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How to Repair Your Favorite Leather Chair

If the cost of replacing your leather furniture is more than you can bear, these steps will show you how to make the repairs yourself.

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Maybe your favorite cat used your leather chair arm as a scratching post. Or the leather has ripped on your treasured recliner, leaving a nice slice that threatens to expand. If the cost of replacing your leather furniture is more than you can bear right now, take heart. Repair it yourself and no one will be the wiser.

Before beginning, make sure your piece of furniture is genuine leather. Genuine leather is the whole skin of an animal. Bonded leather is created by bonding together scraps of leather to form a seamless piece of material. These repair techniques won’t work on bonded leather.

How to tell if your furniture is genuine leather:

  1. Read the label if there is one. It’ll say “Genuine Leather” if it is.
  2. Look for imperfections in the grain. The texture of bonded leather is mechanically produced with a repeating pattern.
  3. If possible, pinch the material between your fingers. Genuine leather lightens in color where it’s folded over.
  4. Does it have that natural leather smell? Synthetic materials have a faint chemical odor.
  5. Finally, look at the edges of the cut—and at the underside of the material. If you see a fabric layer in the middle or as a backing, it’s definitely bonded.

To fix a full-thickness hole or cut, gather the following materials (or purchase a complete leather repair kit):

How to Repair Minor Scratches or Small Tears in a Leather Chair

  1. For minor scratches or tears that don’t puncture the full thickness, clean your chair with a quality leather cleaner.
  2. Once dry, apply a thin layer of leather conditioner and rub it in using a circular motion.
  3. Continue to apply the conditioner until the leather no longer absorbs it, allowing the final coat to sit for a few hours before rubbing it in.
  4. Cleaning and conditioning the leather this way removes a lot of scratches.

How to Fix Punctures & Cuts in a Leather Chair

If the leather is cut all the way through, follow these steps to repair it:

  1. Cut a piece of denim patch a little larger than the cut’s opening.
  2. Even the edges with scissors to help them lie flat.
  3. Using tweezers, insert the denim piece, shiny side up, into the opening. This acts as the substrate for the filler. Feel to make sure it lie flat without any wrinkles.
  4. Squirt a bit of glue on the cardboard. Use a toothpick to apply glue along the edges of the hole, adhering the patch to the leather. Press it down gently with your fingers. Only use glue that dries flexible. Do not use Super Glue.
  5. Immediately apply firm pressure with a piece of 2x4 or another hard, flat object. Hold for a minute or two.
  6. Once dry, clean the surface with denatured alcohol to remove any glue, wax, or oil that will prevent the filler from adhering.
  7. Use the palette knife to fill the opening with the soft filler. Work it into the edges along the perimeter of the tear in case you missed any spots with the glue. Hold the smoothing card at an angle and grade over the fill to smooth it out. Feather the edges outward with your fingers.
  8. Allow to dry for 20-40 minutes. To hasten the process, suspend an incandescent bulb close enough to warm the area but not so close that it would burn your hand. If the filler gets too hot, it’ll bubble and then shrink, requiring a redo. When dry, the color becomes translucent and the area feels solid when you press on it with your finger.
  9. Smooth uneven or rough areas with 220-grit sandpaper. Wipe with a damp rag to remove any dust.
  10. And another layer of filler, swipe with the smoothing card, and allow to dry. Apply as many layers as you think are necessary for a good fill, allowing each one to dry completely before adding the next. Sand a final time and wipe with a damp cloth.

For Leather That Is Worn-Out and Rough to Touch

If the leather is worn-out, follow these steps to repair it:

  1. If you have a large area of worn, rough leather, spread the filler over it, smooth with the card, and then, with your hand inside a plastic glove, pat the filler to texturize it so you don’t end up with a large, noticeably smooth area.
  2. Once dry, gently sand with 500-grit paper. Wipe with a damp cloth before applying dye.
  3. Use a damp sponge to apply the leather dye to the area you repaired. Allow to dry. If you aren’t happy with the color, repeat the dye steps until you achieve your desired color.
  4. If the area is too rough after applying the dye, sand again and apply more filler, working it until you’re happy with the result.

Final Leather Repair Results

When done, the repaired area should feel soft and flexible, and unnoticeable to the casual observer. Congratulations! You now can enjoy your genuine leather chair for years to come.