What is patent leather

Patent leather

Patent leather

Patent leather is a high-gloss, grain-free leather that has been varnished on the surface or covered with a glossy, mirror-smooth film. Patent leather is used for shoes, hats, caps and occasionally for clothing, purses and handbags. In the clothing sector, patent leather is rather rare and is mostly associated with clothing for sexual preferences. Nowadays you can see a lot of high-gloss materials in bags and shoes. In the lower price segment, it is high-gloss synthetic leather.

Patent leather shoes of the highest price range. - Patent leather shoes embossed with foil coating for € 39.95.


Traditionally, high-gloss leather or patent leather was rarely worn on special occasions. The leathers were therefore not as stressed as possible, and there were not any signs of wear and tear that quickly. Today such leathers are worn daily in bags and shoes. Unsightly signs of wear and tear appear correspondingly faster. Other smooth leathers are similarly sensitive, but the softness of these leathers and the matte surface prevent damage or make it less apparent. The eye perceives surface differences on glossy surfaces more quickly than on matt surfaces. Above all else, you should avoid scratches on high-gloss leather.

Handbag made of lacquered patent leather. The hair pores can still be seen.


Leather handbags made of coated leather. The hair pores are no longer recognizable.


Neon green synthetic leather with patent leather look. - Leather jacket made from crumple patent leather.


Crumple patent leather

Crumple patent leather is a smooth leather that has a high-gloss varnish on the surface or covered with a thin synthetic film and then peeled. Crinkling causes "folds" to be pressed into the leather. The effect is like an embossing.

Flat patent leather turns into crumple patent leather after peeling.


Cleaning and care of patent leather

A damp cloth is sufficient for cleaning patent leather. Light-colored patent leathers in particular seem to have a particular sensitivity to absorbing dyes. Therefore never pack in dark bags, never in plastic bags and never store in contact with other leather bags. It is very common that patent leather absorbs dyes from contact surfaces over time. These penetrate the patent leather like a tattoo and can then no longer be cleaned. Pen lines or similar discolorations have a chance (if at all) if you react immediately. Try to remove the discoloration with mineral spirits (test in the concealed area first) before the dyes are irreversibly absorbed into the material.

Discoloration in the patent leather through contact. No chance of cleaning. Louis Vuitton: New patent leather bag, even discolored on both sides.


Line from the permanent pen on patent leather. No chance of cleaning.


It happens occasionally that old patent leather becomes sticky over time. It must then be assumed that it is a process of decay. Unfortunately there is no solution to this problem. You can clean the leather with a mild leather cleaner and wipe it with cleaning spirit. The stickiness then subsides for a moment, as long as the condition is not too bad.

Older patent leather bags became sticky and dull in the folds over time. Rescue is not possible.


Here the patent leather is already inseparably glued. It is too late to be saved.


Important: Especially if old patent leather has been cared for with oils or grease, the problem is even worse or only arises then. Patent leather does not need oil or grease (i.e. any type of classic leather care including shoe polish) for care. The leather is behind the lacquer, and there is no maintenance there because patent leather is completely closed. Therefore, it would only make sense if the paint layer needed oil or grease. But this is not the case, "leather care" damages the paint layer.

additional Information

-> LEATHER CENTER - Care and handling of high-gloss smooth leather or patent leather