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How to repair peeling leather?

Real leather does not peel or flake. While it may just be a damaged finish or after-market paint (click here for an example), more often, peeling is a sign of a delaminating polyurethane (PU) coating on bicast, bonded or faux leather. These materials are not to be confused with vinyl (PVC). It’s not worth repairing peeling PU materials, because no long-lasting result can be achieved.

If the original coating didn’t stick to the material, how can anything else? The video below demonstrates the repair process, comparing our leather filler to a rubberized coating, and the disappointing results. You’re better off replacing the item with real leather, perhaps second-hand. Learn how to spot the good stuff at the end of the video or this article.

Video contents:

  • 0:28 – Prep peeling
  • 0:57 – Applying Soft Filler vinyl and leather repair compound
  • 3:47 – Ugh, more peeling
  • 3:58 – Applying Flex Seal rubberized coating
  • 5:13 – Comparing Soft Filler and Flex Seal
  • 5:45 – Recoloring
  • 6:22 – The final result after refinishing
  • 6:40 – The verdict after a month of use
  • 7:19 – Our recommendation

Some folks forego the filler and stain the exposed fabric with our finishes or a fabric paint. This improves appearance, but you will not have a smooth, lustrous leather-like surface that repels water.

Some faux leathers wear more naturally, without peeling or flaking, and expose an absorbent microfiber that can be stained and waxed.

Some of the newer faux leathers don’t peel. Instead their finish wears more naturally and exposes a microfiber or fake suede. Again, applying filler is cost prohibitive and problematic for the reasons discussed in the video. Your best bet is to stain the fabric and coat it with a clear wax to create a more leather-like surface

What is bicast, bonded or faux leather?

They’re all the equivalent of cheap particle board:

  • bicast leather is split hide (lower, weaker half of a hide / skin) with a urethane or polyurethane coating;
  • bonded leather is a composite fabric made of ground scrap leather coated with a polyurethane ‘skin’;
  • faux leather is polyester fabric coated with polyurethane.

While bicast leather can last some years before peeling occurs, bonded and faux leather are known to delaminate in as little as 18 months. The manufacturers casually call this “hydrolysis-related failure”. Even the best polyurethane resins for commercial use are only expected to last 7 years. They’re touted as being more eco-groovy to produce than vinyl (PVC), but their disposability is cost prohibitive and wasteful. 

Why are consumers misled about faux leather? 

There is no regulation of the term “leather” in the United States and Canada, contrary to places like New Zealand where it is illegal to mislead consumers. Most salespeople at furniture retailers and RV dealers may not know they’re peddling a lousy synthetic. Ignorance and low price point allow it to prevail. The irony is that the United States military spends billions each year defending petroleum interests, while some of the world’s oil reserves are being converted into shoddy furniture that degrade before our boys can return home to enjoy it! Congress, here’s an opportunity to enact a decent law for a change!

Our Solution

We suggest couch-surfing Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or estate sales for used genuine leather furniture. Real leather is quite costly, and manufacturers don’t put real skin on cheap bones. Professionals charge upwards of US$1000 for restoration, but this process is within the reach of most folks. High quality pieces can often be found for less than a couple hundred bucks, if not for free.

Look for aniline or semi-aniline leather. Its more natural and absorbent finish lends to unsightly body oil or water stains that are impossible to clean, which makes them cheap. Such leather restores beautifully with Rub ‘n Restore® finishes and will last decades, and your bonded leather blues will be only a memory!


Reader Interactions


  1. Michelle S says

    I have a solid sofa couch made with (fake) leather? that is peeling and flaking everywhere. Would it be worth me having the furniture reupholstered??

    • lesandre says

      Maybe, if the frame and stuffing are good quality, and it’s a unique piece / size. But often these pieces don’t have removable cushions, and they’re difficult to dismantle and reupholster. You’ll just have to inquire with a local upholsterer.

