Can faux leather fabric be refinished?

We generally don’t recommend restoring faux leather furniture with polyurethane finishes, because many peel or flake. However, some wear more naturally, exposing a fuzzy microfiber, that can be stained or painted. Many folks report success with chalk paint. Chalk is limestone (sedimentary rock) and is too heavy and inflexible for fabric. We suggest using a thinner fabric paint or our leather paints. Note that the microfiber’s nap must be coated with clear wax to restore a leather-like texture and sheen and blend with unworn areas. No long-term satisfaction can be guaranteed when working with faux leather.

Here’s how to do it using Rub ‘n Restore® leather paints:

  1. Clean the furniture with denatured or rubbing alcohol and allow to completely dry.
  2. Thoroughly stir Rub ‘n Restore® Color.
  3. Dampen the worn fabric with water. This will allow the color to disperse and absorb more evenly.
  4. Work in small sections, using a brush or damp sponge to apply color, and taking care to disperse and blend.
  5. Use a rag dampened with water to remove color from surrounding, unworn areas where the faux leather surface remains intact.
  6. Buff the worn areas you’ve painted with a dry rag to remove excess paint. This will result in a softer feel. Take care not to overscrub the fabric and damage the weave or nap.
  7. Allow to dry. This may take several hours with an absorbent fabric. A fan in the room will help. It will not stain clothing once totally dry. Even if the color is a good match to unworn areas, it may dry darker on worn, fabric portions. Finishing with clear wax should correct this.
  8. Repeat until all worn fabric areas are stained and dry.
  9. Apply a clear wax with a lint-free rag or brush to the painted areas to create a new leather-like look and feel. Use a hair dryer to warm the wax, if needed, to disperse and blend it with unworn areas. Minwax® Soft Touch and Annie Sloan® Clear Wax are oil-based and do well for this application. Do not wax velour, velvet, or any remaining faux leather (polyurethane) surface. Clear waxes may require periodic reapplication to maintain the new ‘finish’. Re-stain the fabric, if needed, prior to reapplying wax, as the wax will likely repel the paint.

If it’s not already obvious, we don’t recommend changing the color and cannot guarantee satisfaction due to the nature of these materials.

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35 comments

  1. i want to stain our microsueded leather appearing couch. I read the article and would like to try the expresso color with your clear glaze. I will use a wax if needed after that. The color is a expresso but also appears to have a lighter color mixed in. Any other recommendations. I dont want to do the chalk paint.

    Reply
    • Great question!The simplest approach is to work with just the Espresso and leave some areas very thin or untouched, using the faded color to create dimension. You can alternatively work with a second print color like Mahogany. This article has info about mottling techniques and a link to a video.

      Reply
  2. I would like to restore the color to a sofa, loveseat & chair made if 90% polyester, 10% polyurethane and is water soluble. The color is brown. I realize there are many shades of brown and would like to how we can determine the correct shade and products to use.

    Reply
  3. Hello! I am wanting to recolor a grey couch from Ikea. The cushions are leather but the frame is has the material breakdown as 75% polyester, 25% cotton, 100% polyurethane. I want to change it to a cognac color, but since they are different materials I don’t want the coat on the frame to look strange compared to the cushions.

    Will the coat look the same on both?

    Reply
    • Hmmm… our stuff recolors leather and vinyl uniformly. But we’ve found that polyurethanes often resist coatings (including their own) and are not good candidates for color changing. But Ikea generally has better quality stuff. I would test the color first on a small area. Let dry. Pinch, twist, scuff, scratch, and see how it does. We do accept returns on open bottles (with a 25% restocking fee). Or we can do a 2 oz. size for $20 (includes shipping) via special invoice if you email us billing, shipping, phone.

      Reply
  4. On my faux leather fabric. The Clear+Finish Conditioning Sealer this is used after I add a first coat of color to the sofa or I can dilute the color with the Clear+Finish Conditioning Sealer and use this for the first coat? Not all of sofa surface is worned out.

    Reply
    • I would wet the fabric with water and use color diluted with water on these areas. I would mix the Clear with color to blend undamaged areas where there may be more luster, and then use the clear wax on the worn areas to mimic the luster and smooth texture of the unworn areas.

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  5. Hi! I have a sofa that I inherited and I can’t tell if it’s real leather or not, and can’t find a tag indicating either way. It’s in great shape (no wear or flaking), but it gets heavy use. It’s a dark brown and I would love to change it to the RubNRestore “Rust” color, but since I’m unsure about whether it’s leather or not, I’m not sure what to do. Any guidance would be appreciated, thanks!

    Reply
  6. We were just given a large sectional with a production date of 2007. Overall, it’s in great shape but some of the darn brown is now almost an orange color. It does not seem to be peeling like my previous “leather” couch did. The color is just worn in the areas most used. No idea how to tell if this is req leather or if your product can be used! I’ve read and read and watched YouTube videos on your product and it seems amazing! Any suggestions on how to know if your product may work? Thank you!

    Reply
  7. We have a dark brown recliner that we thought was leather. A few months after purchasing, the area where the back of the head rests began to lose color. Now there is a large area of light brown “leather?” that is very unsightly.
    Do you have any suggestions?

    Reply
  8. I have an orange bow leather couch that is peeling and chipping in the seat area due to my dogs. Otherwise it’s in great shape. It’s pumpkin orange. Some of the under layers are showing as well. Any advice or donate it?

    Reply
  9. I have a sectional the exacts same fabric and color of the very top left picture. Its brown with white double stitching and it looks like leather but its fabric. I’ve been trying to figure out for months houw to clean it because i have a 3 year old potty training and he has had multiple accidents on it during naps and it has a scent of urine to it when you set on it despite that i spray it and wipe it down but it diesn;t help. I’ve tried using a carpet cleaner attachment thing to it and the stuff just soaks in and it barely pulls it back out. I just paid this couch off and I haven’t even had it a full year, I really need to deep clean it!! PLEASE help me!!!

    Reply
  10. Hello, I have a Jamestown recliner sofa color umber. I would say is a faux leather. Do you have that color on your files? What amount product do I need for about 10 square feet of area. The material on the sofa looks decolored but its not peeling. Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  11. We have a 2015 Fleetwood Expedition Motorhome, and we have beige captain seats that has excessive peeling. Do you recommend trying to apply some type of coating to cover the peeling, or should we just have the seats recovered?

    Reply
  12. I’ve purchased some “pleather” pouf ottomans that are painted a shiny silver color, and I would like to mute the color with a translucent stain, if possible (similar to an antiquing process on shiny metal). Is stain over paint possible without damaging the fabric/finish? If so, which product would be most effective and lasting, please?

    Reply
  13. Would this product work to re-color a “leatherette” stroller handle? I’m hoping to go from black to cognac. I’ve used your product on several leather bags and loved the outcome…but I don’t really know what leatherette is, exactly.

    Reply
    • If the handle is vinyl (PVC), sure, though you’ll likely have to touch-up. If it’s polyurethane, don’t waste your time.

      Reply
  14. I have a leather match sectional sofa that looks like the picture on the left at the top of this page. How can I tell if the leather match section is vinyl or polyurethane? The matched area never peeled even after 20 years but the leather is worned in the seat area. I plan on changing the color of the sectional from light brown to taupe. Should I buy a small bottle to test if RNR can be used first before buying a large bottle? What are my options if the RNR does not work on the matched area?

    Reply

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