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Leather Sealer – Know When to Use this Leather Protector

One of my favorite parts of working with leather is creating unique dye patterns and colors. However, ensuring the dye will stay and not bleed is tricky. I have recently searched for the best leather sealer available to stop dye from rubbing off. 

Leather sealer is a finishing product used on the surface of the leather to prevent scratches or stop dyed leather from bleeding. They can be made from resin, acrylic, lacquer, or wax and come in matte to glossy finishes. Leather sealers can cost $5–$135, depending on their type and size. 

Various materials are used as bases in leather sealers. Let’s review some of the most popular options and how they can benefit you in different situations. 

What Is a Leather Sealer?

A leather seal is a resin, acrylic, lacquer, or wax product that covers the leather’s surface to protect it and maintain its colors. Leather sealer is best used after dyeing leather to prevent the leather from bleeding. However, much like the finishes placed on chrome tanned leather, leather sealers can give the material a glossy coating, providing a new look for leather pieces while also protecting them. 

What We’ll Explore

  • Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
  • When You Might Use a Leather Sealer
  • Leather Sealer Quick Reference Table
  • Leather Sealer Types and Variations
  • Leather Sealer Characteristics
  • Leather Sealer Pros
  • Leather Sealer Cons
  • Leather Sealer Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made
  • Leather Sealer Costs
  • Alternative Options for Leather Sealer
  • Experienced Tips for Working with Leather Sealer
  • My Personal Research with Leather Sealer
  • Leather Sealer Care and Maintenance
  • Helpful Leather Sealer Insights
  • Key Takeaways
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Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions

A common misunderstanding for those looking to protect their leather products is that a leather sealer will make their item waterproof. Unfortunately, this is not the case. While the different sealing products available will provide varying protection from water, none will be completely waterproof.

To some, the protection provided will be enough. However, water damage will most likely occur for those looking to use leather products in extreme conditions. 

When You Might Use a Leather Sealer

There are many reasons a crafter would use a leather sealer. The most common is to protect dyed leather from bleeding while the product is in use. It can also be used by those who simply want to add a protective coating to their natural leather.

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Sealers will coat the leather using different resins, acrylics, or waxes, to stop any non-deep scratches from damaging the leather’s surface. A leather sealer also has the added benefit of providing a different finish for the leather. From matte to super glossy, there are many choices when deciding the finish for the leather allowing crafters to choose how they want their final product to look. 

Leather Sealer Quick Reference Table

CharacteristicDetails
ToolLeather sealer
Component MaterialsResin, acrylic, lacquer, or waxes
Common Sizes1 oz, 4 oz, 8 oz, quart, gallon 
Cost Range ($)$5–$135
Recommended MaintenanceRemove, and reapply coats of sealer when damaged
Recommended StorageAway from sunlight, at a mild temperature, in the original container.
Common UsesProtecting the surface, preventing dye rub-off, and adding water resistance. 
How Long It Lasts (on average)One year to permanent 
Leather Sealer Characteristics

Leather Sealer Types and Variations

There are a few different choices when picking a leather sealer. The four most popular options are resin-based, acrylic-based, lacquer-based, or wax-based. Each offers various protections, as well as longevity. In addition, leather sealers can vary in their final finishing look.

Some finishes may be matte, while others can provide a high gloss. When picking a sealing product for your leather project, it is important to look at how the item will be used and how the finish will look.

Leather Sealer Characteristics

Resin Sealers

Resin sealers are slightly water resistant and provide a scratch-resistant layer, despite being a thin product. It is a common choice for those who prefer an easily removable finish. Over time the resin sealer will begin to break down. Requiring the coating to be removed and reapplied.

Acrylic Sealers

The most popular choice for sealing leather is an acrylic finishing product. Acrylic products are similar to resin sealers, providing slightly more water resistance and similar scratch resistance. In addition, acrylic sealers provide additional protection against ultraviolet light. Acrylic-based sealers are permanent products that should not have to be reapplied.

Lacquer Sealers

Lacquer sealers provide finishes comparable to the protection acrylic sealers provide. Offering the same benefits, water resistance, scratch resistance, ultraviolet resistance, and permanent application. Lacquer stands out by being thicker than the other products available, making it an ideal choice for products that will see poor outdoor conditions consistently. 

Wax Sealers

Wax-based sealing products mainly serve to add a small layer of protection while conditioning the leather after being dyed. These products are only slightly water-resistant and scratch resistant. Wax-based sealers will also need to be reapplied as they wear off.

Sizes

The smallest size available for any leather sealer is 1oz. A size this small is for sampling the product before committing to it.  More common sizes are 4oz and 8oz, which are the average size for products that can cover multiple products before needing more.

