Leather Dye and Repair Kit FAQs
Please click on any category below to explore topics, questions, and answers about our leather dyes and repair kits, how to's, troubleshooting, maintenance and care, and our policies.
CARE & CLEANING
CLEAR PREP+FINISH™ Q&A
Simply apply another layer of Rub 'n Restore® Color to restore the matte finish. More information in this video.
You can certainly do a radical color change from dark to light. It is significantly more work (especially if you're going from very dark, black, or red to white or off-white), requiring more volume of dye and more frequent touch-up down the road. Here's more info.
For these reasons, if you want to do a color change, we recommend choosing a color with a similar value (light vs. dark). For example, if your sofa is dark brown and you're debating between Ivory or Slate, choose the Slate.
Yes! You're not married to the result. You can do Taupe on Tuesday and change to Walnut on Wednesday. You don't have to strip out your previous work either. Just wipe off the remnants of last night's dinner and dye!
Other leather and vinyl coatings are typically elastomeric or solvent-based. They are more toxic and rely on the old idea that a thick layer of paint is the only way to create a fresh surface on leather and vinyl. These coatings age and eventually crack and peel or flake away (see photo), resulting in a greater problem and eyesore.
Rub 'n Restore® is a less toxic, water-based product that permeates leather and vinyl, behaving like a stain rather than a thick layer of paint. It can be applied with a sponge, brush, or spray gun. Rub 'n Restore® may not hold up to chemical cleaning as well as other conventional coatings, but it is more flexible and harmonious with the original surface, so it also won't catastrophically fail in the way these other coatings eventually do. Our application process is also more fool-proof, so maintenance and touch-up is easy.
Competing repair kits often have the color impregnated in the repair compound. The novice is left to the task of color matching with little more than a paint-by-number set. Some of these compounds will develop hairline cracks over time, requiring removal or re-repair.
Our repair kits come with detailed written instructions and online videos plus free tech support on our toll-free number. Our water-based filler is non-toxic, easy to use, and designed for high-use areas requiring flexibility.
Please click here to determine if you're dealing with a degrading bonded leather or a surface that was previously painted and merely needs to be stripped. If you know the material is bonded leather, please read our best recommendations here.
Sorry, Rub 'n Restore® is not available in metallics! During our many years as Vinyl Ladies (leather/vinyl repair pros in Southern California), we used SEM's Silver SureCoat as a base for metallic colors. It is an elastomeric coating for leather and vinyl that is best applied with a spray gun. SEM's silver is quite dark, so it can't be used for mixing pearls (adding a lot of titanium to the mix smothers the metal flake and goes chalky). If you need a metallic color, we recommend contacting your local high-end auto dealership and asking whom they use to repair leather and vinyl.
Plastics are less permeable than leather and vinyl and therefore require an adhesion primer. We like Bulldog or SEM Plastic Adhesion Promoter, which can be found at an automotive paint supply. If your plastic is faded, worn, or dried out, you may not need an adhesion primer. We've used Rub 'n Restore® on bedliners, exterior automotive plastics, and hot tub siding and spa surrounds with excellent results and long-term wear.
Rub 'n Restore® is suitable for use on boat vinyls. Because it is a water-based product, it must be allowed to thoroughly cure before exposure to water or wet towels, bathing suits, bodies, etc. Marine vinyls may need to be touched up more often because of their frequent interaction with water. For this reason, dramatic color changes, especially changes from dark/black/red to white are discouraged. Please read about cure time.
We do not recommend using our Colors on bicycle seats. Even with extended cure time, the aggressive friction and sweat will degrade the dye and may transfer to clothing. In our experience, this issue is not as problematic for motorcycle seats, but we nevertheless discourage dyeing or color changing seats. Buy a seat or reupholster yours in the desired color. All other saddlebags and accessories can be dyed to match the seat, and you can be confident in a long-lasting result.
Rub 'n Restore® Color will appear lighter and duller on high-shine surfaces, requiring a layer of Clear Prep+Finish™ over the top. Even so the Clear Prep+Finish™ will only create a semi-gloss finish. For this reason, our products are not recommended for high-shine surfaces.
