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How To Evaluate Your Vinyl or Leather Restoration Project

 

Step 1: What type of material do I have?

 
  Picture of water repellant corrected grain leather
Water beads.
This indicates a polyurethane coating on genuine leather (top grain, corrected grain, or pigmented types similar to automotive leather) OR synthetics like vinyl, bonded leather, and faux leather.
 
Synthetics are more stretchy than their genuine counterparts. Many synthetics have a woven mesh backing, but don't be fooled by microfiber, which looks like the real thing. 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. 
 
Rub 'n Restore® products work on genuine leather and synthetics. We highly recommend cleaning these materials with Flite and rubbing alcohol before dyeing. Bonded leather does not experience good wear with radical color changes.
 
 
Water is absorbed or darkens the leather. 
Aniline or semi-aniline leathers gradually absorb water and often show body oil stains.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. Cleaning isn't necessary unless the leather was recently treated with other conditioning products or if it is a waxed aniline (an interior label should indicate this). In this case, wipe the leather with denatured alcohol or a mixture of 1.5 tsp of fresh lemon juice and 8 oz. of isopropyl/rubbing alcohol before dyeing.
 
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?

Click here for synthetics like vinyl and bonded or faux leather.
Click here for all types of genuine leather.
 
VINYL & SYNTHETICS
Is the material:
 
Peeling or flaking?
The material was previously painted OR is a degrading composite. Please learn more here before proceeding.
 
 
Dirty or stained?
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 dyeing. 
  Tears, scratches, and holes in vinyl and other synthetics must be repaired with a flexible filler.
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! 
GENUINE LEATHER
Is the leather: Dirt in leather's natural grain is often mistaken for cracking and can be easily corrected with Rub 'n Restore<sup>®</sup> Colors.
 
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!
  This leather was painted, and the coating is now flaking off. Rub 'n Restore<sup>®</sup> products will never degrade in this way!
 
 
Peeling or flaking?
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? Minor scuffs and cat scratches or tears in leather are easily repaired with sandpaper and super glue!
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.
  Rough, scaly leather should be gently sanded and premiered with Clear Prep+Finish<sup>™</sup> before dyeing. Severe cracking that exposes more suede should be repaired first with FC1 Soft Filler.
Rough or scaly?
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.
  Larger holes and thinning areas of leather require flexibility and should be repaired with FC1 Soft Filler.
Torn or punctured?
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.

 
Trying to match a color? Send us a swatch for analysis!
Interested in a stock color? We recommend you request samples before purchasing.
Or take the plunge, and buy now! Click here to estimate how much you'll need.
 
Interested in a stock color? 
 
Thumbnail of Bright White leather dye and vinyl paint  Thumbnail of Marine White vinyl and leather paint for boat upholstery or furniture Thumbnail of Ivory leather dye and vinyl paint  Thumbnail of Beige leather paint and vinyl stain Camel leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail  Cognac caramel leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail  Mocha light brown leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail
Black leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Mahogany brown leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Espresso brown leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Walnut brown leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Cherrywood leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Red Wine leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Red Rust leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail
Ash grey leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Stone leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Taupe leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Slate grey leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Peppercorn grey leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Midnight Blue leather dye and vinyl stain thumbnail   Storm Blue leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail
Eggplant purple leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Red Chili leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Persimmon leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Yellow Buttercup leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Sage green leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Turquoise leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail   Forest green leather dye and vinyl paint thumbnail
 
Colors do not appear accurately on monitors or mobile devices! Click on any thumbnail to be redirected to that Color's page where you'll find a better description. Check out customer images in our testimonials too!
 
We recommend you request samples by sending us a self-addressed stamped envelope.  We will return swatches of leather or vinyl that have been dyed 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. Sorry, we do not offer samples of the products in their liquid state due to bottling and shipping expenses.
 
Please limit your request to five swatches, and write the 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.

 
 
Trying to match a color?
 
Send us a sample with a $15 check for analysis. We'll try to match the color using our stock options.  
$15 color analysis fee gets you:
  • Testing of stock colors and/or 1:1 and 2:1 mixes on your swatch by a color master. We’ll also determine if Clear Prep+Finish is needed for priming, glazing, or finishing. 
  • Professional consultation and tailored DIY solution for your project. 
Please note that there may be a slight variation between our analysis and your end-result after mixing larger volumes of dye. That being said, the dye is easy to use, forgiving, and blends well. Most folks are thrilled with our analysis service as well as the products. You can read reviews here.
 
If stock options don't suffice, we can formulate a Custom Color using your sample. This service costs $55, but we'll deduct the $15 analysis fee. 
 
To request a color analysis, please fill out this short form about your project, and send it, along with your sample, and check or money order made payable to:

Rub 'n Restore, Inc. 
PO Box 1149 (US Mail only)
42812 Hidden Mesa Lane (UPS & FedEx only)
Paonia, CO 81428-1149
 

Print Color Analysis Form

  

Step 4: How much dye do I need? What is the cost? 

This chart shows how much Rub 'n Restore<sup>®</sup> Color you need to restore your leather or vinyl.
 
Color changes on bonded leather or ultraleather are strongly discouraged due to the flimsy nature of these materials.
 
If you're changing from dark, red, or black to a pale color, buy double the volume of dye, and make sure you have plenty leftover for future touch-up. We also recommend applying a coat of Clear Prep+Finish in between every 3-4 coats of dye, which will seal your work and get better coverage in fewer coats. We do not recommend color changes to Bright White or Marine White.
 
8 oz. Colors $39.95
16 oz. Colors $59.95
 
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 for a refund. 
 
 

Step 5: Do I need the Clear Prep+Finish? 

An all-in-one primer, conditioner, and topcoat, Clear Prep+Finish adds strength and luster.
 
8 oz. Clear $17.95
16 oz. Clear $27.95
 
 
 
 
Rough/worn surface
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.
 
Matte finish
Rub 'n Restore® Colors dry matte, so do not use Clear Prep+Finish as a topcoat.
 
Satin finish
Mix a glaze by adding a little Clear to your Rub 'n Restore® Color to get a more satin finish. More about this here.
 
Shiny finish
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?

Use a common cellulose sponge to apply Rub 'n Restore<sup>®</sup> products.
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.
 

 

Step 8: Buy now!