      • Michelle S says

        Thanks for your reply. I will look into it further, before throwing it out. Currently we use it covered in a large rug.

  2. Courtney says

    Would you recommend getting ahead of pleather flaking and coating what is still “good” with something as a preventative measure? Perhaps with the flex seal?

    • lesandre says

      We’ve been dealing with this stuff for 15 years and have yet to find something that prevents it from doing so. Doesn’t seem the manufacturers of this stuff nor other companies that sell repair products have been able to develop anything. It’s just an inherent flaw in the material.

      • Isaac says

        Thank you for the insightful video. I bought a set of “Italian leather” for $300 purposely for restoration. I was very enthusiastic about the project but, I got into some troubles I don’t have answers to. The first is that the arm rests of the chairs were peeling after dye application but, not in large size. The peel is very similar to a new born having dry skin. I wish I could post pictures here so you can better advise.
        The other issue was that I had some discolorations on the couch. I used dark brown dye but, encountered some charcoal-like discoloration. What do you think is the problem? Did I purchase Italian leather?

  3. Jessie says

    Hi there ! I have a couch and a love seat I want to restore. How much product would you recommend I would need ?? The leather is in perfect condition,
    The colour has just faded.

    Thanks !!

  4. Paul Orlando says

    Great stuff, but I don’t really see product names—or am I missing it? I have what appears to be the exact problem as in the video; the coating is peeling from the fabric it was attached to. What filler, and what to put a finish coat on with?

    Thanks, and keep up the good work!


    Great information, your details are particular and precise making it very interesting, informative and useful blog. spreading out such a useful information is very thoughtful, thankyou for doing this.

  6. Lina says

    Thanks for the how to guide. Truly appreciate it
    Plz let me know if you can address my current sofa problem, where it started peeling from the top edge as shown in the picture

  7. Sue says

    We bought a nice leather sofa and love seat from a quality store. 8 years later it looks like new, except for the piece across the top. It’s shredded, just like all of your pictures, and very careful examination indicates that the pieces across the top actually are slightly different if you look very close. They used bonded leather for one strip across the top of both sofas and now that is crumbling. It’s a shame, because the rest looks like new. It will be so wasteful to be forced to dump these.

    So I know you don’t advocate any repair attempt, but it’s really difficult to find furniture now and used is not an option here in the middle of nowhere. I would like to somehow make these look ok through Christmas. Is there a temporary fix? Good enough to last awhile?

    • lesandre says

      If you can scrape it all away, and it seems like a low-traffic trim piece, then it’s worth repairing with filler and color as demonstrated in the video. Even color alone will improve appearance.

  8. Deborah Tetley says

    Hi. I have bought a leather lounge around 5 years ago having had a faux leather delaminate previously. I noticed two small areas on my lounge around where my husbands head rubs that look like the surface has lifted. Can this happen on leather? It does not seem to be extending. Is there a name for this and have you any directions within your site that might help?

    • lesandre says

      Sounds like body oil (and possibly hair care products) are the culprit. If it’s real leather, you should be able to even out any damage to the finish. See here.

  9. Kristen says

    Hoping you can help! I spilled acetone on my bonded/faux leather couch. I know I can’t totally repair it, but would love to do something to at least help the appearance of the damage. Would your soft filler work? Any other advice you would give me?!?

    • lesandre says

      You’re on the right page for how to do it using filler. I would order swatches to try to match the color. Hopefully one of ours work, as it’s not worth investing in a Custom Color, and you do not want to unnecessarily apply a finish (i.e. a color change) on undamaged areas.

        • lesandre says

          Yes, just don’t invest too much, and know that we can’t guarantee long-lasting results for repairs on faux leather as we would with real leather or vinyl.

  10. Winter Royea says

    The top surface of a large sofa cushion is flaking and it’s a huge mess. I’d like to try and repair it myself with the soft filler, but there are so many types that I’m not sure exactly what kind of filler to purchase or the best way to color match a dye. I’m also not sure how much I’ll need to buy in order to get the job done. The cushion is about 3’x6’ and the entire area will need to be redone. What materials would you suggest and where are the best places to find them?

