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What Is Leather Balm?

By Cindy Quarters
Updated May 16, 2024
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Leather balm is a type of conditioner used on leather to either restore or preserve its appearance. It is often used as a way to keep leather smooth and supple, and it can also help to make it waterproof. This product typically works best on very smooth surfaces. In many cases leather balm not only conditions leather, it can also be used to clean it.

Typical ingredients include waxes, oils and lanolin, all of which are able to be absorbed by leather. It is possible, though, that using a balm can cause a light leather to become darker, so it should be used with care to avoid causing discoloration. Dark leather normally does not get lighter as a result of the use of any balm, but will only get darker.

Footwear made of various types of leathers is prone to being scuffed or dirtied in the course of normal use. Applying leather balm can help to protect the leather from damage. In many cases, it can also remove dirt and scratches from the surface of the leather, provided that none of the scratches goes very deep.

Coloring leather balm is a product made specifically to restore color to faded or damaged leather. When couches, chairs or other leather items are exposed to a lot of heat or sun, they typically fade to a much lighter color than they were when new. Worn areas and creases are much more noticeable, and the item tends to have an old, tired appearance.

Working a good-quality color-restoring leather balm into the furniture can make a tremendous difference for such items. With most such products the amount of the balm used controls how dark the final result will be. For a light brown chair with areas of sun damage it may require a single coat to restore the color. A dark brown chair, though it uses the exact same product, will most likely need two or three applications before regaining its natural color.

The nature of leather balm causes it to be absorbed into the leather when it is used. There is generally no residue to wipe away once the balm has been applied. It can take quite a bit of rubbing to make sure the leather balm gets fully absorbed, but once it does it essentially becomes part of the leather. Even the balm used to restore color to leather will not rub off on clothing or skin, according to the manufacturer.

How To Make Leather Balm

Making your leather balm lets you choose both the ingredients and the ratio of those products. This means you can use natural, high-quality ingredients and adjust the thickness of the product based on your personal preference.


Making a simple leather balm requires only three key ingredients:

  • ½ part butter (coconut, shea or cocoa)
  • ½ part beeswax 
  • 2 parts oil (almond and/or grapeseed and castor) 

The given ratio for the products functions to provide adequate hydration, shine and protection for your leather goods. The butter functions as a conditioner, beeswax offers protection from stains, and the oils soften and moisturize the leather while also offering the benefit of shine.


Once the products have been selected, the process of creating the leather balm is simple:

  1. Melt the butter and beeswax together over medium heat. Be sure to stir constantly to avoid overheating.
  2. Add almond and/or grapeseed oil and stir until fully blended.
  3. Add castor oil and stir until fully blended.
  4. Pour mixture into a container to cool (small metal tins recommended).

Once the mixture has cooled and solidified, it is ready to be used.

Where To Buy Leather Balm

If you forgo the DIY option, there are plenty of quality store-bought leather balms available as well. Most big box stores offer a selection of product choices, and the online market expands the options even further with specialty stores. Generally, options range in price anywhere from $5 to $30 depending on your exact selection.

Selecting the Right Balm 

Whether you’re renewing a simple leather wallet or a beautiful piece of furniture, the large array of products to rejuvenate and protect your items ensures you can find a product that fits your needs.

If available, the most convenient option for choosing a leather balm is purchasing the product specifically designed to restore your item of choice. This generally means you get the safest option by using a product produced by a leatherworks company specifically for their goods. If you cannot get a product-specific option, all-natural balms typically offer the most versatility for items on which the products work well.

No matter the balm you select, it is always recommended to test the product in a small, inconspicuous spot of the item first to ensure the balm does not damage the leather.

How To Apply Leather Balm

Restoring and protecting your items with a quality leather balm is a quick and simple process, and the following steps may be used as a general application procedure. However, note that some balms may have product-specific directions that should be followed as described.

Before beginning the application process, it is essential to make sure your leather is clean and dry. At a minimum, you should wipe your item clean with a damp rag, but you may also need to use a cleaning solution if the leather is particularly worn.

If you are using an all-natural product, you may use your hands for easy application or apply it with a clean, lint-free rag. If you are not using an all-natural product, it is safest to use a rag.

When your product is prepped and ready for the balm:

  1. Use a small amount of product and begin massaging it into the leather. You should see immediate results, with the leather becoming more shiny and supple.
  2. Continue using small amounts of the balm until the entirety of the piece has been conditioned.
  3. Let the piece dry completely before use, which may take from 10 minutes to 24 hours depending on the item and leather. 
  4. Some products may optionally require light buffing after drying to remove any residual balm.
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Discussion Comments

By summing — On Jan 13, 2013

How much leather balm would it take to do an entire couch?

My parents have this massive leather couch in storage that they offered to me. It needs some work, but it is a nice piece of furniture. Will I need dozens of cans of leather balm to get it back into shape?

By disciples — On Jan 12, 2013

Are there any instance when you shouldn't use leather balm? I have a couple of really nice leather items and I would hate to ruin them accidentally.

By chivebasil — On Jan 11, 2013
I found this old leather jacket that belonged to my dad in the 60s in my grandmother's attic after she passed away. I asked my dad if I could have it and he said sure (not really his style anymore.)

It had spent a long time in the attic and was in pretty bad shape. But I used a leather balm all over it and it looked like new. It was soft and had this amazing, deep leather color. It is a great jacket and now I wear it everyday.

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