Quart and gallon sizes of leather sealer are for those who work with leather on a large production scale. These sizes imply the products are being used multiple times daily and are not recommended for smaller crafters. 

Variations

The differences in types of leather sealers do not end with their composition. Different leather finishes will offer various finishing looks that can be a deciding factor in choosing a product. These finishes range from matte to super glossy, offering someone exactly what they are seeking. Satin and glossy leather finishes require the leather to be buffed after application to create a shiny finish. 

In this helpful comparison video provided by Weaver Leather Supply, Chuck Dorsett compares a wide variety of leather sealing products, demonstrating their final look.  

Leather Sealer Pros

Using a leather sealer can prevent dye from rubbing off as the product is being used. It can also preserve the leather’s surface by providing a protective coating that stops light scratches from reaching the surface of the leather.

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Depending on the type of sealer used, these coatings can also provide water-resistant properties. This can help leather items avoid damage if caught in poor weather and prepare those meant for heavier use. Leather sealer can also change the finishing look of the leather by adding a new coat that can be matte, all the way to glossy. 

Sealers will coat the leather using different resins, acrylics, or waxes, to stop any non-deep scratches from damaging the surface of the leather.

Leather Sealer Cons

Applying a leather sealer can be tricky when trying to get an even coat. Thicker products will pool in one area, while thinner ones can leave streaks. In addition, some leather sealers can be too concentrated, causing the surface to become sticky after being applied.

In many cases, leather sealers will attract more dust and debris and must be wiped down more often. Not all leather sealers are permanent, and a few must be reapplied as they wear off over time. 

Leather Sealer Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made

All leather sealers start from their unique base material. Resin is derived from trees such as pines or firs, although it is more commonly artificially made through unfinished plastics. Acrylic is made from a polymer, a synthetic material. Lacquer, similar to resin, is made from the resin of highland trees but also includes various waxes to produce the product.

Wax-based sealers make wax their forefront ingredient. A solution, often water, then processes these materials, which helps the product be applied more easily. Additional chemicals can be added to these products to create different characteristics. For example, pigment is often added to leather waxes to give the product color.

This can also apply to the final shine produced by a product. Researchers from the Department of Clothing and Polymer Products Technology, Faculty of Design and Technologies, at the Kaunas University of Technology, in Kaunas, Lithuania, have challenged the traditional methods of tanning, attempting to create a chemical combination that can be applied to leather, increasing their water resistance, while not impacting its breathability. 

Leather Sealer Costs

The cost of leather sealer begins at around $5 for a 1oz bottle or sample size. A 4oz bottle costs $8, and 8oz of leather sealer costs $12. These are perfect sizes for those looking to complete a few projects using a leather sealer. The production sizes, quart and gallon, cost $42 and $135. However, these sizes are not recommended for small crafters. 

Alternative Options for Leather Sealer

If you find yourself without a leather sealer but need protection for your leather items, a leather conditioner may help. Leather conditioners often have waxes that may be used in leather sealers. Providing a small amount of coverage.

Additionally, beeswax can be melted and applied in thin layers to help seal the leather. Similar to leather conditioners, a balm also contains compounds that help seal leather and can be used in a pinch. 

Experienced Tips for Working With Leather Sealer

  1. Leather sealer can be diluted with water, helping thin the product. 
  2. Allow the sealer to dry completely, as any marks can leave areas uncovered. 
  3. Apply sealer in a circular motion to lessen the appearance of streaking in the product. 

My Personal Research with Leather Sealer,

My main purpose for using a leather sealer is to prevent dyed leather pieces from bleeding onto my clothes or other items. Currently, I use an acrylic-based leather sealer, but after discovering additional products, I wanted to test them.

I cut four pieces of vegetable tanned leather and dipped them in black dye. I did not rub off the excess dye to allow as much bleeding as possible. This fully tests the capabilities of each product. I then applied the sealer and determined how each product performed. 

Resin Sealer

Before this research, I had never used a resin sealer. I found it easy to apply, as it was a liquid that needed to be brushed on. The substance felt thin but did not leave any streaks on the leather’s surface. Once dried, the resin fell short of what I was expecting. I took a paper towel and rubbed the leather with it, only for the towel to darken completely. 

Acrylic Sealer

Acrylic has become my go-to choice for leather sealers, so I knew what to expect. Acrylic felt thicker than the resin and required more care during the application to avoid streaking. When dried, the acrylic had one large problem; the surface was sticky.

I typically prevent this by diluting the acrylic sealer, but I wanted to provide an accurate test. When rubbing the paper towel against the leather, black still rubbed off, but not nearly as much. 