    • lesandre says

      As per this article, we ultimately do not recommend repairing this stuff nor will guarantee results. Our filler is superior to the rubberized coating more painstaking work and expensive. There’s info about quantity needed on the filler product page; I’d guess 2 oz. and 1 oz. Color matching is another issue. Here are your options; I wouldn’t invest much on a piece made of this inferior material.

  11. Michele says

    Thanks. I have a vinyl sectional not sure if pu or pvc. No existing cracks or peeling just color fading from wear. But no microfiber exposure (Bobs discount furniture) I ordered your product and tested undiluted on a hidden area. Product doesn’t crack or peel when stressed. Just takes a long time for a thin coat to dry. After 48 hrs I still get a faint color rub off. Any suggestions on improving the drying/curing time? I live in MD. It’s not humid here. Thanks!

    • lesandre says

      Huh, I’m trying to envision what your material actually is. Sounds like some sort of fabric if it’s taking a long while to dry. It should irrevocably stain any fabric and not transfer. Just keep a fan on it. Dry buff the surface with a soft rag to remove any unstable pigment.

  12. Chanel says

    Hi I had my furniture in storage and when I got it out it was all messed up it looks like the furniture is peeling how do I go by fixing the peeling of my furniture is this product a good product for my furniture it’s a leather sectional not sure what type of leather it is .

  13. Rose Padilla says

    I already removed the PU fabric on my bar stools, would your product still have a longer life span than a month? What do you think would be the average.

    • lesandre says

      Absolutely. Color will permanently stain the fabric, but you need to apply filler first to create the new leather-like surface. That should adhere well so long as it does not overlap any PU.

  14. haroot says

    I have a similar situation with my sofa “Some faux leather furniture wears naturally, without peeling or flaking, and exposes an absorbent polyester or microfiber fabric that can be stained and waxed.”

    How can I fix this? Please advise

  15. Michele says

    I have a faux leather sectional that has not peeled or cracked. I simply want to change the color. But I’m not sure if its a pvc or pu product and want to make sure your product will work. I would like to change the color to a medium gray.

    • lesandre says

      You can either send a sample to us for free testing or you can test it yourself and return it if the material does not take it well. Apply a thin coat, let dry, repeat until covered. Then pinch, twist, stress. If it develops hairline cracks and looks like it will flake off, then it’s PU.

  16. Kylie says

    Would love anyone’s help! I was very drawn to this vintage school library chair (underside has old stamp specifically stating it’s a Kerrville, Texas public school chair) and bought it thinking it was leather…eyeroll…not leather, of course. But whatever kind of synthetic faux leather it must be is very different than I’ve seen these days. No peeling, cracking, even has a natural sun faded look to parts of it. The “leather” material is just so thin I know it can’t be real. I want to update the chair with a modern twist and fix a few small knicks and scratches on it but how would I go about doing that if it’s not the modern day version of faux leather and def not real leather? I’m afraid since whatever kind of synthetic leather this may be is already around 65 years old, so definitely dont want to ruin it, because for being a senior this chair is still got it!
    -thanks in advance:)

  17. Jaicee says

    My couch looks just like the couch at the very top (polyurethane coating worn off and now microfiber is all that’s left in most places.) What can I use ontop of the microfiber to get back that leather feel and protection?

    • Ashley says

      Hi! Thank you for all of the advice. My couch is peeling pretty badly and I am planning to cover it with a slip cover. What would you recommend as the best method to stop the peeling? I don’t care how the finish looks, just don’t want the peeled off pieces to keep getting everywhere.


  18. Melissa says

    We have an almost 2 year old aniline-dyed and pigmented upholstered leather loveseat from IMG. The headrest just started peeling – can we fix or stop this?

