How To Evaluate Your Vinyl or Leather Restoration Project
Step 1: What type of leather or vinyl do I have?
This indicates a polyurethane coating on genuine leather (top grain, corrected grain, or pigmented types similar to automotive leather) OR synthetics like vinyl (PVC) or bonded leather (also called faux leather or polyurethane PU leather).
Synthetics are more stretchy than their genuine counterparts. Many synthetics have a woven mesh backing. Don't be fooled by microfiber, which is meant to look like suede.
Genuine leather has a musty, earthy aroma (it is skin, after all); synthetics have a more plastic/chemical smell. Exposed to flame for 5-10 seconds, synthetics will melt and stink of burning plastic; genuine leather will char a bit and smell like burned hair.
We highly recommend cleaning these materials with rubbing alcohol and then Flite before staining.
Rub 'n Restore® products work on genuine leather and vinyl (PVC). PU and bonded leather notoriously peel and flake away and therefore resist repair compounds and coatings. Repairing or painting is not recommended.
Water is absorbed or darkens the leather.
This indicates an aniline or semi-aniline leather, which has a more natural, absorbent finish and often a multi-toned or “distressed” appearance. These leathers may also show body oil stains. Aniline leathers take Rub 'n Restore® products very well and typically get better wear than coated leathers and vinyls.
Clean with rubbing alcohol. If the aniline is waxed (an interior label should indicate this), clean with a deglazer. You can make your own by mixing 1.5 tsp of fresh lemon juice with 8 oz. of denatured or rubbing alcohol.
If you want to preserve the multi-toned look, we recommend diluting your Rub 'n Restore® Color with a Clear Prep+Finish™ to make a more transparent glaze. More about this here.
If the leather has a fuzzy nap instead of a smooth surface and no sheen, it may be suede, nubuck, or microfiber (synthetic fabric). Do not use Rub 'n Restore® products or repair methods on these materials.
Step 2: What is the condition of the material?
Is the material:
There's a slim chance it's real leather or vinyl that was previously painted. The greater likelihood is that it's a degrading polyurethane or bonded leather (like the photo at right). Please learn more here before proceeding.
Rub 'n Restore® Colors easily conceal stains, fading, and discoloration. Click here to choose the right color!
Dry, stiff, or sun rotted?
You may see microscopic holes, blistering, or discoloration (especially on marine vinyl used in boats or spa and hot tub covers). Primer with a coat (or two!) of Clear Prep+Finish™ before staining.
Scratched, torn, or punctured?
Synthetics require a flexible repair compound like FC1 Soft Filler, even for the most minor damage. If the material is punctured, such that you can stick your finger through to the substrate, you must subpatch the hole before applying filler, so be sure to buy a Subpatch Kit. A video demonstrating this process here. Do not use the Sandpaper Super Glue method to repair synthetics!
Is the leather:
Faded, discolored, dirty or stained with minor scuffs or marks?
Rub 'n Restore® Colors quickly conceal sun fading, stains, and minor surface damage that can hardly be felt. Move along to choose the right color here!
It could be that your leather was previously painted and needs to be stripped before restoration, but there's also a chance you're dealing with a degrading synthetic like bonded leather. How to tell the difference here.
Cracked, scratched by pets, or small tears?
Can you feel the damage with your fingertip? Dirt in the leather's grain is often mistaken for cracking and will be concealed with Rub 'n Restore® Colors. Any minor damage that remains (like cat or dog scratches) can be easily repaired with our Sandpaper Super Glue Kit! This method ONLY works on genuine leather (not bonded leather or vinyl).
Small cuts or punctures (such that you can stick your finger through the upholstery) require a subpatch, so be sure to buy a Subpatch Kit too. Videos demonstrating this process here. Larger holes and tears should should be repaired using FC1 Soft Filler. Please click here.
If the surface feels rough or scaly, gently sand with 220 or 320 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper. Then primer the surface with Clear Prep+Finish™. Allow to dry; repeat, if necessary, until the surface feels smooth and "shored up" Then dye with Rub 'n Restore® Colors. Be cautious sanding areas where suede (fuzzy nap) is exposed, so as not to do further damage.
If the scaling or cracking is more severe, such that the a lot of suede is exposed, and the upholstery feels thin, fragile, and on the verge of tearing, we recommend building up the surface with FC1 Soft Filler before dyeing. This is demonstrated at minute 7:40 in this video.
