How to repair scuffed, scratched, scaly or cracking leather and vinyl?

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.

Real leather and marine vinyl don’t peel or chip! Don’t waste your time and money on peeling, flaking bonded or faux leather.

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.

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.

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. This video demonstrates the process. 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.

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.

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

Liquid Rubber® RV Roof Coating is water-based, can be tinted with 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.

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10 comments

    • 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.

      Reply
  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

    Reply
  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

    Reply
  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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply

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