Rub 'n Restore® Color is excellent for freshening your favorite purse. Genuine leather will take the dye more readily and also get better wear than man-made materials. Do not use our products on suede, nubuck, or high-shine patent leather. An interior label should indicate what material your purse is. Purses are heavily used, so like shoes, color changes will necessitate routine touch-up on the edges, areas of flex, and high spots. We sometimes discourage color changes on purses (or shoes), because we don't want customers to regret the change and effort involved, even though touch-up is easy.
Rub 'n Restore® works wonderfully on leather shoes or jackets. Faux leathers are fussier to work with, and the dye doesn't have the same longevity that it does on genuine leather. Radical color changes are generally discouraged, because Rub 'n Restore® wears more quickly along the fine lines and creases where your foot/elbow/shoulder bends. Shoes wear particularly quickly because of their increased use and contact with asphalt, chemicals, dirt and water. You can achieve a cool "distressed" effect if you choose a color that complements the existing one. Just bear in mind that touch-up will be required. This process is fast and easy once the initial color change has been done. How often touch-up is needed depends on the type of use. We don't want customers to regret the change and effort involved. That being said, we have used Rub 'n Restore® on our own jackets, purses, and shoes with success over the years.
No, Rub 'n Restore® Color permeates leather and vinyl, behaving more like a stain a paint. Its low viscosity formula conceals dirt and stains but will not alter or obscure the natural grain in the leather or vinyl unless heavily applied in many, many layers during a single restoration. Three to five thin layers are adequate unless you're doing a radical color change. Fifteen or more layers will begin to obscure the grain. However, because Rub 'n Restore® Color will gradually wear and require touch-up later, additional restorations will not alter the surface's natural grain.
Coated leathers tend to shrink and are permanently etched when saturated with water. No coating can conceal the resulting damage. Vinyl (a synthetic) is not altered by water in this way. Water damage on vinyl is probably mineral deposits or stains which can either be cleaned or dyed.
Rub 'n Restore® products are low VOC, but are a paint and so have a chemical odor in their liquid state. This odor is no worse than anything you'll find in the laundry detergent aisle at a supermarket; we just omitted the fake fresh flower scent. Short of sticking your nose in the bottle, most people don't notice it being poured onto a sponge, tablespoons at a time, and allowed to dry on the surface. Once cured it does not emit an odor.
If you opt to use a spray gun to apply the product, be sure to thoroughly ventilate your work area. Avoid breathing the dust/mist from spraying. You do not need to wear a respirator unless you are especially sensitive to chemicals.
While Rub 'n Restore® Color does an excellent job of blending and concealing the minor damage from a dog's claws, if the original leather or vinyl scuffed, so will the dye. No matter, touch-up is easy. Rub 'n Restore® is safe for pets and children. There are plenty of happy canines featured in our testimonials.
Once dried, Rub 'n Restore® products do not transfer to clothing. Wet clothing and water should be avoided until the dye has thoroughly cured. We do not recommend our product for use on bicycle seats, where very aggressive wear (friction) is paired with sweat, which will degrade the dye quickly and may transfer to clothing. If this occurs, pre-treat your clothing with detergent, and launder as usual. The dye should wash out.
If you apply the dye, dry it, and then immediately try to remove it with cleaners or solvents, much will remain, thus permanently dyeing your piece. If properly applied and allowed to cure, it will last a long time, requiring occasional touch-up only in areas of high wear (or more frequently on items that endure a lot of abuse, cleaning, water, etc). If the original leather or vinyl wore in this way, Rub 'n Restore® also will over the course of time and under the same circumstances. Simply reapply to those areas. Touch-up is easy!
CUSTOM COLOR Q&A
Upon receiving your sample, we will contact you to discuss your project and collect payment. Then we immediately process your order, usually the same day or next day.
We keep swatches on file in the case of future orders. If you want your swatch back, please contact us.
We keep Custom Color formulas on file, but we charge a $30 fee to mix another batch.
FLITE CLEANER Q&A
In most cases, Flite can be diluted with water using a 1:4 ratio for general cleaning and prep on leather or vinyl. If your surface is waxy or greasy, such that masking tape will not stick to it, use full-strength Flite to remove these residues. Repeat the process until masking tape adheres firmly.
If your leather or vinyl feels sticky or tacky and is "grabbing" lint from clothing, it may have been caused by some previous chemical reaction between other solvents/cleaners and the surface's original coating. Using full-strength Flite to clean the surface can minimize this problem. Click here to read more about sticky/tacky surfaces.