Lacquer Sealer

Lacquer sealer is another product I’ve tried but never fell in love with. Leather sealer using lacquer requires a spray can for application. This is not my favorite application method as it can not be used indoors and can be difficult to achieve an even coating.

After letting the product dry, it performed excellently. There was only a tiny amount of black dye rubbing off. It is important to note that the lacquer sealer made the leather much stiffer than other products.

Wax Sealer

I never considered using wax as a leather sealer, but I decided to try it. It was by far the easiest to apply as it is simply rubbed onto the leather. When dried, it felt like it performed the worst. Each pass I made with the towel drew out large black streaks.

Resulting in the entire towel being coated. I don’t believe this product should be used to stop the dye from bleeding. However, this was also the only product that made the leather feel softer. 

Conclusion

Lacquer performed the best at stopping the dye from rubbing off, but I don’t think I would pick it. The application method makes it impossible to use indoors, and the items I make do not require the pieces to be as stiff as the lacquer makes them.

The Wax sealer did not seem to do anything to prevent the dye from bleeding. It might be a better product for pre-tanned goods, but not for those needing dye covered. Resin and acrylic seemed very similar.

Acrylic simply felt like a thicker, more robust version of resin. In most cases, I would choose acrylic leather sealer. However, I can understand the appeal of a resin-based sealer for projects that only need a light coating.

Leather Sealer Care and Maintenance

How to Clean a Leather Sealer

After application, leather sealers can be cleaned with a damp rag. This allows you to remove the dirt and debris that may be stuck to the leather surface. Leather soaps can also be used but should be tested as they can potentially wear away the layer of sealer. 

How to Maintain a Leather Sealer

Most leather sealers will only need to be maintained through light cleanings periodically. However, some, such as the resin and the wax-based, will require reapplication as they wear. In these cases, one should remove the entire coat of leather sealer before adding a new one. This keeps the final product even and prevents dirt from getting trapped between layers of leather sealer.

How to Store a Leather Sealer

Like most other leather products, a leather sealer should be kept in its original container and tightly sealed. They should be kept away from direct sunlight and in a mid-temperature environment. Leather sealers can both dry out and freeze in extreme temperatures, so they should be tested before covering a piece of leather. 

Helpful Leather Sealer Insights

What do you seal leather with?

I use an acrylic leather sealer that I dilute each time I seal leather. Diluting the product allows it to coat the piece more easily and without streaks. It also prevents the acrylic sealer from leaving any sticky residue. 

What is the best leather sealer?

The best leather sealer provides its purpose and will excel in various uses. Resin sealer works best for products only requiring a thin coating. An acrylic sealer provides a “jack of all trades” product but can stiffen the leather. Lacquer sealer is the most durable but will leave the leather stiffer than other products. Finally, wax sealer works best for those looking for very light protection, focusing most on scratch resistance and softening the leather.

Do you need to seal leather?

No, unless the leather has had dye added, it should not have to be sealed. Most leathers purchased will have some sort of coating that will protect the leather. Additionally, products such as leather balm or conditioner can be applied, offering some similar qualities to leather sealers.

How do you seal newly dyed leather?

The first step to finishing any dyed leather is to let the leather dry thoroughly. It should then be rubbed with a cloth to remove all excess, giving the sealer the best chance at preventing rub-off. Afterward, the sealer of choice should be applied according to the manufacturer’s instructions and left to dry. Once dried, the item may be used, or an additional coat can be added to the leather. 

How do you seal leather naturally?

Leather can be sealed naturally using beeswax. The wax can be rubbed onto the leather to create a thin coating or melted down and applied with a brush to seal larger leather pieces. 

How do you apply leather sealer?

Each leather sealer will have different instructions for application. The leather must first be prepared to be sealed, removing any dust or debris that may get trapped under the sealer. Once the surface has been cleaned, the sealer can be sprayed on or applied with a brush. When sealing leather, the goal is to cover the entire surface evenly while preventing any streaking. 

How long does it take for leather sealer to dry?

The drying time for leather sealer will depend on the product. Waxes may dry much quicker than a product like lacquer. Most products recommend 3+ hours of drying time, but they can be left overnight to ensure the product is completely dried. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Leather sealers come in many types with unique characteristics. 
  2. No sealer will make leather completely waterproof, but most will provide good water resistance. 
  3. Sealers are not required but can be helpful for those looking to protect the leather surface or prevent dye from rubbing off. 

In Closing

Leather sealer may not be required for every leather project, as most leathers have a finishing coat. However, understanding the different types of sealer available and where they excel allows for using a sealer in any situation required.  

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