Black shoe polish has been used on leather for a very long time in order to create a real shine that might not otherwise be there on smooth leather shoes. But can it be used for dyeing leather, too? Black shoe polish does have a black pigmentation to it, so in theory, it could work as a leather dye, right?
- Can you dye leather?
- The cons of using shoe polish to dye leather shoes
- The pros of using shoe polish as leather dye
- How do you dye leather with shoe polish?
- Is using shoe polish better than using alcohol based dyes?
Can you dye leather?
Well, first of all, you can definitely dye leather. Leather dyes and leather paints exist to allow you to change the colour of pretty much any leather surface. You can dye leather shoes, car interiors, clothes, leather bags – you name it. However, this is typically done with a specially formulated leather dye, not black shoe polish. Leather dyes are designed to permeate the leather and to act as a permanent dye rather than a layer of colour on top like paint or coloured cellophane.
The cons of using shoe polish to dye leather shoes
In theory, you can use shoe polish to dye leather, however, there are a few cons in doing so. They are:
1. Your dyed surface may be unevenly coloured
Dye is unpredictable at the best of times, but using liquid shoe polish in place of leather dyes is likely to make this even worse. When you dye leather, you want a nice even colour. With shoe polish, this is unlikely to be achieved. You are more likely going to come out with a patchy dyed leather product.
To limit uneven dyeing, you can apply your shoe polish in coats or layers, like you would when you ordinarily dye leather. This should help to create a more natural leather dye appearance.
2. You may find that colour transfer happens
When you dye leather, you usually leave the dye to dry and add a finisher in order to act as a protective layer and to prevent the leather surface from fading in colour. With shoe polish, this is going to be more difficult, and you may well find colour transfer happening quite often between your leather item and your clothes or walls. This may cause issues, as shoe polish is a staining agent.
3. You’ll need a lot of shoe polish to dye leather
Whether you’re using cream polish or liquid shoe polish, you will need a lot of shoe polish to dye leather properly. This may end up costing more than dyeing leather the traditional way and may result in you having to use multiple different types of shoe polish, further increasing the uneven dyeing effect.
4. It will take a lot of time
Since leather dyes are specifically designed for their purpose, they are made to dry at the right speed to make dyeing leather an easy process. Shoe polish does not have this advantage, and so unlike leather dyes, may take an unexpected amount of time to dry. It might also not dry, if you’ve put too much on in one layer, and there is no real standard to tell how long it will take.
This could mean that you end up waiting days for each coat of shoe polish to dry, whereas when you use leather dyes, each coat only takes between 30 and 60 minutes to dry.
The pros of using shoe polish as leather dye
If you are dead set on using shoe polish to dye leather to save money, then you’ll be pleased to know that there are some perks. Shoe polishes have some advantages that leather dye does not have, even if actual leather dyes are designed for colouring leather and shoe polish isn’t!
1. Removes any scuffs
Sometimes, even dyeing leather cannot hide the scuffs on your nice leather boots or brown shoes, but most shoe polish will. It is precisely what it was designed for. So, when you use shoe polish to dye leather, especially natural smooth leather, you will find that it better disguises any scuffs or marks on the leather surface.
2. Can boost the weather resistance
Using shoe polish to dye leather can also have the added benefit of adding a protective layer to the material. Unlike when you apply the leather dye, shoe polish have wax bases that provide a barrier between your leather product and the outside world. This can be really beneficial for things like leather gloves, leather jackets and leather bags.
3. Will make your leather surface feel nice
Shoe polish is known for making shoes feel nicer than they did before, again largely because of the wax base of the material. This will work the same if used in place of liquid dye on leather items. Where the correct dye will dry out leather, shoe polish will actually have the opposite effect.
4. Provides an antique or stain finish
You can buy leather finishes to make your dye projects look a certain way when they are done, but by applying shoe polish in place of your leather dye you can achieve an antique finish that is unlike many leather finishes.
How do you dye leather with shoe polish?
To dye leather with shoe polish, you will first need to use a rag to clean the leather completely. Then, using a 1500 grit wet-dry sandpaper, gently sand the leather to remove any micro-scratches or scuffs on the material and to remove any finishes that have been used. Once done, leave the leather to dry. Once dry, use a leather preparer to allow the shoe polish to better stick to your leather goods. This will also then need to dry. As soon as that is dry you can apply thin layers of shoe polish until you achieve the look you desire on your leather item. You may need to use a few rags when applying shoe polish.
Is using shoe polish better than using alcohol based dyes?
Overall, alcohol based dyes are designed for the dyeing process. They will better permeate leather, and will stick to the material better than shoe polish would. It is easier to predict the behaviour of leather dye, and so you can estimate how long products will take to air dry, and how many coats you might need.
The choice is up to you, but if you’re looking for an even coating of dye that will easily follow stitch lines, last a long time, and will not ruin other items, it is not worth using shoe polish. Find yourself a proper dye like The Leather Colour Doctor`s leather dye (whether that is black dye, blue dye or another colour) and make your leather item look like new.