Using Flite to clean your dyed surface may degrade the color. Flite is a powerful cleaner that is considered "overkill" for a recently restored surface. We prefer water or a very, very diluted version of Flite on surfaces dyed with Rub 'n Restore®.
Do not use Flite on nubuck or suede, as these leathers easily water damage. We prefer a 50-50 mix of white vinegar and water for aniline or semi-aniline leathers.
HOW TO & TROUBLESHOOTING
For leather, gently hand sand the worst areas 220 or 320 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper until they soften and feel more smooth to the touch.
Be more gentle and cautious with aniline leather. Let your fingers make the decisions. If the surface has worn down to the suede, such that a lot of fuzzy, nappy bits are sticking up, be wary of sandpaper, which could do more damage. The sandpaper should be able to move easily over the surface and not catch on the nap of the suede.
You can follow with 500 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper if you find that your surface needs more polishing.
Wipe the surface with a damp rag to remove any dust. Apply a layer of Clear Prep+Finish™ to condition and prime the surface. Follow with Rub 'n Restore® Color until desired result is achieved.
Do not sand vinyls or other synthetics, but do primer them with Clear Prep+Finish™ before dyeing.
Gently polish the brass nails with super fine #0000 steel wool before applying Rub 'n Restore®. Use a brush, rag, sponge, or spray gun to apply the dye, working around the brass nails as best you can. When you have completed the restoration, and the surface is dry, use the steel wool to polish the nails once again. The steel wool should remove the dye from the metal without damaging the newly restored leather/vinyl. Super-fine grade "0000" steel wool is available at woodworking or hobby stores if your local hardware doesn't have it.
You can scrupulously mask these areas, but be wary as the dye may bleed underneath your masking tape. We recommend you invest in a flat-edged artist's brush, so you can easily dye areas requiring precision, like seams, embroidery, or different-colored piping, before graduating to a sponge for larger areas. Different-colored piping is particularly arduous work. If you miss a spot, you'll see it when the piping flexes one way or the other. For this reason, we discourage color changes around such areas because of the potential for future touch-ups and the additional time in masking and prepping.
Absolutely! Many customers report great success with Preval sprayers, which are easy to use, even for a novice. If you've got a compressor and some confidence, you can use a siphon detail gun or gravity spray gun to apply Rub 'n Restore®.
Thoroughly stir the color and filter it to remove any lumps. Spray approximately 6"-8" from the surface, moving in smooth, swift strokes. Avoid puddling in any area, which can create a "fish eye" effect. If you do, spread it around with a sponge, allow to dry, and then re-spray. Allow each coat to dry before applying another. You can immediately follow with the Clear Prep+Finish™. Rub 'n Restore® is water-based. Clean your gun with soap and water.
All Rub 'n Restore® products are compatible with each other. This means you mix colors together to create your own, or you can dilute colors with Clear Prep+Finish™ to make a more transparent glaze. We often recommend a glaze for surfaces that have a multi-toned or "distressed" appearance, because Rub 'n Restore® Colors will obscure these varied tones, resulting in a monotone appearance. A glaze will allow you to deposit color and darken the surface without completely obscuring the "distressed" look.
You can mix products together in a glass bowl and then re-bottle them. We also sell empty 16 oz. bottles for easy mixing. To mix a glaze, we recommend doing it directly on your sponge, i.e. one squirt of Color plus one squirt of Clear Prep+Finish™. Experiment to see what ratio of is the best for your project. Make a note what your exact ratio or mix-on-the-sponge protocol is so you can replicate the results in the future.
Shaking Rub 'n Restore® Color or Clear Prep+Finish™ causes it to foam, which can leave little bubbles and circles. Spritz the surface with a little water and go over the area with a damp sponge to polish out these little spots. Wait for any foam to settle. Thoroughly stir Rub 'n Restore® Color to disperse the tints. Apply another thin layer (or more if necessary) to correct any remaining imperfections and achieve coverage.
This is typically caused by something on the surface of the leather/vinyl that is inhibiting the dye's ability to permeate and bond. Did you test the surface with masking tape for good adhesion? Were you very thorough in the prep and cleaning? Did you use our recommended cleaner, Flite?
