Aging leather can be very appealing for some and for others it becomes a very unappealing look. This will tend to happen on natural or veg-tanned leather as chrome tanned and other chemical tans will take much longer to wear down. So if your wallet or couch has gone through too much use and you want to freshen it up, we will go over three ways to restore faded leather color.
Restoring leather color can be very difficult especially when trying to make the new color blend with the original. For projects that have a lot of ware you may want to scrap the idea of trying to blend in dyes and restore the whole item.
Other times you can get by with placing some fresh dye and smoothening it out for an even coat.
But always remember to test the dye or leather restoring agent on a piece of leather that is not too noticeable. This will help you decide whether the dye or substance you bought is really close to the color you desire. to restore faded leather
Ways to restore faded leather
Method 1: Re-dying whole item
If you have a small leather item that you want to evenly restore or even recolor you can start by stripping the old color.
To do this you will either need to sand off or use rubbing alcohol around the whole surface. If there are any carvings in the leather you will want to avoid sanding since you can wear away the marks in the leather.
Use a high grit sanding paper around 600 and up and sand the desired area like crazy. When using a lower grit sandpaper, you can see that it will cut lines into the leather. This is fine for shaping the edges of leather, but will affect how the leather is dyed on the top layer.
Avoid hitting any stitching marks as you can cut the thread causing the stitch to loosen up. When sanding avoid going too deep as this will cause you to go below the top grain causing a change in the surface texture.
This top layer is very thin so you will have to lightly scrub away the top coat of dye and sealant then move on.
This will not completely change the color as the dye will have sunk into the leather a few layers, but it will give you a new lighter color to work with.
Using rubbing alcohol can easily strip away the dye sitting on top of leather. You will want to use a cloth or cotton ball and rub the surface for around 2-5 passes. This will remove any sealant and a couple thin layers of dye inside the leather.
Be aware that rubbing alcohol will dry out the leather so you will need to be sure to condition the leather afterwards. Using rubbing alcohol can also create dark spots in your leather which will look very unappealing.
This is most likely due to the amount of sealants, type of dye, or how recent a conditioner has been applied.
If you notice this happening, stop and revert to the sanding process.
After you have rubbed away the surface with alcohol or sand paper you should be left with a warmer leather color. This is when you will apply any dye you want to use.
We have a full guide on two different methods to dye leather where we go in depth on how to dye. But below we will go over a simple explanation on dyeing.
If the original leather color is very dark it will be hard to lighten the color. But this will make it much easier to apply an even coat of dye to the whole area.
Make sure the alcohol has been fully dried and that the area has been cleaned from dust after sanding the area.
You will take your dye and use a sponge, dauber or a clean cloth rag and rub the dye in the leather in circular motion. Apply 2 or more layers depending on how dark you want the leather to look with the dye you have.
Use a lighter dye as when you sand the layer down it will tend to dry a bit darker. Plus it it is much easier to add coats to your leather to create a darker look.
Apply a sealant throughout the leather and allow to dry, then use saddle soap or conditioner to revive the dried leather.
Make sure not to skip this step as this will lead to your leather cracking or fading very quickly. Removing sealants will dry or sanded away the conditioner on the leather. Apply some saddle soap/conditioner after sealant is dry and you will have a nice new color.
Method 2: Dyeing desired area
This is more for specific spots that have faded away due to usage or sun exposure. If you have a patch that has faded away you can easily apply some dye that is the same color of the leather to the desired area. This can be a little tricky to blend into the unworn areas but will usually look better than a worn spot.
There are a couple different products you can use to accomplish spot dyeing but first you will want to clean the area.
Wipe down area with a moist rag and make sure there is no debris on the surface. You can use a small amount of deglazer and degreaser on the spot or sand down a small amount on the area and surrounding area. This will help the dye stick as it will remove the sealant and wax that is coated on the leather.
Once the area has been prepped you will either take regular leather dye and start applying from the center on out. This will help you determine how the dye looks around the faded spot. To blend you may need to add three coats on faded area but only two around the area.
Rub the dye in and either let air dry or use a hairdryer to speed up the processes.
Spay dye like ColorBond can be used for this as well and can sometimes be easier to blend the color into the leather. Since you will not be rubbing the dye in you will be able to lightly apply dye around the surrounding area. This will be easier since you can distance your spray making it a light coat.
You can find aerosol spray here but their color options are not too wide. This will let you spay paint the area and allow for an easier blending method.
You will use the same method to seal the leather as above. Apply a sealant whether Angelius, Fiebing’s or Eco-Flow and decide glossy or satin style. Rub some conditioner or saddle soap into the leather after.
Method 3: Coating overtop whole leather
Using a restoring balm is a very easy and simple process in restoring your old leather. These can be used to completely recolor an item or used for spot treatment.
Using these will allow you to follow the same steps as to clean and use a sealant before and after applying. There are two different types you can check out with wide range of colors as well you can contact them if you need a custom color.
1) Furniture Clinic Leather Recoloring Balm, this is a solid substance that you can easily rub in using a rag or use their own rub in tool you can purchase with their kits.
2) Rub N Restore has a good product that will do the same thing as the one above.
After you apply this balm and rub it all along the leather you will allow it to dry and buff it with a cloth rag. After dried and buff apply sealeant and conditioners for a longer life span.
Hope that helped give you a couple ways to restore faded leather bring it back to new or at least close. If you are interested in doing the opposite, check out our guide on how to fade your leather for a nice worn look.