Design Q&A: How to repair a leather couch

Leather couch needs a face-lift before the holidays

I am expecting lots of company this holiday season, and my leather couch isn't up to the task. Short of buying all new, do you have any tips on how I can hide or repair the damage? Should I just throw a sheet over it?

The people at Fibrenew, which specializes in the repair and restoration of leather, offer this advice:

Don't use any products that contain alcohol or acetone. Alcohol seeps into and damages the protective surface of furniture leather. Acetone will remove the dye and color from leather.

Be sure to use products designed for upholstery. Leather used for shoes, jackets and clothing is very different than that used in furniture.

Only use products designed for the type of leather you have. Most furniture is made of aniline, semi-aniline or fully finished leather. Because of the differences in finish, it is very important to use only products designed for the leather you have.

Dying leather is a highly specialized art. Professionals receive extensive training on color matching and dying, and it's not at all likely that any DIY dye kit will produce very good results. So, be very careful with these products — test them on a part of the furniture that no one will ever see before you use it on the visible part of the piece.

Stay away from products that say they are for multiple surfaces, even if one of those surfaces is leather. Most of the time, these products contain elements that will damage leather. It is best to stick with products made specifically for leather.

Also, there are lots of people out there who have heard old wives' tales about household products to use on leather, such as olive oil, baby wipes or household cleaners. These don't work and can ruin your leather furniture. People also try using fingernail polish remover, shoe polish and window cleaner, among other things, to work on damaged leather. All of these options can cause major damage to your leather down the road.

Susan Reimer

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