If so, and the dye is still wearing too quickly, it may be that the material itself has some waxy or repellant coating that needs to be removed. Surfaces treated with ArmorAll or other conditioning products, which are often silicone or oil-based, can also leave residue that only a solvent can cut. Try denatured alcohol or a mixture of 1 cup rubbing alcohol and 1.5 tsp of lemon juice. You can use a damp rag or even a green scouring pad if you feel you need to be more aggressive.
You only need to strip the areas that are getting poor wear (recall the old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"). Touch-up is easier than the initial restoration.
This is a sure sign that Rub 'n Restore® Color was applied too heavily and/or that each layer was not thoroughly dried before adding more dye. If you are working in a cold (less than 65º F or 19º C) or humid environment, this may be lending to the problem. Reactivate the dye using a damp sponge and water. Wipe the surface just as you normally would, polishing the cracks and streaks. Allow to thoroughly dry. Repeat this process until the surface looks and feels natural. If necessary, follow with more Rub 'n Restore® Color to correct any streaks or thin areas. Usually this remedies the problem.
If you feel that you need a more aggressive approach, you can perform this process using a green scouring pad with water or cleaner. This will strip out a lot of the dye, allowing you to start again. Remember to apply Rub 'n Restore® in thin layers and thoroughly dry each one before applying another.
Periodically re-stir the dye or gently swirl the bottom of the bottle, as heavier pigments settle faster, causing the liquid base to go on chalky and streaky. Never shake Clear Prep+Finish™, which creates foam and bubbles!
Make sure your sponge is not too wet or too dry! Too much water may erase your work and streak the dyed surface; too little moisture in the sponge creates more friction and etches the surface.
Try sponge-patting the dye, rather than using a back-and-forth motion. Don't overwork, and take care not to leave any bubbles on the surface, which may dry as tiny circles.
Streaking can also occur on very weathered, porous, and sun-rotted surfaces, where Rub 'n Restore® Color is soaked up unevenly, or because a surface is too hot, causing the dye to dry faster than the rate at which you can polish the streaks.
For porous, rotted surfaces, try priming it with a layer of Clear Prep+Finish™. It will rehydrate the surface, minimizing the quantity of Rub 'n Restore® Color needed to complete your project, as well as resulting in a more even appearance.
For surfaces that are in direct sunlight or hot to the touch, make sure your sponge is damp enough, moisten it frequently, and even spritz a little water on the surface which will lower the temperature and extend the working time of the dye. Be modest with the water, though, as too much will dilute the dye and force you to apply more layers to achieve adequate coverage.
This is common with radical color changes from dark to light. It can also occur on some synthetics or vinyls. Apply a coat of Clear Prep+Finish™ between every 3-4 layers of dye. You can apply the Clear as soon as the color is dry (i.e. you do not have to wait 48-72 hours per the clear-coat instructions in our brochure). Alternating layers of Clear Prep+Finish™ with color will seal the dye and add strength. Subsequent layers of color will get better coverage with less coats. Customers working with a fussy vinyl or a radical color change have reported success using this method.
Rub 'n Restore® Color has a matte finish. Many leathers and vinyls have a satin or semi-gloss finish. Following Rub 'n Restore® Color with Clear Prep+Finish™ deepens the color by replacing the natural shine. It also acts as a conditioner and creates another barrier between the dye and the external environment.
Avoid getting Rub 'n Restore on any surface other than the one you are restoring. For non-permeable surfaces like metal, lacquered wood, and some plastics like your hair dryer, work with cleaner, a rag, and possibly an old toothbrush to remove any unwanted Rub 'n Restore.
Immediately flush the area with water and Flite or your cleaner. Use rags or a wet vac to absorb as much liquid as possible. Keep flushing the area with cleaner and absorbing or vacuuming it. Do not over scrub, which will damage the nap.
Rub 'n Restore will be dry in minutes and is ready for use. If it still feels tacky, buff the dry surface with a soft, clean microfiber towel (avoid rags with lots of lint). Rub 'n Restore cures to its full strength in about 48 hours. In cooler temperatures (less than 65º F or 19º C) or in high humidity, it may take longer for Rub 'n Restore to completely cure. During this time, avoid getting your surface wet, as water or damp clothing may reactivate the dye.
Was your surface sticky to begin with? We recommend full-strength Flite to remedy this.
If your freshly dyed surface feels tacky, it is probably due to some lingering residue or coating on your original surface that is reacting with the dye. Often this can be remedied by buffing the surface with a microfiber towel. Avoid using a towel that will leave behind a lot of lint, as this may stick to the surface. You can also work with a rag or sponge dampened with water to polish the outermost layer of dye.
