How to Soften a Leather Belt

Three Methods:Rubbing Alcohol and VaselineUsing Natural OilsUsing Leather Treatment Products

Leather belts can be stiff and uncomfortable, especially when they're new. Leather can also grow dry and cracked if the material is not treated regularly. Fortunately, you can use a number of skin-safe chemical treatments to soften a belt so that it sits more comfortably.[1]

Method 1
Rubbing Alcohol and Vaseline

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    Swab the belt with rubbing alcohol. Pour a bit of rubbing alcohol onto a cotton ball for an easy applicator. Then, wipe the leather surface thoroughly with the rubbing alcohol. This should clean the leather and open up the pores of the material. Make sure that the alcohol is deeply soaked into the leather. You may need to apply many coats.[2]
    • You can buy isopropyl rubbing alcohol at most drugstores and grocery stores. You may already have some in your cabinet!
    • If you don't have a cotton ball, use a towel, a tissue, or a clean piece of cotton. You can also use your fingers. Be careful, though: rubbing alcohol can dry out your skin with prolonged contact.
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    Follow up with Vaseline. Put Vaseline or another petroleum jelly product onto your finger or a Q-tip. Then, spread the Vaseline across the belt so that it covers the entire surface. Let the Vaseline soak into the leather.[3]
    • You don't need to lump a goopy mess of petroleum jelly onto the belt in order to soften it. A thin, slick layer will do.
  3. 3
    Clean the belt. Wipe the Vaseline away with a rag or tissue. Leave the leather out to dry before you wear the belt. If you want it to dry a bit more quickly, try leaving it out in the sun.

Method 2
Using Natural Oils

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    Prep the leather in the sun. Lay the leather belt outside on a sunny day. Leave it out for about ten minutes to open the pores and prepare the material.[4]
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    Choose your oil. Coconut oil (the organic kind that you'd use for cooking) is a great easy-to-find softening agent. Try avocado oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, or almond oil. Use any natural oil that you would put onto yourself as a skin-softener. Leather is the dried and treated skin of a cow – so it essentially made from the same stuff as your own skin.
    • Natural oils have the added benefit of smelling pleasant. Rubbing alcohol and Vaseline will do a great job of softening up your belt, but you might be off-put by the decidedly chemical scent. Pick an oil that you like to smell.
    • Avoid using chemically hydrogenated oils – namely, most commercial corn oils and vegetable oils.
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    Rub the oil into the belt. Simply dip your fingers into the oil, then rub it thoroughly over the surface of the belt. Add multiple layers of oil for an improved softening effect. The more oil you use, the softer the leather will get.[5]
    • Don't worry about using too much. Most natural oil should not damage leather.
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    Let the oil dry into the leather. Note that the oil—especially coconut oil—may slightly darken the belt. However, it also turns your stiff leather into a smooth, wearable material. If your belt is not soft enough, try repeating the oil treatment.
    • You can use this darkening effect to change up the look of your leather belt. Just make sure that you apply it evenly so there aren't any mismatching lighter splotches!

Method 3
Using Leather Treatment Products

  1. 1
    Buy a dedicated leather conditioner. You can usually buy these products (usually labeled as "leather therapy," "restorer," or "conditioner") at stores that sell saddles and bridles for horses. You may also use leather treatment products that are designed to soften, clean, and polish leather shoes.[6]
    • Many of these ointments will actually strengthen leather. They were designed for use on saddles and bridles, and you can trust them as a lasting solution.
    • Be aware that leather treatment products are usually more expensive than natural oils, Vaseline, and rubbing alcohol. Pick up one of these ointments if you have money to spend on pampering your belt.[7]
  2. 2
    Apply the conditioner. Most products will have specialized instructions listed on the bottle or tub of leather ointment. Spray, spread, or rub the conditioner into the leather and let it soak. Apply as needed. Let the belt dry before you wear it.


  • Let a new belt break in on its own before you try to soften it. Most leather belts will soften up fairly quickly if you're wearing them a lot.[8]
  • Oils and ointments can also help protect the belt from water damage. Leather conditioner products, in particular, are designed to strengthen the leather against the elements.
  • Try these treatments on new leather shoes to help break them in.


  • Alcohol will tend to dry out the exterior and interior collagen fibrils. This can weaken the leather more quickly.
  • Don't do this to the leather couch or chairs. They should already be soft enough. You may also be disappointed by the resulting discoloration.

Article Info

Categories: Belts