Using Bleach On Leather (Pros and Cons)

Leather in general can be very hard to clean, especially if it is white in colour! White coloured leather usually shows up any marks or dirt and is more noticeable than any other colour. So is it ok to use bleach on white leather?

Here Is The Good And Bad Ways Bleach Can Be Used On Leather:

When using bleach on leather it is extremely important not to use chlorine bleach or ammonia, as these types of bleach may dry out and do damage to your leather. It is good to only use Oxalic Acid to bleach the leather as it is more natural and less harsh.

Please read below if you want to know the exact steps on how to use Oxalic Acid to bleach your leather and get it looking great again, and some products to avoid at all costs. Thanks for reading.

What Happens When You Bleach Leather?

When you bleach leather, the main aim is to lighten the colour of the material and refresh the look. Bleach lightens leather by stripping out some of its original colour and taking away the darkness to completely transform one colour of leather into another.

The more bleach you use, the lighter the leather will go, but you need to be careful when using bleach on this material because there are also some less desirable things that can happen.

Because it strips away some of the colour in the leather, bleach can start to dry out the material and make it feel a little rough. If you do notice some roughness, apply a leather conditioner to the material to soften it back up and hydrate the leather. And if you notice any serious damage appearing, such as marks or cracks, stop using the product immediately to preserve your leather.

Think of bleaching leather similarly to bleaching your hair: you can lighten it so that it appears a completely new colour, but too much will make it brittle, cracked and visibly less healthy.

Leather has a better level of defence than your hair, but you still need to care for it, especially when you attempt a huge project like bleaching it. You’ll achieve lighter leather, but you don’t want it to come at the cost of the quslity.

Pros Of Using Bleach On Leather

Only Use Oxalic Acid To Bleach Leather

Oxalic acid is the only product that you should consider using to bleach leather because it is a natural occurring chemical that can be found in things like vegetables and fruits, making it the safest choice.

Bleach-based products are much more detrimental to leather because of the additional chemicals added to them. Oxalic acid will work to bleach your leather by changing its colour, but it shouldn’t erode away at the natural finish, fibres and moisture in your leather like artificial bleach products will.

Remember that results may differ depending on the type of leather, shade of colour and specific item that you use oxalic acid on, so some items may take an additional coat to lighten whereas others will immediately look lighter.

You should trial a small amount of oxalic acid on a patch of leather and then observe how it works. Any adverse effects should be noted and you should refrain from adding any more, but if you can see that the oxalic acid is gently bleaching your leather, you can continue uninterrupted.

Oxalic Acid Lightens Darker Leather

Oxalic acid is used primarily to lighten both leather and wood, so you can be assured that it works.

It might take a bit more work to use oxalic acid over a more common bleaching product, but the fabric of leather should remain intact throughout an application of oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is just tough enough to naturally strip some of the darkness out of leather, but not so tough as to ruin the internal fibres or crack the external finish of the material.

You can use oxalic acid to lighten any leather item, including shoes and furniture, taking away some of the pigment of dark leather to bring it up a shade or two. Rubbing oxalic acid into leather will help to break down its topcoat and lighten the internal natural dyes. Oxalic acid is tougher than soap and water and you can purchase some of the product for a super reasonable price, so it is as close to an organic bleach product as you can get.

Cons of Using Bleach on Leather

Don’t Use Chlorine Bleach

Chlorine bleach is a very powerful product that is great for several purposes, but bleaching leather is not one.

The natural layer of defence that leather has against wear and tear will be completely eroded by chlorine bleach, leaving it vulnerable to really bad damage. Chlorine bleach will also cause the material to become completely brittle, which can lead it to crack and peel.

The more chlorine bleach you use, the drier your leather will become. The product is especially detrimental to lighter leathers because the damage will be far more noticeable at surface level, in addition to all the erosion going on within the fibres.

Always remember that once damage has been done, it is very difficult to undo, so harsh chemical bleaches like chlorine bleach should be reserved for cleaning and kept far away from any leather items in your home.

Don’t Use Ammonia

Ammonia is one of the worst bleaching products that you can use on leather because it is far too harsh and will likely completely ruin the appearance of any leather product.

Though leather is strong and has a supportive finish, products like ammonia are powerful enough to destroy the material’s natural finish and cause long-lasting staining. Ammonia will definitely work to bleach your leather lighter, but it will do this by stripping out so much of the original colour that the quality of the leather appears to be significantly reduced.

Once leather has been damaged, it’s very difficult to completely restore it to its original state. Harsh chemicals work away at the natural finish that leather has and then dry it from the inside out. As soon as the fibres of the material have come into contact with ammonia, they will start to break down, so ammonia is best avoided at all costs.

Bleach Can Cause White Leather To Turn Yellow

If you leave bleach to sit for too long on white leather, it will turn an unfortunately shade of yellow, so it’s best to avoid using bleach on very light leathers if possible.

If you do need to use it, keep an eye on your white leather the entire time and ensure that you don’t let it sit for too long. If you notice even the slightest sign that the bleach is starting to discolour the leather, remove it immediately.

The yellow shade that you might notice after using bleach on white leather is permanent staining caused by the eroding effects of bleach. There is a yellow dye in bleach that will soak into the white leather and then start to dry it out and discolour it completely.

Bleach can be diluted a bit before use on white leather, which may help to prevent this potential staining, but white leather is definitely more vulnerable because it is such a light leather and will easily show even the slightest bit of staining.

Do Not Use On Faux Leather

Faux leather doesn’t have the strength of real leather, so you shouldn’t use bleach on it.

Bleach will completely dry out faux leather and ruin the structural integrity of it, making it more susceptible to damage from general wear and tear. Bleach is a harsh chemical that can be used on plenty of different materials, but faux leather is simply not hardy enough to resist the eroding effects of bleach.

Because it is nowhere near as strong as real leather, you should only ever use gentle cleaning and maintenance products on faux leather. It is also much easier to mark or crack faux leather, especially if you use a lot of bleach, and you don’t want to worry about whether you’ll ruin the material whenever you use a faux leather item.

As soon as faux leather dries out or cracks, its quality will greatly decline, so one of the best ways that you can care for it is to avoid using bleach on it at all costs.

How Do You Use Oxalic Acid To Bleach Leather?

Oxalic acid is the ideal solution to use for bleaching leather because it will lighten the material without damaging it.

Even though oxalic acid is naturally occurring and subsequently the best product to use when bleaching leather yourself, it should still be used carefully and in small amounts.

For extra safety, create a solution of one part oxalic acid and three or four parts water to ensure that the product is diluted down.

You can use a soft cloth or even several cotton pads to apply the oxalic acid and water solution to the leather that you want to lighten, gently wiping it in without putting too much pressure on the material.

Once you’ve covered the entire surface area of the leather and lightened it evenly, you should use some water to remove all of the oxalic acid, making sure to thoroughly dry it afterwards because even plain water can damage leather if it is left to soak in.

Oxalic acid is often available as crystals, which makes it perfect for diluting in water. You might need to use a bit more of the solution than you initially planned, but it’s always better to use less at first to make sure that it doesn’t react badly with the leather.

Once you can see the leather starting to lighten without any side effects, you can press on and apply more of the oxalic acid and water solution to achieve your desired look for your leather.

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