Can you re-dye a leather couch?

Leather sofas are the staple furniture piece in many rooms offering many comforting moments watching your children and of course the TV. They are comfortable, effortlessly stylish, and hard-wearing. They can also, however, be quite expensive to buy. If you have a sofa that you love but you want to update its look, you might be wondering if you can dye it. The answer is: yes! Re-dying a leather sofa is surprisingly easy, as long as you have the right products and equipment. And an old worn-out sofa can be given a whole new lease of life. Let’s look at how.

Can all leather be dyed?

You can dye all sorts of leather at home, from a leather chair, to a sofa, and even a car interior. It can be more tricky to go from a darker colour to a lighter one than the other way around, but it can be done.

Pigmented leather

Most leather furniture is made using pigmented leather, and you can easily dye this at home. This is leather that has been dyed and given a robust polymer coating. It is durable and resistant to scratches and stains.

Aniline leather

More luxurious leather sofas might be made from aniline leather. This is the purest type of leather and it is “open”. This means that there is no protective coating. This shouldn’t be dyed at home because the dye will penetrate too deeply.

Semi aniline leather

You might see some leather furniture made with semi-aniline leather. You can think of this as being halfway between pigmented leather and aniline leather. It has a light surface coating with some pigmentation. You may be successful with dying a semi-aniline leather sofa but careful testing should be done first.

Suede

You shouldn’t attempt to dye a suede sofa. Suede will absorb the leather colourant unevenly, leaving a patchy result.

A close up of a re-dyed leather chair.

How to dye a leather sofa

Dyeing leather furniture is surprisingly easy with minimal tools and products needed. It is a time-consuming task, however, so make sure that you set aside a while to complete it properly. You should be prepared for quite a few steps in the dyeing process.

Step 1 – Clean and prep

The cleaning and prepping stage of dyeing a leather sofa is key. If you don’t get the leather cleaning stage right, then the finish won’t look right.

You will need to remove any dirt or oils on the leather surface. These will interfere with the leather’s ability to absorb the leather dye, leaving a patchy result.

First, clean the surface of the leather using warm soapy water and a microfibre cloth. Make sure that you only dampen the cloth and not fully soak it. Too much water is never a good thing for leather.

You can follow this cleaning with the use of acetone or leather deglazer. This will strip away any oil molecules that won’t be dissolved in water and will remove some of the leather finish to allow the dye to penetrate.

In some cases, you may need to sand your leather sofa before dyeing it which will entirely remove the protective coating. If your sofa is new, you may not need to sand. In this case, the coating will be uniform across the whole sofa so the finish from the dye will be even.

If your sofa is old and worn, sanding will give you an even surface on which to apply the dye. If there are creased or scratched areas, you should carefully sand these down. If they are left, the dye will pool in these crevices and can create darker patches.

Step 2 – Prepare the area

You should take some precautions before starting to dye your leather sofa. It is always a good idea to complete this job in a well-ventilated area because of the chemicals in the dye. If you have space outside and the weather is dry, this would be even better.

If you do need to apply the dye indoors, make sure that you completely cover all of the furnishings around the sofa, including the floor. You can use sheets, cloths, and rags for this.

If your sofa has any wooden detailing, use painter’s tape to cover this before applying the leather dye as it will stain the wood.

You should wear gloves and safety glasses when applying the dye and be careful not to let it get onto your mouth or nose.

Step 3 – Apply the leather dye

Now you are ready to dye your leather sofa. You can buy leather sofa dye kits in a wide variety of colours from many hardware stores and you should carefully read the instructions on the label.

Work in small areas. This will help you to evenly coat the leather and will prevent it from warping by getting too soaked.

Some leather dyes come with an applicator, such as a wool dauber, but you could also use a sponge or cotton wool balls. Apply light pressure and use a very small amount of dye each time for a thin coat.

Multiple thin coats are a much better option than fewer thick coats. Leather doesn’t cope well with too much moisture and it is difficult to control how evenly the dye is applied when you put it on thickly.

Once you have applied the first coat, leave it to dry for a few hours. You can speed up the process using a hair dryer. If you notice any areas where there is dye pooling, use the hair dryer on them to remove some of the extra dye.

Once the first coat is dry, you can apply the second and repeat the process. You may need to do this up to six times to get a good finish. Make sure that each coat is fully dry before applying the next one. You will need more coats if you are going from a colour like dark brown to a lighter colour.

Step 4 – Apply a leather sealant

Once you are happy with the colour of your leather sofa, you can apply a leather top coat. The sealant will complete the drying process and will mean that the dye won’t transfer onto your clothes.

Once the sealant is dry, then your new-look leather sofa is ready to use.

Final thoughts

In most cases, you can dye a leather sofa at home without too much trouble. It is a long process because the leather will need multiple coats of dye, each of which needs to dry before the net coat is applied. You will also need to make sure that it is properly prepped before you begin. If you are unsure about whether your sofa will work well with dye, you can always test it out on a small inconspicuous area first or approach an expert for advice.

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