How to dye faux leather

Written by jennifer van leigh
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There are many faux leather items on the market today, from couches to shoes. Though faux leather, also known as vinyl or pleather, comes in a variety of colours, you may find yourself with a second-hand jacket that doesn't go with any of your outfits, or a sofa that needs a makeover to go with your renovations. Faux leather pieces large or small can be dyed with air-drying aniline dyes that are made for use on leather and vinyl.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Faux leather item
  • Tarp or dust sheet
  • Gentle detergent (such as Woolite)
  • 4 cups water
  • Bucket
  • 2 clean cloths
  • Blue painters tape
  • Aniline dye
  • Sponge or sponge-style brush
  • Rubber gloves

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    Dyeing Large Items With Aniline Spray

  1. 1

    Prepare your work space. Position the dust sheet on the floor, and centre your faux leather piece on the cloth.

  2. 2

    Dilute 1 tsp gentle detergent in 4 cups of water in a bucket. Dampen a clean cloth in the mixture and clean the surface of your faux leather piece. Allow to air dry.

  3. 3

    Using the blue painters tape, cover any parts of the item that you don't want to dye. Cushion zippers, decorative studs and furniture legs should be covered.

  4. 4

    Put on rubber gloves. Apply the spray dye following the manufacturer's instructions, spraying in smooth even coats. Catch any drips with a clean cloth. Allow to dry.

  5. 5

    Apply additional coats of dye as needed until desired colour is achieved. Your spray product may require a day between applications.

  6. 6

    Remove tape and gently wipe down the faux leather item with a damp cloth.

    Sponge Dyeing for Small Items

  1. 1

    Dilute 1 tsp gentle detergent in 4 cups of water in a bucket. Dampen a clean cloth in the mixture and clean the surface of your faux leather piece, paying special attention to seams. Allow to air dry.

  2. 2

    Place the plastic dust sheet on a flat surface, and centre your small item, exposing the first surface you wish to dye. For example, if you're dyeing a jacket, you may want to do the armpits and underside of the collar first and work on the less detailed surfaces later.

  3. 3

    Put on rubber gloves and prepare the dye according to the manufacturer's instructions.

  4. 4

    Apply the dye by dabbing with a sponge, gently working into detailed areas such as seams. For smoother surfaces, dye can be applied in smooth even coats. Dab any excess with a clean cloth. Allow to air dry.

  5. 5

    Apply additional coats as needed until you've achieved your desired colour effect.

Tips and warnings

  • Always perform a patch test with the aniline dye on a small, hidden part of the faux leather, such as the underside of a cushion or the armpit of a jacket.
  • Faux leather that is white or a light colour offers the widest range of dyeing options. If the original colour is a dark brown or black, keep in mind that the colour change will be minimal or appear highlighted.
  • When dyeing an item like a cushion that you must turn over, set the item on one side, then repeat all the steps on that side after doing the first side.
  • When dyeing a clothing item like trousers, be prepared to dye each part of the item separately so that the legs do not stick together.
  • Spray dyes are a great time saver for large pieces, and brush-on dyes are best for detailed items.
  • Always ensure proper ventilation when using aniline dyes.
  • Always wear rubber gloves when working with any dye to avoid staining your hands or causing a skin reaction.

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