on your fingers/ cotton ball and apply it to the leather belt. Repeat this procedure till applying the whole leather belt.  After that, let it dry.

How to Soften New Leather Shoes?

Have you bought a new pair of leather shoes, but it is a bit hard that you feel uncomfortable when wearing the leather shoes? Above methods may not a quick way to loose new leather shoe.  Here are some ways to stretch leather shoes.

How to Prevent Leather Getting Harden and Stiffen?

Leather get stiffen since it does not get well maintained. Keep it away of direct sunlight and vent, both of which will dry and weaken the leather. Regular cleaning and maintenance is also important to keep it in good condition and durable.

How to soften leather cord for jewelry making?

It is an absolute joy to work with leather cord when making bracelets, necklaces, and sorts of leather jewelry. But it is frequently asked on how to make it soften so to finish any leather project when the leather cords are stiff and uncooperative.

It is an absolute joy to work with Leather Cord when making bracelets, necklaces, and sorts of leather jewelry. But it is frequently asked on how to make it soften so to finish any leather project when the leather cords are stiff and uncooperative. The thicker the leather cord, the stiffer is the leather. Genuine leather cord of higher quality tend to be tougher overall. The main reason why leather is harder to manipulate (especially the ones stored in spools for a long period of time) is they dry out fairly quickly.

To soften leather cord, there are some ways you can try without using softening agents.

1. The bending method

This is the most straightforward method of softening a cord so you can work with it better during a project. To begin, cut the measure of cord that you need for your bracelet or necklace project.

Next, start bending the cord to and fro, making sure that the entire length is able to move with only a small bit leftover as you hold it firmly with your other hand with your thumb and index finger. The more you flex it, the more it loosens. The movement, as you will see will begin unlocking the stiff leather fibers that previously locked the leather cord into a certain shape while it was still rolled tightly on the spool.

Just continue moving the fiber back and forth until you feel it becoming softer and more pliable. The way to do it is gently, but consistently. Excess force, or bending the cord too hard, can result in cracks on the surface of the leather. Such damage might be minute, but it will have a big impact on the appearance of the final product when you use the leather cord for your project. Since you are only working with a small amount of leather, the effort might not require a long time.

Now, keep in mind that there will be instances when a leather cord would soften on the first day, but not to the level that you might want or need for your project. This is okay. You have to condition the leather to stay in a certain shape, so you may want to repeat the bending process the next day. If this still doesn’t work, extend the softening process to a few days and you will eventually get the softness that you want.

Soften Leather Cord

Let’s say that on the first try, you start noticing small cracks immediately on the surface of the leather. If this is the problem it’s likely that the leather is very dry and someone aged and requires a bit more help in order to become soft again.

What you should do is to get some oil and get a few drops on your fingertips. Rub it around a little before spreading on the smooth side or grain side of the leather cord. Since you have already cut the measure of cord that you need for your project, this should be no problem. Just keep rubbing until the oil spreads from one end to the other.

You can also add a bit of oil underneath (the flesh side) as this is the layer that used to be attached to the animal itself. This side of the leather is more porous and will easily absorb liquids. Don’t worry – eventually, all that oil is going to dissipate, and you will have a better-looking cord than before.

Now if you feel that you put too much oil, all you need to do is grab a piece of clean cloth or rag, and wipe the cord down to remove the excess oil. The leather will retain just the right amount of oil for its quantity.

After the application of the oil, continue being the cord, making sure to be extra careful in not damaging the smooth side of the leather. Slow is good in this case – if you need to let the leather rest for another day that is fine.

2. The bone bead method









The bone bead method is preferred by many beginners because it speeds up the softening processing and also helps straighten out the cord much faster.

So for this method what you are going to need is a bone bead or natural bead that has a hole that is snug for the size of the leather Cord that you are using. So it should be easy to thread the leather cord, but there has to be some friction because that’s important for the softening process.

To begin, we recommend that you apply just a little bit of oil on the leather cord so it won’t be ‘shocked’ by the friction. Next, thread one end of the leather cord through the eye of the natural bead, at an angle, and begin pulling. Making sure that the natural bead or bone bead is rubbing against the material as the added friction is what straightens it. Think of ironing and the application of heat and you’ll see why this process works.

The bone bead method also gives the leather a nice distressed appearance which is awesome for all kinds of jewelry. A distressed look goes well with so many types of fashion statements, including bohemian and casual. Repeat the threading and pulling process until you get the desired straightness.

More articles you may interest:

How to Prevent Leather Cord from Getting Dry and Rotten

How to Stretch Leather Shoes?

Basic Guide and Tips on How to Dye Leather

Tips for Cleaning and Protecting Your Leather Goods