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Can faux leather fabric be refinished?

Many faux leathers are actually a polished microfiber made of polyester with a thin polyurethane finish that creates a leather-like appearance. As the finish wears, the microfiber is exposed.

While Rub ‘n Restore® is a paint designed for leather and vinyl, it can also be used to stain fabric, particularly on worn faux leather furniture. If there is noticeable peeling or flaking, please read this article first.

Many folks use chalk paint followed by wax to recolor fabrics and create a leather-like texture. However, chalk is limestone (sedimentary rock), which is not a flexible medium for fabrics. Over time it will crack from the surface. A thinner, water-based pigment like Rub ‘n Restore® is a better approach. Here’s how:

  1. Dilute Rub ‘n Restore® color with water, up to equal parts. Don’t dilute if you’re doing a dramatic color change.
  2. Dampen the fabric surface too. This will allow the color to disperse and absorb more evenly. The fabric will also dry softer.
  3. Apply the color using a brush or sponge.
  4. Use a rag, either wet or dry, to lightly buff the surface and remove excess paint, so it will dry softer. Take care not to overscrub the nap.
  5. Also use a damp rag to remove excess color from the any faux leather surfaces that remain intact, as the color will dry matte and look too light and chalky. Most of these materials have a more lustrous finish. Alternatively, you can apply Clear Prep+Finish™ or a glaze (mixture of Clear and color) to blend these areas.
  6. Allow to dry. This may take several hours. A fan in the room will help. It will not stain clothing once totally dry.
  7. Repeat as necessary.
  8. Once dry, soften the surface by gently polishing with wet-or-dry sandpaper. We suggest 320 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper. Do not sand if it tears up the nap of the fabric. Use will also soften the fabric.
  9. Optional: Apply Annie Sloan Clear Soft Wax. Many DIYers remark that the fabric will look, feel, and repel water more like real leather. See here and here. Do not use Clear Wax on velour, velvet, or any remaining faux leather (polyurethane) surface. Clear Wax will require periodic reapplication to maintain the new “finish”.

Reader Interactions


  1. Katie says

    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?

    • lesandre says

      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.

  2. Joan says

    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.

  3. natalia chipman says

    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.

    • lesandre says

      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.

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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.