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February 06, 2023 3 min read

by Monique Youzwa

Monique has been a full-time freelance writer for over 5 years, plus has a few fiction credits under her belt and is currently working on a novel. When not writing, she spends her time reading, playing video games, hiking, and camping with her husband and daughter.


Leather has many benefits, including durability, texture, and scent. Despite its advantages, its color can fade or change over time. To bring it back to life, you can use a coloring agent, like a stain or dye. Of course, these two options aren’t identical, so you need to consider what each type offers before choosing one. So, when comparing leather stain vs dye, what’s the difference? Let’s find out.

What Is Leather Stain?

Leather stain is a coloring agent with large molecules that don’t penetrate the material. The stain stays on the surface, altering the color for a decorative finish. Though it can cover scuffs and scratches in the leather, it also allows you to create a fashionably antique or distressed look.

Why Use Leather Stain

Leather stain comes in a few consistencies, all of which are easy to apply using a brush or sponge. There are a few color options to pick from, matching the most common leather shades. Since stain won’t fully penetrate the material, it isn’t permanent and is easy to remove if you’re unhappy with the results or want to try something new.

Types Of Leather Stain

There are two main types of leather stains, including liquid and gel. Liquid stains are common water-based stains that are easy to apply and spread, though their thin texture can be hard to control.

Gel leather stains are similar to the liquid options in their makeup and how they are applied. The difference is the thick consistency, which reduces running or dripping but makes even applications tricky.

Leather Stain Pros

A stain is a phenomenal option for coloring your leather items due to its simple application and fantastic natural results. It also dries quickly, with no color transfer to deal with.

Leather Stain Cons

Despite its benefits, leather stain only comes in a few shades, none of which penetrate the entire leather piece. Instead, it stays close to the surface, fading over time and requiring reapplication.

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What is Leather Dye

Leather dye is similar to leather stain since it colors the material. The difference is the size of the molecules, which are much smaller in dye, penetrating the leather deeper for permanent coloring.

Why Use Leather Dye

Those who choose leather dye are likely looking for permanent, even coverage that penetrates deep into the material. It won’t rub off or fade, maintaining the uniform color once applied. Leather dye comes in a range of colors, so you can match the previous color, go darker to cover stains, or choose something new and exciting.

Types Of Leather Dye

Three types of leather dye are available, water-based, alcohol-based, and oil-based. Water-based leather dye is easy to apply and dries fast, with vibrant colors and a silky finish.

Alcohol-based dye is somewhat thicker than water-based dye, though the application is still simple, plus it dries even quicker. The alcohol used for the solvent does have a downside since it may pull moisture out of the leather, drying the material. These dyes also don’t penetrate quite as well, which could result in color transfer.

Oil-based leather dye is the most viscous of the three, lasting longer and penetrating the leather more deeply. The results are vibrant colors that stand out.

Leather Dye Pros

Leather dye comes in several color options, all of which add a solid, rich shade to the material. It penetrates deeply for long-lasting results that won’t fade, even with regular use.

Leather Dye Cons

Applying leather dye is best done with immersion or spray methods, which can be time-consuming and costly for the specialized equipment. Dyes take longer to dry than stains due to the deeper penetration and thicker consistency.

Leather stain vs dye

Final Word

Whether you want to cover worn spots or alter the color of your leather pieces, there is a coloring agent for you. Stains offer a more natural, vintage look, while dye penetrates deeply for solid colors. They also vary in application, color options, and drying time, so consider the benefits and flaws of each one carefully before making your selection.

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