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Can faux leather fabric be refinished?

Some faux leather furniture is made of polyester or microfiber fabric with a thin polyurethane finish that creates a leather-like appearance. As the finish wears, the microfiber is exposed. Ultimately we discourage refinishing this material for the same reasons as peeling or flaking bonded leather: a material that can’t hold its own finish isn’t likely to retain anything else you add to it.

Picture of worn faux leather fabric painted with RubnRestore to conceal microfiber
While a paint will create a more uniform appearance, it cannot resurface the microfiber and restore the faux leather feel.

That said, a paint can be used to stain the worn, exposed fabric and better conform with undamaged areas. However painting fabric may result in a stiffer texture or uneven appearance. A clear wax is needed to create a smoother, more lustrous surface that blends with the original.

Many folks report success with chalk paint. However, we suggest using a thinner fabric paint or our water-based leather finish, because chalk is limestone (sedimentary rock) and is too heavy and inflexible for faux leather.

Here’s how you’d do it:

  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 color changing these materials.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Mary Sanford says

    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?

  2. Richard Paker says

    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?

  3. Kristy says

    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!

  4. Kelly says

    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!

  5. Sergio F Espinoza says

    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.

    • lesandre says

      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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.