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How to dye faux leather

Updated April 17, 2017

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.

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

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

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

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

  10. 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.

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

  12. Tip

    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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Things You'll 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

About the Author

Jennifer Van Leigh

Jennifer Van Leigh began writing short pieces in 2007. With over five years in the hair industry, Van Leigh has contributed articles at Atlanta Salon & Spa and is certified as an extensions stylist. She studied scriptwriting and creative nonfiction in Gallery 37, a Chicago youth arts program.

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