What Does Leather Smell Like? 4 Tips to keep leather smell

An image of brown leather emitting its leather smell.
What does leather smell like?

You know the smell I’m talking about — that unmistakable, warm hue that puts a strong image in your mind…what actually is it? Read on to find out what makes this universal scent and what you should know about it!

Leather has an instantly recognizable smell that comes from its core material of animal skin. You could describe it as earthy or smoky with a slight sweetness to it. The smell can change depending on the animal skin used, the treatment process, and even the quality of the materials and processing.

Learn more about what it is and how to keep it, if you want, below!

Does leather have an odor?

Genuine and authentic leather will always have some sort of odor to it. If there is no specific smell to it, it could be a sign that you are working with a false leather item! Genuine leather should have an earthy, natural scent that can be very strong or just hovering in the background.

What is the smell of real leather?

Curious about what the actual smell is that you enjoy in new leather? It is, surprise, surprise, animal skin! This, combined with tannins (compounds found in organic matter), offer that distinctive and comforting leather smell that will just welcome you right in when you first smell it!

This is why leather processed with natural products will smell so much better than classically processed leather! There are more tannins in eco-leather than there are in traditional leather! Not sure what eco-leather is? It’s pretty fascinating, so have a look!

Fun Fact:

Did you know that leather made from different animals can have unique smells?

What does new leather smell like?

While everyone’s sense of smell will be a bit different, there are some common themes that most people can identify in the smell of leather itself. The biggest part of it is going to be the woodsy or smokey smell. This is the animal skin. From there, you’ll smell the tannins and their subtle sweetness. 

If you’ve got a new leather couch or purse processed using traditional chemical dyes and tanning liquids. In that case, you’ll also often notice a distinctive acidic chemical smell. This can sometimes even overpower the natural animal skin smell, where all you can smell is the chemical processing.

A lot of what you smell with new leather will depend on its tanning and dying process.

Why does leather smell so good?

It seems that “new leather smell” is one of those comforting and well-loved scents, even if you’re not someone who wears leather or even particularly likes leather. It’s just got this comforting and inviting smell to it. Why?

A lot of leather’s good smell actually comes down to the psychological effect that leather has on your brain. It is the smell of nature, the smell of sunshine (the sweetness), and the smell of adventure and tradition. Since leather is everywhere and a massive part of our past, it can remind us of nature and horses, working outside with a parent, getting our first new car, and so on.

While not every person on the planet likes the smell of leather, it does biologically appeal to us as humans. From the biological to the psychological appeal, leather’s addictive aroma makes a bit more sense now.

Fun Fact:

Traditionally, tanneries smelled so bad that they were isolated from the communities, according to Wikipedia.

Does the leather smell fade?

Unfortunately, the new scent of leather will fade with time. As you use it and “air it out” (by using it), the leather will break in, and the smell will waft away. It’s a shame you can’t bottle that smell and have it to inhale whenever you need a moment, right?

How long does the leather smell last?

Many factors determine how long the leather smell will last, including its quality, how it was processed, and how much you are using it. That being said, you can usually expect the leather smell to last between 2-4 weeks.

How can I make the leather smell last longer?

It’s okay to be asking this. It’s such a welcoming scent, and it would be nice to have it for just a little longer, right? The simple answer is to care for your leather properly. However, we’ll get into more detail on it below!

Is the new leather smell toxic?

Some people believe that the smell of new leather can be dangerous for you to inhale. So, what’s the verdict? Traditionally processed leather can be dangerous in the scent since it’s chemicals that you’re smelling. If you have a leather item with a noticeable chemical odor, it’s always a good idea to air it out. 

You won’t have that concern if you’ve got leather that relies on vegetable-based processing. If you want to hold it up to your face and inhale for a while, you can do that without worrying about any kind of toxicity!

What does old leather smell like?

Now that you know what new leather smells like, why not take a moment and learn what old leather smells like? In many cases, old leather can take on a mildew smell. However, this is because it most likely isn’t being cared for very well anymore. 

If you’ve got an old piece of leather that you’re caring for properly and conditioning, you’ll notice that it can still have a faint earthy leather scent to it! You might need to search for it, but it is still there if you smell your leather item intensely.

Tips to keep the leather smell

As I mentioned briefly above, there are some ways to help keep that leather smell around for a bit longer if that’s the effect you’re going for. Here is some advice to help lock in that scent for as long as possible:

  • Have and use a leather conditioner
  • Consider storing your leather items in newspaper
  • Keep your leather stored out of direct sunlight, away from heat and damp
  • Use baking soda

Have and use a leather conditioner

As you’ve learned, the smell of leather is popular and well-appreciated. Using a leather conditioner can help draw that scent out more and also help preserve it at the same time. Doing so strengthens the leather and ensures it is kept in its best condition for as long as possible.

Some leather conditioners are even lightly scented in — you guessed it — a leather scent– since it can help you enjoy that smell for longer. If you needed more incentive to condition your leather items a bit more, this could certainly help.

Consider storing your leather items in newspaper

This sounds weird, but it actually works really well! When you first get your leather items, wrap them up in a (clean) newspaper. Do that for days or weeks when you’re not using them. Then, when the smell starts to fade in your leather items, you can re-wrap them in that scented newspaper, which will help restore the smell to your leather! Of course, this will only last so long, but it is a great way to help!

Keep your leather stored out of direct sunlight, away from heat and damp

Next is to store your leather correctly. This means in a warm (but not hot), dry, and dark space. Heat, sunlight, and dampness can all rob your leather of its scent and damage it, so storage will be essential!

Use baking soda

This tends to confuse people. Doesn’t baking soda draw in scents? Yes, but it can also help protect your leather from other odors. To keep that leather scent pure, work on removing any bad-smelling odors from the leather. Leather can quickly soak up smells, according to WikiHow. This is what makes baking soda such a strong ally!

That classic leather smell is such a simple joy in our lives. Often described as being earthy with a slight sweet kick, it reminds you and me of tradition, nature, and sunshine. The smell comes from the animal skin (the tannins, to be more specific) and the processing of the leather itself. You can extend the smell in your new leather item if you learn how to do so!

Know someone that loves the smell of leather as much as you do? Please share this article with them. It will help them understand why and how to maintain leather goods’ smell!

Andre from leatherninja.com

Andre is a passionate leatherworker who spends his spare time working with leather. He loves the smell and feel of leather, and he takes great care in selecting the right pieces of leather for his projects. Read more here.