Leather can be restored in 2 ways:
- Using the Leather Re-Coloring Balm. This is a simple wipe on and buff off application, however, it requires the leather surface to be absorbent in order for the balm to properly penetrate. It also works if the surface coating has split/cracked exposing a lighter color beneath. The advantages of using the balm are that it is cheap and easy to use, and the results are very pleasing. However, it only restores the color, if the leather is cracked, it will not actually fix the cracks - just hide them with color. See the video above to see what you can expect.
- If the damaged area is not absorbent or the cracks are darker than the leather or you just want to restore the leather to pristine condition, fixing all scuffs and cracks, then follow the instructions provided below.
In this guide we will restore the two seater sofa shown in the photo on the left.
If the Leather had little or no cracking, you would not require Flexifil, in this case, skip the section of the guide on filling cracks.
All of the products mentioned in this guide can be purchased from this guide page, or on the relevant product pages on the site.
The first step is preparing the leather ready for applications of color. We do this to remove any waxes, oils or silicones that may be present on the leather, not removing these could cause adhesion problems. Prepping the leather also removes the manufactured finish. If the leather is very dirty, clean it first with the Leather Cleaner.
Different prepping techniques can be employed with similar results but we will show you the most thorough way in this guide and explain the reasons for doing so along the way
1. Do the back & sides first. A lot of furniture these days have finished splits on the back & sides and using a strong cleaner like the leather prep would strip the color off so we won't be using it on the sides. For the sides, all you need to do is wipe them down with some alcohol cleaner on a cloth. Not prepping the back and sides as thoroughly as the rest of the leather won't affect the end results, this is because the back and sides aren't really used and so come under no, or very little stress.
2. Because the seating cushions and other areas come under more stress (wear & tear) it is more important to prepare them. To do this it is best to rub them with the Leather Prep and an Abrasive Pad, this application removes the leather finish. However, because this leather is very badly worn, it is best to just wipe the leather down with the Leather Prep and a cloth. The Abrasive Pad would make the cracking even worse in this case.
The leather is correctly prepped when you start to see color transfer from the leather onto the Abrasive Pad or cloth. This indicates that the finish has been removed exposing the color beneath.
3. The above process will have removed the manufacturers finish and any silicones that are soluble in solvents. There are however some silicones like spray on polish and waxes that aren't soluble in solvents, and so to remove these we need to use the Alcohol Cleaner. After using the Leather Prep wipe the leather down with a cloth dampened in the Alcohol Cleaner and for ease of use you could also spray the Alcohol Cleaner directly onto the leather. Now, wait 30 minutes for the prep to evaporate.
The above two photos show the seating cushion in very bad condition. The photo to the right is an up-close photo of a section of the cushion. The cracks have occurred over 20 years of wear and tear on the leathers surface causing the pigment to 'crack' as the leather flexes. Regular applications of protection cream could have prevented this!
The process will be to fill the cracks and then color the leather.
Strengthening the leather with Leather Binder
The Leather Binder is applied with a sponge and is absorbed by the leather holding all the worn leather fibres together. Apply approximately 3-5 coats to the entire surface, leaving time for each coat to dry before applying the next.
Note that it is important that excess binder that may build up around areas of stitching should be wiped away before it dries.
Note that the binder will change the look of the leather slightly at this stage, in this example It may appear as though it has colored the cracks. All it has done is darken them as they absorbed it. Do not think this has sorted the problem!
Applying the Flexifil (Heavily Cracked Leather Only)
After the Leather Binder has strengthened the leather to prevent future cracking; Flexifil is used to repair existing cracking.
Note: It is not suitable for repairing damage such as holes, cat scratches, tears, cuts or burns, for areas that have suffered this kind of damage you require the Leather Repair Kit.
To apply the Flexifil, simply take a pallet knife or spatula and apply a small amount to any areas of cracking on the leather. Then, carefully run the edge of the pallete knife over the filled area to smooth it out and remove any excess. Once all of the cracking has been filled, leave this to dry for 30 minutes and then take some fine sandpaper (1200) and smooth the area down.
To the left is a photo showing a close up as before. This time you will notice where the Leather Binder has filled in some areas and the Flexifil others.
NOTE: It is fine to apply another coat of Binder on top of the Flexifil if necessary. Even if you apply color and think it could be re-filled, it is ok to apply Flexifil on top of the color. This helps to achieve a smooth finish.
Applying the Leather Colorant
Shake the bottle of Leather Colorant for about 3 minutes to make sure it is well mixed. Pour a small amount onto a sponge and rub into the leather. The idea is to sponge on a thin coat of color working it into any gaps, creases and hard to reach areas. Apply light pressure here to work the colorant into the grain. If you apply too much pressure you may get a foam of color on the surface, this is not a problem, just wipe it away with the sponge (gently).
The image to the left is the before close up with a coat of color sponged on. After applying one base coat of color a thin spray coat can then be applied to further enhance the finish on the leather.
The Leather Colorant dries naturally or you can speed it up with a hair drier.
Spraying the color
Wait 30 minutes for the colorant to thoroughly dry and then proceed to spray the leather. Set up your spray gun or airbrush and then spray the leather at a comfortable distance, not to over apply the color. It is best to practice a bit on a piece of paper to get the hang of spraying first. Spray the colorant on in thin layers. This avoids runs and so makes for a nicer finish.
Because the colorant we're using is water based it takes a few minutes to dry. We therefore advise you to spray one area and then dry it using a hair drier. Doing it this way reduces the chance of runs. If you do see a run, just wipe it off with a cloth or sponge and then re-spray the area.
There is no right number of coats that should be applied to the leather. Spray on one coat and dry it off, then just keep spraying on a coat at a time until all the base color is hidden.
Spraying the Leather Finish
The Leather Finish is then applied in the exact same way as the colorant. Thin layers are the key! We recommend spraying on 2 layers of sealant (glossy), and then 2 layers of Leather Finish as this gives a very strong coating guaranteeing a very long life span of your job! The Leather Finish further enhances the feel and texture of the leather, it gives you a lovely soft and delicate touch, even if the leather was rough beforehand!
The above two images are of the seat thoroughly colored. As standard, the leather has a slight shine to it. This can be either increased using a gloss finish, matted down using a matt finish or kept the same using a satin finish. In this case, we used a satin finish to match the original sheen.
We have a full range of products for leather restore and dying the leather of everything from furniture to shoes to saddles visit our Leather Restoration & Dyes section.