If the problem persists, more aggressive prep is needed. We recommend gently scrubbing the surface with Flite and Boraxo (found in the laundry aisle) and a green scouring pad. This will remove much of the dye but will guarantee better results the second time around.
CARE & CLEANING
A damp rag is best. If you must use a cleaner, choose a mild soap. If you bought the Flite cleaner, use a very diluted solution; it is a powerful cleaner that is considered "overkill" for a recently dyed surface, as it may degrade the color. To extend the longevity of the dye, spray the cleaner onto a soft cloth, rather than directly on the surface. Our motto is that it's easier to touch-up than to clean once the initial restoration has been performed.
Do not use other vinyl or leather care products after using Rub 'n Restore®. Other products may discolor the dye and accelerate wear. If you want to preserve the surface, add a layer of Clear Prep+Finish™, which behaves like a conditioner and sealant. Both Rub 'n Restore® Colors and Clear Prep+Finish™ are UV protectants and are sure to be the last products you will ever want or need for your leather or vinyl.
Rub 'n Restore® will gradually wear the same way the original leather and vinyl did. Simply reapply, usually not more than once a year. However, items that have been color-changed, endure a lot of wear or cleaning, and frequently come into contact with water (like ottomans or boat vinyls), may require more routine touch-up.
While the manufacturers of our raw materials only guarantee a shelf-life of two years, we have, on numerous occasions in the past 30 years, reconstituted Rub 'n Restore® Colors and Clear Prep+Finish™ that were more than four years-old. The key is to store these products in a temperate, dark place with other paints and chemicals. Thoroughly stir all Rub 'n Restore® Colors before reuse (Clear Prep+Finish™ does not require stirring). We also recommend filtering both the Clear Prep+Finish™ and Colors through a fine sieve or cheesecloth to remove any lumps that may have coagulated.
FC1 Soft Filler has a shorter shelf-life of six months to a year. Refrigeration is recommended to extend shelf-life.
SHIPPING, RETURNS, EXCHANGES
Our official policy is up to three business days' time. However, we typically process orders within 24 hours. If an order is received before 2 pm MST on weekdays, we are often able to process it the same day. Custom colors are typically mixed same day or next day.
Due to the nature of the product, we are not permitted to use the US Postal Service. Instead, we use UPS which only delivers to physical addresses. If you provide a PO box, your order will be delayed until we are able to contact you. Unfortunately, we may have to cancel and refund orders to military personnel providing APO/FPO addresses.
Yes, we ship via UPS. Rub 'n Restore® is considered an "arts and crafts" item, which is not taxed by many countries, but w e encourage all international customers to check with your country's customs office to determine if any additional duties or tariffs will be levied.
Canadian customers, please click here.
Please read all our shipping information. Rub 'n Restore, Inc. is not responsible for these fees.
To calculate a shipping quote, please add the desired products to your shopping cart (each color has a different weight which affects the quote). Click on "View Cart" (located on the upper right). Underneath the subtotal is a link titled "Estimate Shipping & Tax". Enter your country, state/province, and postal code, and the system will give you an accurate quote.
Unfortunately, we cannot ship via the US Postal Service due to the nature of the product. All orders are shipped via UPS. The rates with UPS favor larger orders. Each package, even if under a pound, is charged a base fee. Somebody buying a single 8 oz. bottle will pay almost as much as somebody buying 3-16 oz. bottles.
Because the shipping rates are expensive for destinations outside the continental USA, we encourage these customers to purchase enough to complete any and all potential projects.
Customers outside North America should expect to pay at least US$75-$110 in shipping. When the actual cost to ship is less than charged, we always refund the difference.
Please be assured that we do not profit on shipping. In fact, we typically run in the red with shipping costs. For this reason, we do not refund the shipping cost on returned orders.
Please read all our shipping information.
Yes, even if you've used some of the product. Please read more here.
If you cancel your order before it has shipped, we will refund the full amount. If your order has already shipped, we can ask UPS to return it to us, and we will refund you everything except the shipping costs incurred.
CREDIT CARD INFO & REGISTERED USERS
Try entering the zip code of your billing address OR your zip code plus the first three letters of your last name (the first letter capitalized) as the password. Otherwise, please follow the links for "forgot password" to reset it.