…. or a cheap effective way to turn leather black, without fighting with dyes and without fear of it bleeding off on clothing.

This is a very old method.  In its simplest form:  you let vinegar chew on some iron/steel for a few days and use it to chemically change the leather color to black.

The photo below shows what I am experimenting with.  I took five of those nails, covered them with 1/4 cup of white vinegar and 18 hours later dipped the piece of leather in the solution.

I have added a pint of vinegar and twenty more nails and now I will let that stand for a few days and play again.

UPDATE:  So it stood for a week and then I took the first part of this video showing the filtering of the vinagroon.

The second part of the video, where I am using it, was taken a week after the filtering process.

I like simplicity, but for the sake of giving you a complete picture, I will quote from the interwebs here:

From the forum of the America Leather Chemists Association:

The black color is the reaction of Ferric salts or oxide with tannings, nice formula for leather crafts, but it is a pain in the neck in vegetable tannery.

About “neutralizing” the vinegar’s acid:  The leather may be damaged by the excess of acid: white vinegar is acetic acid and if applied in excess can give some problem according to what was stated in the post. Iron react with vegetable tannins giving a product that is black.


Neutralizing the leather is not wrong. In the industrial process this is also being used even though the term is confusing because it does not mean to take the leather up to the neutral pH condition or the 7.0 value. It means to neutralize some of the acid inside the leather to avoid acid damage. The final pH for vegetable leather can be around 4.0 and this is far from neutral.

Chuck Burrows posted this in 2010:

For giving color to the grain of leather there is no blacking that will at all compare with the well known vinegar black. This may be made in various ways. The simplest, and, without doubt, the best, is to procure shavings from an iron turner (note: some folks get the turnings from brake drums) and cover them with pure cider vinegar; heat up and set aside for a week or two, then heat again and set in a cool place for two weeks; pour off the vinegar, allow it to stand for a few days, and draw off and cork up in bottles. This will keep for a long time, and, while producing a deep black on leather, will not stain the hands. 

How I do it most times:
I use de-oiled 4/0 steel wool: dip in acetone, squeeze out the extra and hang to dry – then tear or cut into small pieces. Add one pads worth of the de-oiled steel wool to one quart of white or cider vinegar – I use those plastic coffee “cans” and punch a single small hole in the lid to let of any gas buildup. Let it set in the hot sun which will speed the reaction. I let it set for about two weeks until there is only a light vinegar odor left and/or the bulk of the steel wool has been dissolved. I also keep a new batch “cooking” all the time so I have a constant supply.
For the deepest black, apply a bath of strong black tea first (this increase the tannins) and let it soak in good, then apply a generous amount of the vinegar black. Let set for about a half hour and then rinse with a mix of baking soda and warm water, about a 1/8 cup soda to a half gallon of water, apply let set for a few minutes and then rinse off. While still damp apply a light coat or two of your favorite saddle oil. Once dry top coat as normal
Experiment – I test a piece of each new side without oiling to see how well it takes the blacking, if need be I’ll do a second black tea mix to darken, then apply the oil which also helps darken.

Instead of steel wool you can use chopped up bailing or fence wire – the smaller the better since it will dissolve in the vinegar bath faster.

1) Does the ‘rooning process change the color of natural thread? No
2) Should I sew before or after I apply the vinegaroon? either way – your choice
3) For the ‘rooning process, how do you apply it? Dip the item, dauber it on, brush it on, etc? Could the vinegaroon be kept in a spray bottle and sprayed on the item? all of the above – which ever way works best for you and the item you are working on. I prefer dIp dying since it is simply the easiest for me, but I also brush it on for larger pieces – a spray bottle should work fine, but you would need to filter it good to prevent any clogging

3 thoughts on “Vinagroon”

  1. Vinagroon has been used since the 1800s if not longer probably as far back as ancient times. That is how they dyed leather for ages. And Baking soda is used as a neutralization to the acid in the vinegar, then do a thorough rinse. Hint: Dont use the same baking soda bath to rinse all the leather when your neutralizing the vinegar. For if you use a black dyed leather from your steel and then put one of the other color leather in the same bath the black will over power it and change the leather black instead of your metallic blue or other colors. If doing separate colors use separate soda baths for each color. Everyone always wants to use the white or apple cider vinegar and steel to make black, but there are other colors you can get using different items such as certain metals from copper, brass, gold or silver and different types of vinegar.
    Just like the Statue of Liberty was once made of copper, but over the yrs it has oxidized from the salt water to a odd bluish-green color. You can do the same thing using other materials. Im sure someone has also used other metals like gold or silver but I don’t recommend using your mothers silverware or gold jewelry, which Im sure someone might do. I use both white and apple cider to get different colors. The apple cider gives a darker color than the white.

    First a list of the white vinegar colors. Using steel or steel wool I get black or sometimes even a dark brown it depends on the steel wool. My last batch of white vinegar and steel wool gave me a dark chocolate color. So sometimes the steel wool is unpredictable. I also used a galvanized nail and over a period of a month or 2 I got a light brown color like an old Fiebing’s British Tan they no longer carry in Tandy stores. Because of the galvanized coating on the iron nail causes a chemical reaction with the rust in the iron giving you a different color. I was hoping what with the galvanized coating and iron would give me a nice reddish orange color, but it didn’t. With brass you get a very bright teal blue color dye and when you dye your leather it almost gives you a tan color. With copper you get a blue dye, but when you dye the leather it gives you a light blue metallic color.
    Now the Apple Cider Vinegar colors: using steel or steel wool you’ll still get the black or dark brown color. It all depends on the steel you have. With brass you get a mint green color dye, and the dyed leather looks like a milk chocolate color. Copper gives you a dark green color dye, but they both give you the same color dyed leather that you got from the white vinegar a shade darker blue metallic dyed leather . The galvanized nail with apple cider gives you a darker brown color dye but when you dye the leather it gives you an old dye that Feibing’s no longer carries that was discontinued called Cordova which is a dark brown with a hint of red in it.
    Note: Make sure when you use brass you use solid brass and not brass coating. I used a brass bolt I thought was solid brass and after a month or so the brass coating eroded away and before long the steel turned my vinegroon into black. So I had to start over after going to my local hardware store and buying some solid brass bolts n nuts. Also when you make vinegroon you have to let some of them sit for a month or 2 before you’ll see any changes to the vinegar before you can dye your leather.
    Another good thing about the vinegroon dyes is if you stitch your leather together with white thread sometimes when you use other alcohol or water base dyes eventually the dye rubs off the thread and it becomes white again. Yet with the vinegroon dyes it permenantly dyes the white thread and it doesn’t go back to white again. It may fade a lil like black to a charcoal gray but it wont be white. So the dye has a longer lasting color on your threads and blends in very well.

  2. Maybe someday Ill try a batch of each with silver, gold and maybe even Iron Pyrite (Fools Gold) and see what happens.

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