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How to repair scaly, cracking leather or sun damaged vinyl?

Rough, scaly leather or vinyl may be corrected with a gentle sanding and a new finish. Deeper cracks, splits or sun damage should be repaired with flexible filler and then refinished with color.

Before and after photo of sun rot repaired with slate color.

For minor scaliness:

  1. Sand with 320 grit.
  2. Clean with alcohol.
  3. Start with a glaze (mix of Rub ‘n Restore® Color and Clear Prep+Finish™). This is more cost effective and will allow subsequent layers of color to dry more evenly.

If this is insufficient, fear not!

  1. Clean the area with alcohol again. This will strip any unabsorbed, uncured finish.
  2. Let dry.
  3. Apply a flexible leather putty like our Soft Filler. This video demonstrates the process. Skip ahead to minute 3:14.

Filler should also be used if:

  • the material is splitting or cracking or
  • suede is exposed.

NOTE: Filler may be cost prohibitive for large areas of sun-rotted vinyl like spa covers, tonneau covers, vinyl tops, boat upholstery or yurt roofs. In this case consider resurfacing vinyl with a rubberized coating. Do not use rubberized coatings on real leather.

Liquid Rubber® is water-based and can be diluted with water, making it more versatile and less noxious. It must be ordered online.

FlexSeal® can be found in most hardware stores in either an aerosol spray or liquid. However, it is solvent-based. It is more noxious, cannot be diluted with other solvents, and is therefore less versatile.

Either way, a Rub ‘n Restore® Color can be applied after if the desired shade is unavailable in the rubberized coating.

Reader Interactions


  1. Alec says

    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

    • lesandre says

      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.

  2. Eva Piearcy says

    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. Karen says

    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

  4. Tiffany Aiello says

    I have vinyl purses that need to be softened/conditioned. What is the safest product to use ?

    • lesandre says

      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.

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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.