How to Dye Ostrich Leather

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Ostrich leather is often used to make handbags.
Ostrich leather is often used to make handbags. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Ostrich leather is a strong, durable leather that is used by retailers to make clothes, shoes, handbags and belts. The leather has even been used for vehicle upholstery. An adult ostrich produces 14 square feet of hide, giving a dyer plenty to work with. The leather can be dyed in hundreds of shades and given several different finishes. Dying ostrich leather is not an exact science, since each skin will react differently to dye. By hand-dying the leather, you can monitor the process and take the necessary steps to get the exact effect you would like. By using these directions to prepare, apply and finish, your ostrich leather dying project should be successful.

Things You'll Need

  • Sponge
  • Leather deglazer
  • Bottle of leather dye
  • Stick
  • Sponge brush
  • Soft clothe
  • Leather top coat
  • Wool dauber
  • Rubber or latex gloves

Preparing the Ostrich Leather

Inspect the leather for any dirt that may have accumulated during the tanning process. A clean surface is necessary for the dye to attach to the leather properly.

Wet the sponge and then squeeze any excess water out, keeping it damp.

Open the bottle of leather deglazer and pour some onto the damp sponge. Use whatever amount necessary to clean off the dirt inspected earlier.

Clean the surface of the leather with the sponge, going back and forth across the width of the leather. This cleaning process will allow the dye to absorb more evenly.

Applying the Dye

Mix the dye before applying it to the ostrich leather by shaking the bottle or stirring it with a stick. This will help loosen any pigment stuck at the bottom of the bottle.

Dampen the leather with a wet sponge if the leather has dried from its previous cleaning.

Apply the dye in even strokes with the sponge brush.

Let the first coat of dye dry for about one to two hours, depending on the type of dye. Apply as many coats as needed, flexing the leather along the way to keep it from becoming too stiff.

Finishing Touches

Wait until the dye is completely dried.

Buff the leather with a clean, soft cloth to remove any excess dye.

Apply a leather top coat. These come in spray bottles, so can be applied by spraying or using a wool dauber. Leather top coats are typically required for solvent based dyes, but are optional for pigment dyes.

Tips & Warnings

  • If using a solvent based dye, use rubber or latex gloves.
  • Buy a dye color based on the leather sample of the dye, as the color in the bottle will look different once it is placed on the leather.
  • Read the instructions on the dye bottle -- this may let you know specifically how much time it will take for the dye to dry between coats.
  • You can also finish the project with mink oil cream for waterproofing.
  • Purchasing a transparent dye will allow you to see the surface grains and markings after the leather is dyed.
  • Feel free to mix different colored dyes to get the exact color you want -- basic color mixing rules apply.
  • Choose a saddle finish for handbags and a pull up finish to give the leather an aged look.

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