  19. King Cooper says

    Hi I recently picked up a leather sectional for my wife. It was supposed to be a great Mother’s Day gift. It’s pealing like crazy 😜 …. we have 2 young boys. It’s cafe/ expresso. I want to repair but not sure where to start.

    • lesandre says

      You’re on the right page if you want to repair it. But with young boys, repair is going to be constant maintenance. You’re better off replacing it with real leather or quality vinyl. If you bought it new, I would return it and threaten suit if they refuse.

  20. Zi says

    I am not sure what type of leather my couch is but I think it may be faux leather. It has been almost 5 years since we bought the couch and now the black color has faded to reddish brown color. The color has faded most in the areas where we sat the most. The skin is not peeling off but rather it seems like the black dots or patterns are coming off or flaking off and leaving it a reddish brown color. What do you think I should do?

  21. Lesandra says

    Hi I’m doing a diy attempt on my chili red couches I want to turn them a burnt orange color what all do I need from yo all

  22. Catherine Hou says

    My sofa is peeling. Wat should I do ? Plz tell me fr it looks very very weird. Don’t want to change d sofa…

  23. Jade says

    Thank you for sharing this video and advice. Extremely helpful. While I value your input I am going to attempt a repair as a short term fix while in transition to relocate. What products specifically do you recommend? I believe one is the flex filler but what do you purchase for the colour? Appreciate all your advice!

  24. Aleksander Myslicki says

    Hi there. Ive got an eco white leather sofa and unfortunately the surface started to crack, looks like someone cut it in squared with a knife but jusy the surface and small square size pieces are peeling off. It was small but now it moved up the sofa on both ends. Is it worth to repair eco leather or should I buy new sofa? Thanks

    • lesandre says

      Sounds like it’s only going to get worse. I’d scrape away and fabric paint (in which case you no longer have a ‘leather’ sofa) or replace as per the suggestion in the video and this article.

  25. Peter Persico says

    The arm of my chair started peeling only after my long-clawed granddog jumped up on it. The materials that came with the chair called it “100% leather” and the care instructions referred to it as “coated leather”. Is this still probably bonded leather or is there a distinction?

  26. Robin Allen says

    I have a recliner that the seat, arm rest, foot rest and front upper back is leather. The sides and back are most likely vinyl. I wanted to change the color. Do you have a product that would do that?

  27. Linda says

    How do you get the colors? We have a red lazy boy and a green lazy boy that we thot were leather. They are cracking and pitting and peeling after 2 years (paid $650 for each). I would be willing to try your method but wonder about the colors!

    • lesandre says

      Many bonded leathers are dark brown, and our colors blend well, but red and green are primary-secondary colors and would require a custom match for an additional $60 per color. The other option is to recolor the entirety of each chair with our closest stock color, but this unfortunately is not recommended for bonded leather.

  28. MT says

    I really appreciate your honesty. I have been cruising around the interwebs trying to find a way to mitigate the eyesore in my living room that I was conned into purchasing at Nebraska Furniture Mart. It’s currently wearing a crappy cover that has to be adjusted constantly leading me to curse NFM daily but at least your site stopped me from throwing good money after bad. Thank you

  29. Doug Slitor says

    How will Rub n Restore work on bonded leather that has no peeling and a very solid unblemished surface? I would like to change a recliner sofa and loveseat from a very dark brown to more of a cognac color. Any advice will be appreciated.


    • lesandre says

      You could mail us a swatch for testing, but it is generally discouraged. Again, this material tends to delaminate from itself and even repair compounds do not adhere well, so neither will a finish

  30. Susie says

    We were told that bonded leather can be sold as “leather” as there are no laws reguarding this. We bought an expensive leather recliner that wasn’t “leather”. Fooled me and that is how I found out about bonded leather can be sold leather. ? By law bonded leather 20% or higher can be labeled LEATHER.

