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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 will permanently stain the worn, exposed fabric so it may better match the original faux leather surface. However the appearance and texture will be uneven, and fuzzy fabric will stiffen as a result of being painted.

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 flimsy faux leather. Applying Annie Sloan’s Clear Wax over the top of the worn, painted areas will yield a smoother texture and more uniform appearance.

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 and combine with equal parts of our Clear Prep+Finish™.
  3. Dampen the worn fabric with water. This will allow the color to disperse and absorb more evenly. Work in small sections.
  4. Apply the color-Clear mixture to the damp fabric using a brush or sponge, taking care to disperse and blend.
  5. Buff the surface with a dry rag to remove excess paint, so the fabric will dry softer. Take care not to overscrub the nap.
  6. Use a damp rag to remove excess color from the any faux leather finish that remains intact, as the color dries matte and may look too dull or light. Many of these materials have a more lustrous finish.
  7. Allow to dry. This may take several hours. A fan in the room will help. It will not stain clothing once totally dry.
  8. Repeat as necessary.
  9. Apply Annie Sloan Clear Soft Wax to the worn, nappy areas. 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’. 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. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.