More substantial damage requires a flexible repair compound like FC1 Soft Filler. If you can stick your finger through the upholstery to the substrate, you must first subpatch the hole before applying filler, so be sure to buy a Subpatch Kit! A video demonstrating this process here. The Sandpaper Super Glue method is not recommended for repairing larger rips and holes.
Step 3: Choose your color.
Want to get going with one of colors? We recommend you request samples before purchasing.
Or take the plunge, and buy now! Click here to estimate how much you'll need.
WARNING: Colors do not appear accurately on screens! Check out real customer images in our testimonials!
Each product in our shop also has a helpful description of color. Click on any thumbnail above to visit that color’s page.
Request samples by sending us a self-addressed stamped envelope.
We will return swatches of leather or vinyl that have been stained with Rub 'n Restore® Colors, so you can see an example of a color change and feel the texture of the dye. Half of each swatch is also coated with Clear Prep+Finish™ so you can see how it deepens color and adds shine.
Please limit your request to five swatches. Write the desired colors on the back of the enclosed envelope -- a standard #10 envelope and one stamp is perfect.
Please mail your request to:
Rub 'n Restore, Inc. PO Box 1149
Paonia, CO 81428-1149
The US postal service does not accept international stamps, so please contact us if you are an international customer in need of swatches.
Step 4: How much do I need? What is the cost?
An 8 oz. bottle of color can cover 60 ft² (one coat); 16 oz. bottle can cover 120 ft².
Occasional touch-up will be required on color changes. This is easy; video demo here.
If you're changing from a dark or red color to a pale shade, buy double the volume of dye, and make sure you have plenty leftover for future touch-up. We recommend a base coat of our Stone color to conceal the dark/red. This will make for an easier color change. We do not recommend color changing from dark/red to Bright White, Marine White, Ivory, Beige, or Ash.
Polyurethane (PU) and bonded leather resist all coatings and compounds. Restoration or recoloring is strongly discouraged due to the flimsy nature of these materials.
8 oz. Colors $47.95
16 oz. Colors $69.95
If in doubt, always buy a little extra for future touch-up. All Rub 'n Restore® products have an excellent shelf-life. You can also return/exchange bottles -- even if they've been opened -- within 60 days.
Step 5: Do I need the Clear Prep+Finish?
An all-in-one primer, conditioner, and topcoat, Clear Prep+Finish™ adds durability and shine.
8 oz. Clear $20.95
16 oz. Clear $30.95
If your surface is very weathered, porous, or sun-rotted, liberally apply Clear Prep+Finish™ to condition and prime the surface. This minimizes the amount of Rub 'n Restore® Color needed to complete the project.
Rub 'n Restore® Colors dry matte, so do not use Clear Prep+Finish™ as a topcoat.
Mix a glaze by adding a little Clear to your Rub 'n Restore® Color to get a more satin finish. More about this here.
Clear Prep+Finish™, when used as a topcoat, deepens color by adding shine. This effect is not as noticeable on pale colors. A topcoat of Clear also adds strength and durability. If you dislike the shiny effect, you can always go over it with more dye. All about this here (LINK!).
Distressed, multi-toned appearance
You want to mix a glaze for easier blending, a satin finish, or to create a distressed or multi-toned appearance. Read more here.
Color change from dark to light
Changing a piece from dark, red, or black to a pale color can be difficult. A coat of Clear Prep+Finish™ in between every 3-4 layers of color will seal your work and yield better coverage in fewer coats.
How much Clear Prep+Finish™ should I buy?
A little goes a long way. An 8 oz. bottle is enough to clear coat an entire sofa. Buy a 16 oz. bottle for larger sectionals or suites or if you plan to use it as both a primer and glaze additive or topcoat.
Step 6: What other leather restoration supplies are needed?
If you mix your own color using our stock options, you can mix them in a glass bowl, but we also sell empty 16 oz. bottles for easy mixing.
Gloves are included with each order, but you'll need a cellulose sponge (avoid foam sponges) to apply the dye. You can also use a spray gun if you prefer.
A hair dryer can accelerate dry time but is not necessary.
If your piece has brass nails or tacks, buy some super fine #0000 steel wool which will remove the dye without scuffing your freshly dyed surface. More about this here.
Step 7: When will I receive my order?
We usually process orders same-day if they come in by 2 pm MST. We are located in western Colorado and use UPS. Expedited shipping options are available and guarantee delivery time. More shipping information, including international orders and estimates, here.