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How do I clean leather or vinyl before restoration?

Many stains cannot be cleaned, but they can be concealed with a new finish.

First determine the type of material and if it absorbs water. This indicates the type of finish, the condition, and which cleaning products should be used. This video demonstrates.

Video contents:

  • 0:12 – Is the material absorbent?
  • 0:51 – Clean leather and vinyl with alcohol (including aniline, semi-aniline, top-grain, full-grain, and finished leather)
  • 1:31 – Non-absorbent, finished leather or vinyl should then be cleaned with a mild water-based degreaser like Flite®
  • 2:28 – The Tape Test for adhesion
  • 3:16 – How to deglaze a waxed finish

Cleaning Absorbent Aniline or Semi-Aniline Leather

  1. Use rubbing alcohol or denatured alcohol to remove oil and wax-based residue and pre-treat any ink. Pour the alcohol onto your rag, not the surface itself.
  2. Wipe the surface in smooth, fast strokes. The leather may temporarily darken. Don’t overscrub. Stains will not likely be cleaned but will be concealed with Rub ‘n Restore® color.
  3. Allow to evaporate and dry.
  4. Perform the tape test to check for adhesion.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 if necessary.

Cleaning Non-Absorbent Finished Leather or Vinyl

  1. Use rubbing alcohol or denatured alcohol to remove oil and wax-based residue and pre-treat any ink. Pour the alcohol onto your rag, not the surface itself.
  2. Wipe the surface in smooth, fast strokes.
  3. Allow to dry.
  4. Follow with a mild water-based surfactant and degreaser like our Flite®. Do not use caustic, antibacterial, or other leather cleaners which may leave residue.
  5. Perform the tape test to check for adhesion.
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 if necessary.

Make Your Own Leather Deglazer

  1. Add 1.5 tsp lemon juice to 8 oz. denatured or rubbing alcohol.
  2. Test in a small, inconspicuous area.
  3. Pour the deglazer onto your rag, not the surface itself.
  4. Wipe the surface in smooth, fast strokes.
  5. Allow to dry.
  6. Perform the tape test to check for adhesion.
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 as necessary.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. melody bohr says

    OK so I am a little confused as to where to begin. I have leather furniture which I really have not done anything with as far as conditioning and it is 15 yrs old. I like the color but it has cat scratches on it and it could use a makeover. How do I begin? I watched your cat scratch video and I have none that deep but alot of lighter ones where she would jump up. Can you tell me what I need to do to get started? I did see a couple of colors which are close to my color. Thanks!

  2. Jan says

    I have used Angelus leather paint on my sofa in the past..it was a burgundy leather. ..I dyed it beige. I like the beige but it was scuffed and chipped in moving. I would like to dye it (leather paint, I suppose) again but I think it should be deglazed or sanded before attempting a lighter beige . Is it possible to remove the painted finish before proceeding with a new finish?

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The Knowledge Hub is a library of articles and videos complied to help our customers complete their DIY leather and vinyl restoration projects.