Friday, May 7, 2010

Re-dye of a Free Leather Chair

     Have you ever in your excitement totally forgotten to do something that was critical to the project in the first place?  Well, I did it.  I was so excited to try my first attempt at re-dying leather that I forgot the most important thing for this posting- the BEFORE picture!  Arghh. I was so gun-ho and excited that I spaced out.  I found this lovely Barkelounger leather recliner next to someone's trash on "large item disposal day." In general I don't like recliners, but this one had nice, classic lines, gorgeous rolled arms, nail head trim and leather going for it. I had just that morning seen someone on blogland post about  their re-dye of a chair.  I pulled off the road, backed up, jumped out, looked the chair over, even stuck my nose to it to see if it smelled like leather and didn't smell like anything else!  I found that all the mechanics were in perfect shape and so loaded her up ( I trully have no shame anymore at grabbing from people's trash! Sorry, Mom, you tried to raise me right.)
       A few bruises later, I had her home.  I cleaned her up with some Ivory soap and let it dry.  In the meantime, I researched!
I found a leather supply store (one of the biggest) not 20 minutes from my home!!! I hauled in the cushion and asked the nice guy there to verify that 1. it was leather and 2. that I could re-dye it and 3.his recommendations of how to do it. I learned that you have to be sure that your furniture is indeed leather or aniline leather (different types of dyes would be used depending on which leather you have.)

This is what I did:

While this is not my couch, this is what it looked like before (no kidding):

and this:

See those faded spots, cracked areas and bum and head-faded spots?  That's what this chair had.
I cleaned it with a soft rag and warm water and dove soap.  I got all the cracks and edges free of dust.
I didn't use a leather cleaner, but next time I would try this to see if I can get more of the darkened areas out (presumably from people's hair resting against the cushions.)
I then chose to use a very thin dye from Fiebingers called "chocolate."
I bought a 32 oz bottle and only used half of it, doing almost 3 coats! I believe it was only $8 for that bottle.
If I'd had a compressor spray gun, I would have applied the dye with that. Since I didn't, I used this handy little product:

Basically it's just an aerosal-type can that you place your dye in the jar and attach it to the Preval spry applicator.  Then all you have to do is lightly spray!  I had to be sure to get in the grooves and wrinkles of the chair.  BE SURE to wear thick plastic gloves or you'll be stained for a long time!  I forgot about my toes peeking through my sandals and had a very weird faux tan look for a week! I found I occaisionally got a run of dye that I tried to wipe up quickly with a rag. I used the rag to apply a bit of dye in the wrinkles where the spray wasn't getting.
I went over the chair almost three times to use up the whole can of Preval.  I was so worried it might not do the whole chair, but I was fine!
Now at this stage, the chair actually looked pretty bad.  You couldn't see the fade and grease marks as well, but the leather looked so dry and uneven.  I put my faith in the process and kept my fingers crossed (and hey, the chair was free!  Worse case scenario it goes back in the trash!)
Wait a full 48 hours for the dye to absorb and dry.  I then buffed and buffed with many soft rags to get the excess dye off that didn't absorb. You really have to do this step or you might end up with dye on your clothes! Even then, he said you may not want to sit down on the chair in really light clothing for a little while until you're sure you got it all! Once my rags were coming off clean, I applied this was rejuvenator and sealant recommended by the guy at the shop:

This is where the real magic happened and this old chair was brought back to life!  I rubbed this balm generously all over the chair.  She started to shine and the tones evened out nicely. There are other sprays and finishers for really high-wear areas, but the guy at the shop said this would keep the leather more supple. He recommended putting rejuvenator on once a year to keep the hide soft. I can still see some flaws underneath and a slightly darker patch on the headrest. 

 The cushion was soo faded before but now it looks like new!


The original leather color can be seen on the little sample here under the cushion:
In person, the leather is really a deep maroon color now. I guess "chocolate dye" plus the original orange-y color yeilded this deep maroon!


  Overall, I'd say it was a successful experiment and I'd do it again!  Since I can still see the area on the headrest, next time I'd spend a little more on a product to de-grease the leather first and I bet that it'd look closer to new.
It's funny, in person you really don't see the dark area on the headrest so clearly as in the photo. The leather has a lot of shadows naturally so it doesn't show as much. I still wish I'd tried a degreaser first. I may still go and get some dye in black and go over it again.  Who knows?
 I might even get a stain sprayer for our air compressor if I attempt a couch.  Overall I spent a bit under $30 (with dye and rejuvinator left over) for a very nice leather chair for the basement and a few days of fun trying something new! A chair was saved from the dumps and given a new chance at life!  Love it!


  1. Wow...I never knew a product like that existed. What a wonderful way to bring an old leather couch back to life. Thanks for sharing your honest take on the process.

  2. Very informative. I love old leather. Now that I know what to do, I'll be on the lookout for a piece to try this on! Your chair turned out great.

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