Ever wonder how leather tanneries get those cow skins in all those different hues and finishes? Leather comes in only one natural finish, and with a little help and the right, water based products you can easily repair leather, restore leather color, do leather color changes, and become more knowledgeable about your fine investment.
The first step to successful leather restoration is keeping the leather hides healthy. There are too many cheap commercial products on the market that are quick fixes and contain only petroleum distillates that weaken leather stitching and fibers causing splitting, silicones that harden leather, and waxes that only make leather shiny and trap dirt and contaminants on the hide. We recommend your first step always be several applications of our leather Rejuvenator, a leather specific protein collagen complex that will actually nourish the hides, restore leather’s tensile strength, and keep the hides flexible and supple as you work. These directions will pertain mostly to the automotive leather restoration, but apply to furniture leather restoration as well. Detailed furniture redye directions can be found on our furniture leather care page.
Before you contemplate your leather redye and restoration, it is also important to know a little about the type of leather you are working with. Automotive leather prior to about 1992 was all a surface sprayed lacquer. Due to the EPA investigations into the toxic waste of leather tanneries back in the ‘80’s, they were all required to begin using more environmentally safe technology, including water based dye. Our company originated the water based dye technology back in 1963 not for commercial gain, but to restore the interior of George Pavlisko Sr.’s 39 Bentley. After a meticulous ground up restoration, Anne Pavlisko commented that the car looked great except for the brown interior. She added that the interior would look better green to compliment the exterior of the car. So to please his wife, through trial and error, George Sr. perfected our water based leather dye technology.
Surface sprayed lacquer hides will require more attention to leather prepping, as the finish often becomes very fragile and oxidized. Newer leather hides after 1992 are finished with a water based product that is very compatible to the new Leatherique dye you will be using, so prepping is easier. You’ll need to break down about 1 mil of the surface. This is important so the new leather dye can bite into the leather and look natural. Nothing is more glaring and obnoxious than leather that looks like vinyl due to heavy build up of surface colorant and improper prepping. Once you have completed all the steps of first nourishing your leather hides, prepping, and then leather redye, you will have emulated the original process with which your hides were first tanned prior to installation in your fine automobile
1. How to prepare your Leather surface for Redye
You will need Prepping Agent, fine grit sand paper, 400 to 600 grit for lacquer finish, 600 to 1000 grit for water based finish, and a clean, empty bowl or container. Pour a few ounces of prepping agent into the bucket and use that to dip your wet or dry sand paper into. Also have plenty of paper towels to wipe dirt from the surface of the leather.
Using 400 grit for lacquer, or 600 grit for water based finish, lightly wet sand the leather to smooth out any cracks and hangnails in the surface. Do no remove so much of the old Leather dye that you create suede. Wipe surface with soft rags or paper towels to remove as much of the faded or oxidized old Leather Dye as possible. Do not attempt to redye over damaged dye. Be sure all old dye is broken down, and all previous treatments such as silicone, wax or oil product residue is gone. Then resand with 600 grit for lacquer, or 1000 grit for water base to create a perfect flawless finish to apply your new dye.
If you are filling cracks with Leather crack filler, this is the time to do that step. Apply Leather crack filler only into cracks, not near grain. Allow to dry 20 minutes and refill as necessary. For holes in leather, a mechanical repair will be necessary. Insert a patch larger than the hole, (a piece of canvas or leather fuzzy sides together) carefully into the hole. With a toothpick, spread a small amount of craft or leather glue into hole and press to adhere. Fill remaining scar with layers of Leather crack filler. Resand Leather as necessary with 600 for a smooth, flawless finish. Allow project to sit overnight or about 6 hours to allow prepping agent and crack filler to dry.
2. LEATHER REDYE/LEATHER RESTORATION
After the Leather surface is clean and prepped, simply brush or spray on your new Leatherique Leather dye.
You will need Leatherique Dye, top quality synthetic, very soft, acrylic type artist brushes, very small for piping and wider for larger areas, and a dirt free environment, preferably indoors. *Thin Leather dye if necessary to prevent heavy buildup of color. Temperature of 70 to 85 degrees, low humidity, no rain.