    • Rub 'N Restore, Inc. says

      I was unaware of that law. In the US?
      The worst part is the sales people usually don’t know the difference either, so they’re unknowingly lying to customers.
      Sorry you were fooled too!
      I hope our blog and videos will be part of the movement to destroy the industry around this shoddy material!

  31. Karen W says

    I am so disappointed. I bought these barstools that I thought were leather only to find out they are bonded leather. One of them has a few ripples in the “leather” . Can i just glue these down? If so, what product would you recommend. Otherwise I will follow the procedure outlined in the youtube video….what have i got to lose?

    Failing bonded leather

    • Rub 'N Restore, Inc. says

      Hi Karen, This is just the beginning, unfortunately. It’s worth trying to glue it down with a teensy dab of flexible leather or fabric glue, but the fussing over it is likely to result with a similar imperfect appearance, and the rest of it awaits a similar fate. I’m so sorry you were deceived!

  32. Kerwin Maude says

    I am sorry to say, bonded leather should be banned from North American markets, its like buying a car and paying good money for it and then to see the paint crack. Keep junk off the import market that sucks the consumer while the retailers and manufacturers get profits for inferior product that does not pass the test of time. Never again will I buy bonded leather….possibly Chinese made product, typical inferior quality and we wonder why the Asian market is soaring, like Mexico. Cheap products, cheap labor, poor quality control and no accountability. Most of their stuff falls apart within a short time, and guess what, we go out and buy another new toaster, coffee maker, couch, etc. while throwing junk into landfill that is too costly to fix. Buy Canadian or USA as China is a bad market and we’re going to sell them bitumen so they can pollute more in their land and global warming?

  33. Justsome Olddude says

    Cindy Crawford, may be pretty, but she sure is endorsing some shady furniture makers with her name. I bought this Cindy Crawford ” Solid Leather ” recliner from ” Rooms to Go ” just at one year ago this month. I purchased the extra treatment and warranty . So after one year this “Solid leather” chair is pealing. ( by the way only the actual seating area of the chair is leather, the sides and back are Vinyl )
    flacking bonded leather

    • Rub 'N Restore, Inc. says

      That actually isn’t all that uncommon. This does appear to be the seating area. Can’t quite tell if it’s a corrected grain leather or vinyl, but it doesn’t look like telltale peeling bonded leather. Many leathers have pigmentation that rubs away or discolors. So long as you can’t feel any difference between the discolored and the original, it can be quickly corrected with some Rub ‘n Restore leather dye! The trick is matching the color. More info here:

  34. Jack says

    My imitation-leather couch is flaking just like these, to reveal a fabric layer below. But I don’t mind the patchy, worn-out look — I only mind the messy flakes that end up all over the floor and us. So I’m not looking to repair the damage, but is there anyway to prevent it from flaking more, perhaps sealing it with a varnish or something along those lines?


    • Rub 'N Restore, Inc. says

      Hi Jack, It’s fabric, so your option is to painstakingly strip off the polyurethane coating and then coat it with a flexible paint. What a huge investment of time! It’s so much easier (and a nicer result) to find a used leather sofa on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace and restore that. See this video:

  35. James Terry says

    We bought two Flexsteel motorized Novu leather loveseats from a local store. Paid $2000 a piece for them. Approximately 1yr. later they started to peel. They made a repair. Next year more peeling in another area, they made another repair. When they came back to mount the seat they repaired they laid the whole love seat forward. Within one month the areas on the top of the arm and the front of the armrest are cracking and peeling from being pressed against the carpeting. We reported this to them, waited 2 months and contacted them again. They gave a lame excuse about contacting the company and 2 months later we haven’t heard back form them. NEVER, EVER, buy this shit again. Now we got $4000 of furniture with one piece looking like crap!!!! When they both eventually look like crap I’ll check into having the re-upholstered with material.

