How to restore colour to leather

Updated July 20, 2017

Perhaps you have a fabulous leather coat that you love, but the elbows and collar are fading. Or maybe your sumptuous leather sofa has developed patches of uneven colour. Automobile upholstery may have faded from the sun. Even with the best of care, leather can fade and develop fine crackle lines, leaving a shabby impression. Leather can be recoloured professionally, but this is quite costly. With minimal effort and expense, you can restore leather to its former glory and enjoy it for many more years to come.

Determine what type of leather you are dealing with. Using the wrong products can damage or stain your leather permanently. If you are not sure, contact the manufacturer. There are two basic categories: top coated (finished or protected) leather and naked (aniline, suede or nubuck). Water beads up on top-coated leather. Naked leather stains easily and needs to be handled especially carefully with the proper products.

Buy the leather dye (colour coat) that most closely matches your leather. Have it custom matched if possible, unless the manufacturer sells it premixed. You can usually snip a 2.5-cm (1-inch) piece off the bottom of couches and chairs, but if that is not possible, get a paint chip at the store that closely matches the colour you need to order a custom match.

Clean the leather thoroughly using the appropriate cleaner for your leather, following instructions on the container. Clean the entire piece, not just the areas that need recoloring.

Condition the leather on the entire item.

Apply the leather prep solution to the areas to be recolored, following the instructions on the bottle.

Recolour faded or worn areas according to instructions on the bottle of colour coat. Apply with a sponge and buff out edges with a soft towel.

Protect the entire item with a protective top dressing (waterproofing) to guard the leather from future stains and soil.

Apply UV protectant to prevent future sun damage.


If you cannot snip a small piece of the leather from an inconspicuous area, try matching the colour to a paint chip at a local store. You can then use the chip to order a custom-matched colour coat. Since no dye or colour can penetrate the surface once the leather has originally been finished, it is important to recolor faded areas in a colour closest to the original.

Things You'll Need

  • Leather cleaner
  • Leather conditioner
  • Leather dye--water based colour coat (premixed to your specifications)
  • Leather prep (comes in colour kit)
  • Protective gloves
  • Sponge
  • Soft cloths
  • Leather protective dressing
  • Leather UV protection spray
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About the Author

Wendy Hughes owns a successful small insurance business in California and specializes in employee benefits for small businesses. Although she majored in Combined Social Sciences at University of California, Santa Barbara, her true love is writing. Until recently, her writing focused on website content for