Pour all the Leatherique Leather dye into a suitable container so it can be stirred and mixed properly with a wide paint stirer. (tupperware type with lid) Some pigments are heavier than others and settle. Start with a small, inconspicuous area to get a feel for the product. * If it is too thick, stir in a small quantity of water to reach workable consistency. Your color has been matched to your swatch or oem color using the newest computer technology, and most long lasting high quality pigments available. It is normal that the color may appear more vibrant than the faded hue you have become accustomed to. Begin with the seams, piping and edges and allow them to dry. (Usually by the time you are done, they are dry) Then proceed with broader areas. Apply several very thin coats, brushing in all directions rather than back and forth. Do not stop in the middle of a panel. Consistency will be rewarded with a professional job. Allow each piece to dry thoroughly. Apply second coat as necessary. If doing a COLOR CHANGE, another coat will be necessary. Clean brushes and all equipment immediately with soap and hot water.
Pour all your Leatherique dye into your Tupperware container and stir well. Pour ¾ of your dye back into the bottle and seal. Begin thinning your dye about 10-25% with hot bottled water. Do not use tap water as the chemicals can discolor your finish. Leatherique dye can be thinned for spraying up to 50% with bottled water, or to your equipment specifications. Set your equipment for a fine, almost dry mist coat. Spray 2-3 fine, dry mist coats to cover. Check your seams, piping, and other areas where build up can occur and clean with soft artist brush if necessary. We do not recommend thinning all your dye at one time. Pour it all into the container, stir, pour ½ back, and thin only as much as you need. Clean your equipment with soap and hot water.
There is a wonderful detailed article on our website by Mike Charness outlining his Conooly leather redye on his Ferrari. Mike redyed his Ferrari about 15 years ago, and it is still winning shows. Mike chose the blotting technique for his leather dye application as his leather was not polished smooth as Connolly leather in Rolls Royce and Bentley is, but rather is more casual and was left in a highly grained state. Mike wanted to maintain the grain, so the blotting technique allowed him to work the dye into the leather and maintain all the grain. This is a wonderful technique, and if you are good at it, also provides wonderful results.
3. Final step to beautifully restored and recolored leather hides
Allow project to remain untouched for 48 hours, as dye will be fragile. This curing time is important, as it allows the new dye to bond and conform to all the fibers and pores of the hide to become permanent rather than sit on top. Then with a very soft, lint free cloth, you may buff the Leather Surface to a natural luster. If you have any brush strokes or imperfections, they can be buffed out with fine 1000 grit dry sandpaper. For regular maintenance, wipe gently with a soft cloth and Prestine Clean to help extend the life and beauty of your leather.
Extra protection of your leather in sports cars
Some cars, like Ferrari, Porsche, Corvette are so low slung, that it is natural to abrade the finish as you slid in and out. Many customers like an application of Klear Kote, especially on these high wear areas to help protect them from abrasion. Jeans, cords, chinos can be like 600 grit sand paper against a fine leather finish, and the Klear Kote will offer additional protection to these wear panels.
Important notes on color change of leather hides
Doing color change on automotive leather is very normal and is done regularly. When a drivers seat begins to wear due to neglect, an affordable repair is to buy a good condition seat from a salvage yard. Rarely will the seat be the correct color. By doing a leather color change on the replacement seat, it will fit nicely into your car’s original color scheme.
When doing a leather color change, prepping is the most important step. Because leather is surface dyed, you will be able to remove a good portion of the original finish without creating suede, and redye the leather the color of your choice. By prepping and breaking down the original finish, your redye will look natural and new, not heavy and artificial.
A chemical reaction occurs between the harsh uv rays of the sun, and the dirt, perspiration, and oils that settle on your steering wheel from regular use. Doing the Rejuvenator and Prestine Clean step prior to the redye is important to extend the life of the leather on the steering wheel and expel all the impurities that settle there. All the steps for redye are the same, including prepping and redye. Steering wheels typically have a Klear Kote protection on them, and it is important to replace this finish with a application of Leatherique Klear Kote.
You are not alone as you are working on your project. We are available for technical assistance by phone or email.
Please call toll free 877-395-3366 or email to email@example.com.