Soft vinyl fabric is typically made from canvas fibres coated in a layer of vinyl plastic. This form of faux leather is often used for car seats, tables, chairs and other furniture pieces. Over time, the vinyl may harden and become stiff due to factors such as heat, sunlight and hardened dirt or grease. You can use a combination of vinyl cleaner and mineral oil to soften the vinyl and make it usable once more.
Vinyl softens due to age and contaminants that get on the surface of the vinyl. To soften the vinyl, you will need several supplies. A vinyl surface cleaner will help clean the vinyl and start the initial softening process. A soft-bristle brush and soft work cloths will also help clean the vinyl. Purchase a clear mineral oil to use to soften the vinyl so that you do not accidentally stain the surface of the vinyl.
Work on the vinyl in a shady area on a moderately warm day. You don't want the cleaner or oil to evaporate too quickly in the sun or extreme heat. Clean the vinyl with soft cloths, vinyl cleaner and a soft bristle brush. This will loosen the vinyl, get the back fabric slightly wet and remove any old grease or dirt that is causing the vinyl to stiffen. Allow the vinyl to dry completely before applying the oil. Work the mineral oil into the surface of the oil with a soft cloth. Work the oil into the vinyl until it becomes soft and supple. Wipe away any excess oil.
How it Works
Vinyl stiffens over time due to the lack of moisture and presence of substances that cause it to stiffen. Even the dye used to colour vinyl can harden over time. Adding oil to the vinyl relaxes the fibres behind the vinyl and helps the vinyl become soft and flexible again. The oil also seals the pores of the vinyl, making it much harder for the vinyl to dry out and turn brittle again.
Mineral oil is not the only thing that can make vinyl soft again. Many automotive supply stores and home improvement stores sell specific vinyl softeners and cleaners that can help return vinyl fabric to its original feel and texture. Look on the leather care aisles to locate these vinyl cleaners. Some leather oils will also work with vinyl. However, it is important to take care not to use too many products on vinyl, or the surface will remain greasy.