    • Rub 'N Restore, Inc. says

      Hi James, So sorry to hear of this! We used to encounter a lot of this expensive “ultraleather” made by Flexsteel for the RV industry. It cost almost as much as real stuff and couldn’t hold up to use or UV exposure. Thank you for sharing your woes. Would love to have this same comment appear on our YouTube video about this subject, if you are so inclined. We can’t formally recommend that you illegally dump this trash in the parking lot of the retailer that sold it to you with a nasty gram attached, but we like to fantasize about it. 🙂 Be patient, and watch Craigslist! You’ll find a gem!

      • Julia Miller Dukes says

        That red sofa looks exactly like the brown sectional we just moved to the curb after just 3 years of use. Loved the size & sit, but once it started delaminating, there was no stopping it! Unfortunately, the store where we bought it (actually a very reputable local furniture store) has closed because the owners retired & couldn’t find anyone to take it on. I suppose it’s no coincidence that the piece has absolutely no manufacturer’s ID on it that we can find.
        Live & learn!

  36. Gail says

    Can a badly peeling bonded leather love seat/duo-recliner be reupholstered? I mean, not with more leather or vinyl…can fabric be put on? How costly would it be if it is do-able?

  37. Dena says

    I have a 10 yr old Paliser bonded leather set that is starting to show fading and very light cracking on the top of the cushions ottoman by the seems. Am I able to re-color it as long as it isn’t peeling?

    • Rub 'N Restore, Inc. says

      Great question! Yes, but the paint is not going to repair the cracks, and I wouldn’t recommend a color change, because then you’re adding more layers of paint (and therefore) weight to the surface, which *may* cause it to wear faster. That being said, ten years with only a few cracks is good news for a bonded leather, so it’s certainly worth a try. I don’t think it would worsen the situation, but I would ensure this by being minimalist and conservative in your approach.

  38. Laura lake says

    I wire brushed the furniture to get the maximum fake leather off. Then I painted with acrylic paint mixed with fabric medium. Came out just fine for the family room.

    • Rub 'N Restore, Inc. says

      Right on! We’ve heard of some folks doing this. It’s an affordable solution if you’re willing to invest the time. How many hours did it take you? I can image it to be painstaking work, depending how unstable the polyurethane coating is, and in the end you have a fabric sofa that’s painted, not a piece with leather or leather-like surface. Thanks for sharing!

  39. Coleen Coleman says

    I bought a bonded leather chair from Johnny Janosik in Dover, DE. I was lied to and made to believe it was real leather. Also, it was a power recliner but the motor broke in less than two years. It cost $100 to get another motor and have it installed. I will never buy anything from Johnny Janosik again. I’ve only bought something twice from them. Several years ago I bought a bed. I didn’t want it delivered before such and such a time because it was a surprise. Wouldn’t you know it, they didn’t follow directions and delivered it much earlier and the person was home. I’m sure most people have had good luck with Johnny Jonosik in Dover or else they would not be in business, but I find them to be a great disappointment and would never recommend them. Each time my bonded leather chair starts to rip, I cover the rip with duct tape. It started to rip after three years.

  40. Nicole Barnett says

    I Wana post a picture of my couch I will not buy another bonded leather couch when I bought I truly believed I was buying a leather couch I love the red tho and leather we are mess ppl and it’s nice to wipe clean the couch.
    Degraded bonded leather couch

    • Rub 'N Restore, Inc. says

      Bummer! There’s no reason for bonded leather. Genuine leather and other synthetics (vinyl) wipe up nicely too. Leather does have a propensity for discoloring and grabbing dirt over time. Rubbing alcohol or our Flite cleaner (maybe a soft nail brush too) will greatly aid in this. Whatever stains remain can be dyed.

  41. Robert Breton says

    By now folks should know that bonded leather is Chinese trash that should be banned from being imported into the USA

    • Rub 'N Restore, Inc. says

      They don’t. We get phone calls and emails every day, which is why we wrote this blog post to assist in answering these inquiries. Planning to make a video and hopefully optimize it for Google search results to put an end to these inquiries entirely.

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