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How do you recolor a leather couch?

Recoloring a leather couch can completely transform the look of your furniture and refresh your space. While dyeing leather is not necessarily beginner DIY territory, with the right supplies, patience, and techniques, you can change your leather from drab to fab. Here’s a step-by-step guide to recoloring a leather couch.

Assess the Current Color

Before deciding on a new color, take a close look at the original shade of your leather. Is it still in good condition or is the color faded and uneven? Faded or damaged leather will need extra conditioning before applying dye. If the original color is still vibrant, you may be able to apply dye right over it.

Choose a Dye

There are a few dye options when recoloring leather:

  • Leather dye – Specifically formulated for use on leather, comes in many colors.
  • Fabric dye – Can be used but may not penetrate as deeply.
  • Acrylic paint – Provides opacity but less flexibility.

Leather dye is the best choice for most leather recoloring projects. Pick a reputable brand and opt for a color at least 2-3 shades darker than your desired hue. The dye will appear lighter on the leather than in the bottle.

Prep the Leather

Properly preparing the surface is crucial for maximum dye absorption. Here are the key steps:

  1. Clean the leather thoroughly with a leather cleaner or mild soap and water. Rinse away all residue.
  2. Rub leather conditioner into the surface. This nourishes the leather and opens the pores.
  3. Buff the conditioner in until no longer greasy. Wipe away any excess.
  4. Deglaze the surface using denatured alcohol on a cloth to remove any remaining finishes or waxes.

The leather should now be ready to accept dye evenly across the surface.

Set Up Your Workspace

Dyeing leather can get messy, so protect your floors, walls, and furniture. Lay down plastic drop cloths, tape down garbage bags, or work outside if possible. Wear old clothes and gloves. Have paper towels, rags, leather cleaner, and denatured alcohol on hand to quickly wipe up any spills.

Apply the Dye

It’s time to apply the leather dye. Follow the product instructions carefully. Here are some general tips:

  • Stir or shake the dye thoroughly before each application.
  • Use a sponge, lint-free cloths, or disposable paintbrush to apply a thin, even coat.
  • Work in small sections starting at the seams and moving toward the centers.
  • Apply with the leather grain, brushing in a constant direction.
  • Maintain a wet edge as you work to prevent lap marks and uneven coverage.
  • Allow the dye to penetrate 5-10 minutes before wiping away excess.

Leather will require multiple coats to achieve full, even coverage. Wait at least 2 hours between coats. Apply 3-4 thin coats for best results.

Achieve Full Coverage

Certain areas like seams, scratches, and edges often absorb more dye and can appear darker. Use these strategies for flawless, full coverage:

  • Apply extra dye to the seams to prevent darker lines.
  • Feather out dye pooling in scratches and cracks.
  • Run dye-soaked cloths along edges and creases to build up color.
  • Apply final coats only to lighter spots to even out the surface.

Seal and Protect

Once the leather is evenly dyed, seal in the color with a leather finish. Options include:

Sealer Benefits
Leather finish – Penetrates and preserves leather
Acrylic finisher – Provides protective top coat
Wax polish – Adds shine and water resistance

Apply 2-3 thin, even coats with a clean cloth, allowing each to dry completely. Avoid over-saturation to prevent stickiness or cracks. Buff gently between coats for a smooth surface.

Allow Time to Cure

After sealing, allow the leather to cure for at least 72 hours before sitting or placing anything on the surface. The dye and sealer need time to fully bond. Keep kids and pets away during this time. One week is ideal for a complete cure.

Maintenance Tips

To get the longest lasting results from your leather recoloring project:

  • Use leather protector to prevent stains and fading.
  • Wipe away spills immediately to prevent discoloration.
  • Avoid direct sunlight which can cause the dye to fade prematurely.
  • Rotate cushions regularly to evenly distribute wear and color.


With the right supplies and techniques, you can give your leather couch an amazing makeover by recoloring it yourself. Prep the surface thoroughly, apply leather dye in thin, even layers, seal the color with a protective finish, and allow plenty of time to cure. Maintain that refreshed look by caring for your dyed leather properly. Get ready to fall in love with your “new” leather couch!