How to fix scuffs, cracks, burns, tears, cuts or holes in leather and vinyl?

Let your finger tips decide if scuffs, scratches or cracks need repair. Only damage that can be felt needs fixing. Cuts, tears, burns or holes through the material will need to be patched and filled.

Scratched, scuffed leather or dry, porous vinyl are often corrected with little more than a new finish and gentle sanding. Click here for instructions.

Deeper cracks or splits, chafing, scaliness, or damage that exposes suede or a woven backing should be repaired with a flexible filler and then refinished with color. Learn how here.

Large of areas sun-rotted vinyl (spa covers, tonneau covers, vinyl tops, boat upholstery or yurt roofs) are more economically resurfaced with a rubberized coating. Click here for more information. Do not use rubberized coatings on real leather.

Cuts, tears, burns or holes through the leather or vinyl can also be repaired. The material must be subpatched in order for filler to float freely over the interior foam or padding. Click here for instructions and a video demonstration.

Real leather and marine vinyl don’t delaminate like bonded and faux leather. Here’s how you fix peeling or flaking ‘leather’ and why we don’t recommend it.

Correct dry, porous leather or vinyl with a glaze and a gentle sanding.

  1. Clean with alcohol.
  2. Apply a glaze (mix of Rub ‘n Restore® Color and Clear Prep+Finish™). This will disperse better on absorbent, porous or worn areas and will allow subsequent layers of color to dry more evenly. It is also more economical than working with color alone.
  3. Once dry, gently polish any burrs or roughness with 320 grit sandpaper.
  4. Continue to work with a glaze if a lustrous finish or a marbled appearance is desired. Or use color alone to get better coverage and a dull finish. Clear Prep+Finish™ should not be used as a topcoat on vinyl, as it may dry tacky.

If any hairline cracks in the fiber are not improved after a couple coats, strip any unabsorbed, uncured finish with alcohol, and repair cracking leather as follows.

Buy Repair Products

Repair scaly, cracking or chafed leather or vinyl.

  1. Clean the area with alcohol. Let dry.
  2. Apply a flexible leather repair putty like our Soft Filler to suede, scaliness, chafing, or cracks. The video below demonstrates. Skip ahead to minute 3:14.
  3. Work in thin coats until a level surface is achieved. Filler can be sanded, but take care where the filler is thin and blended with undamaged areas, as it may peel up. If so, use alcohol to melt the cured filler and smooth imperfections before a final texturizing coat.
  4. Once the repair is complete, refinish with color.

Click here to estimate the amount needed. Filler is cost prohibitive for large areas of UV-damaged vinyl like hot tub covers, boat upholstery, and yurt roofs. In this case consider resurfacing vinyl with a rubberized coating as follows.

Buy Repair Products

Use a rubberized coating to resurface large areas of sun-damaged vinyl.

Liquid Rubber® RV Roof Coating is water-based and can be tinted with 5-10% universal colorant and diluted with water, making it more versatile and less noxious. We have used it with great success on spa covers and yurt roofs. It is only available in white and must be ordered online (be sure to buy from the US or Canada site corresponding to the delivery address).

FlexSeal® is available in aerosol spray or liquid in various colors. It is solvent-based, cannot be diluted, and is therefore less versatile and more noxious. But it can be found at most hardware stores.

Rub ‘n Restore® colors will adhere to these coatings if you cannot find the desired shade.

Subpatch cuts, tears or holes and repair with flexible filler putty.

These instructions apply to holes smaller than 2″ in diameter. Voids larger than 2″ should incorporate a top patch; see here.

  1. Clean with alcohol, and let dry.
  2. Cut a patch larger than the hole, rounding the corners.
  3. Insert and glue the patch to the underside of the upholstery.
  4. Apply Soft Filler putty, and let cure.
  5. Repeat until level.
  6. Do a final texturizing coat, and let cure.
  7. Recolor with a water-based finish.

Click here for more detailed written instructions.

This video demonstrates:

  • 00:30 – Cut and insert the subpatch
  • 01:20 – Glue the subpatch
  • 03:14 – Clean excess glue
  • 03:48 – Apply leather repair filler
  • 05:16 – How to tell when the filler is cured
  • 06:22 – Sanding (you can also try rubbing alcohol)
  • 06:58 – Additional layers of leather repair filler
  • 08:32 – Texturize and final sanding
  • 09:41 – Recolor (from dark green to rusty brown)

Soft Filler is water-based. An incandescent bulb, heat lamp or sunny window are needed to warm the surface to 120º – 145º F (49º – 63º C). Hair dryers are no longer advised, as they can blow moisture inward and prevent proper curing. The filler will change from white to mostly clear, and is cured when no longer tacky.

Rubbing alcohol can also be used to correct imperfections in the cured filler. Less is more, and you can always re-work the repair. Click here for troubleshooting filler application.

Estimate Quantity Needed

Type of Damage Total Area of Damage Filler Needed
Chafed, scaly, cracked but no cuts or holesone coat on 4 sq ft (or four coats on 1 sq ft)1 oz.
Chafed, scaly, cracked but no cuts or holesone coat on 8 sq ft (or four coats on 2 sq ft)2 oz.
Holes or tears (requires a subpatch & more coats of filler)12 sq inches (1 in x 1 ft cut, for example)1 oz.
Holes or tears (requires a subpatch & more coats of filler)24 sq inches (two 1 in x 1 ft cuts, for example)2 oz.

Buy Repair Products


    • Vinyl purses that need softening? The first impression is that the purses may actually be faux or bonded leather with hairline cracks, in which case don’t waste your money or effort. If they are real vinyl, a new finish will protect and extend their life. It cannot reverse desiccation or plasticizer migration, however. Email good photos, and we can be of more help.

  1. We are looking at trying to refresh and re-color our couch and loveseat.
    Do you do custom colors?
    Can we send you pictures of the couch and get your recommendations on how to refinish?
    Thanks for your help, Karen

  2. I have a leather couch that where we set on 1 side, the area where our heads touch, it is slick and faded. Is this something that can be corrected?
    Thank you

  3. I have an expensive leather bible made out of split calf skin and it had pop spilled on it and now it is sticky even after cleaning it with saddle soap and using conditioner nothing changes the sticky feel, I can’t even stand using it, could I just sand it down, would that help at all or just ruin it

    • See here about the types of leathers. Split grain often refers to the lower, weaker half of the hide and has an artificial grain or coating on top, which can deteriorate into a sticky mess. A top-grain (upper half of the hide) is stronger, better quality, and should hold up well to pop being spilled on it (even if it resulted in a stain). Try cleaning with rubbing alcohol. It may be easier to re-wrap or recover it in a better quality material.


Leave a Comment