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Repair A Scratch In Your Leather Sofa Like A Pro

Often, the difference between an amateur repair and a professional repair is

having access to professional supplies and knowing the tricks of the trade. This

is absolutely true in leather repair, where having the wrong supplies can result in

making an absolute mess of your leather upholstery. Home remedies like olive

oil, milk, and shoe polish and saddle soap will eventually cause your leather to

rot and smell. Trying to match your furniture’s color using the repair products

available at the home store will make a scratch look worse, not better. In this

article I’ll share with you where to find the right products to repair scuffs and

scratches in your leather, and a few tips to ensure a successful repair.

First, Identify the Leather

Upholstery leather comes in many different types and finishes. If you are not

sure about how your sofa/chair leather is finished, lift up a seat cushion and look

for the tag that lists the cleaning code . The code will be A for Aniline leather, P

for Protected leather, and N for Nubuck leather. Automobile upholstery is

exposed to extremes of heat, cold, and sunlight, so it is always heavily finished

“P”, or Protected leather. You will use different repair methods for each type of

leather.

Second, Identify the Damage

Finishing leather is very similar to finishing wood: the raw material is stained and

then a topcoat is applied. Damage to the clear topcoat wherein no color is

removed is described as a scuff. A scratch is damage that goes through the

clear topcoat and the color coat and exposes the raw leather. Cuts, burns, tears

and rips are more serious damage and require more serious repair than scuffs

and scratches; those repairs are beyond the scope of this article.

Repairing Scuffs in Leather Upholstery

Soft, natural Aniline leathers are finished with wax. To repair a scuff in Aniline

leather, all you need to do is redistribute the wax. This is done by warming the

leather with a hair dryer and rubbing your hand over the scuffed area. Use just

enough heat to warm up the leather.

Most upholstery leather is P, or protected leather. Protected leather is always

painted; sometimes it is dyed through and then painted, and then topped with a

clear coat of water-based lacquer. Scuffs occur when the lacquer top coat is

damaged. Occasionally, scuffs can be buffed out using a good quality leather

cream and a rag. If that doesnt work, then topcoat will have to be re-applied.

Re-apply the topcoat by lightly misting the affected area with clear nitrocellulose

or acrylic lacquer, which can be purchased in a spray can at your local home

store. Make sure the sheen is correct; test the spray in an inconspicuous area.

Spray in short bursts; do not soak the area. Apply the lacquer in thin layers. Be

sure the leather surface is clean and allow the lacquer to dry thoroughly between

applications.

How to Repair Scratches in Leather Upholstery

Scratches will pass through the leather’s topcoat and color coat and expose the

raw leather underneath. If color is removed, chances are you have protected

leather; Aniline and Nubuck leathers are through-dyed and a scratch would not

remove color. To repair a scratch, the damage must be re-colored. The key to

successfully repairing protected leather is to have a color that matches your

upholstery perfectly A perfect match is only possible with a custom-formulated,

computerized color match.

The largest manufacturer of leather and vinyl coloring products in the United

States is a company called SEM. SEM paints are are formulated for use with

protected leathers; they are flexible and if applied correctly will not split or peel

as the leather flexes. Many leather repair professionals purchase SEM products

online from Vinyl Pro of Western PA http://www.vinylpro.com . Vinyl Pro has a

computer color matching service; simply send them a swatch of your leather.

When you order your custom-matched color, order it in an aerosol sprayer.

Where to Find a Leather Swatch

To find a swatch, turn your furniture upside down and pull part of the black dust

cover from the bottom of the chair/sofa, or look under your car seat. With a razor

knife, cut a bit of leather from behind the staple line. You’ll need about one

square inch of leather in order to match the color.

How to Make the Repair

Fortunately for leather repair technicians, cowhides are often flawed. Cows get

scratched by barbed wire, stung by bees and bitten by mosquitoes. All of these

will leave scars on a hide. All that needs to be done to repair a scratch is to re-

color it; it will look natural enough without filling and graining. If the edges of the

scratch are rough, carefully trim the loose edges with a razor knife and sand

slightly with 400 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper. Clean the area well with denatured

alcohol. If the scratch is deep, use an artists brush or foam brush to dab some of

the color into the scratch. Wipe any excess paint from the edges with a Q-tip; be

sure to get all of the excess paint from the grain. Dry the paint with a hair dryer.

When you are satisfied that the scratch is adequately filled and the dabbed paint

is dry, spray the area using the aerosol sprayer filled with your custom color.

Spray using short, quick, misting bursts, and feather the edges out slightly from

the scratch.

With these few tricks of the trade and professional quality supplies, you will be

able to make professional-looking repairs to your scratched and scuffed leather

upholstery.