How to Dye a Leather Couch
Changing the Color of a Leather Couch With Stain
If your favorite leather couch could use a makeover, consider dyeing it to change or revamp its color. Maybe the color of the leather has faded over time, or maybe you’re just looking to refresh your living room without getting rid of furniture. Either way, this is the DIY for you, as the cost to change the color of your leather sofa is minimal. Plus, dyeing your sofa a new color can transform your room, giving your space a brand-new vibe.
The color of your leather doesn’t matter much here. You can transform a black sofa to a white one, or vice versa. The best part is that this project requires just a few easy-to-find supplies, a little time, and some elbow grease. Just be sure to wear gloves and follow other important safety guidelines along the way. You'll be amazed by the before and after results of dyeing your leather couch.
Before You Begin
Applying dye to a dirty couch will cause uneven coloring. Additionally, waxes and oils on the couch surface will cause adhesion problems when the dye is applied. So before you dive into this project, make sure your couch is squeaky clean and adequately prepped for the process.
If your couch isn't pristine or brand new, clean the leather gently with warm, soapy water and a microfiber cloth or, alternatively, use a special leather cleaning solution. You can find leather cleaning solutions at most home improvement or home goods stores. Follow the product’s instructions to get the best results.
When cleaning, prioritize the cushions. Those typically see the most use and likely contain more dirt and oils than the back or sides of the couch.
Once you’ve wiped the couch down with soap and water to get rid of excess dirt, go over it again with an alcohol wipe. The alcohol will further remove excess oils as well as any silicones and waxes that aren’t soluble in solvents. Wait for the alcohol to dry before dyeing the leather—about half an hour.
Choosing Leather Dye
If you choose to dye your leather couch a different color, it's important to know what kind of dye works best. There are several different types of dyes available: alcohol-based dyes, oil-based dyes, and water-based dyes. The best dye for a sofa is an oil-based dye. Oil-based dyes penetrate fully, while still allowing the leather to maintain its supple feel. Water-based dyes are the second best option, as they have less rub-off potential than alcohol-based dyes, which can also stiffen your leather.
The amount of dye you need will depend on the product you're using and the condition of the leather. Worn and dry leather may take up to six thin coats of dye, Make sure you dry each coat between applications, and refer to the product's label for coverage.
Wear latex or plastic protective gloves whenever you come into contact with dye or other chemicals involved in this DIY to protect your hands. You should also avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and other sensitive areas to prevent chemical-related injuries.
If you’re working near kids or pets, keep chemical containers closed at all times. Kids and pets love to get up close and personal with everything, especially if it has a scent (as dyes do), so keeping the containers closed will prevent any accidents from happening.
Work in a well ventilated area during this project. The chemicals involved will release fumes, which could cause dizziness when breathed in. Working outside or in a room with open windows and doors to the outside will prevent fumes from accumulating and keep chemical concentrations low.
Wear gloves and avoid touching sensitive body parts when working with chemicals, like leather dye and sealant. If you accidentally get chemicals on you, wash them off as quickly as possible and seek medical attention if needed.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Cloth or applicator sponge
- Spray gun or airbrush
- Hair dryer (optional)
- Sandpaper or wool dauber
- Leather dye
- Leather oil
- Leather sealant
How to Dye a Leather Couch
Sand Leather Down
This step is important for worn leather or leather that you’re dyeing from a dark color to a light color. Use sandpaper or a wool dauber and gently rub the leather to remove any old dye. Sanding it down will better allow the dye to absorb and color the leather.
This step isn’t absolutely necessary if you’re working with a light-colored leather couch that’s in relatively good condition with little to no cracks or otherwise damaged spots.
Apply Leather Oil
Use your clean applicator cloth or sponge to apply a thin layer of leather oil to the surface of your couch, making sure each nook and cranny is coated. Covering the leather with a small layer of oil will allow it to evenly absorb the dye.
Apply One Layer of Dye
Put on your gloves to protect your hands and shake your dye bottle to make sure everything is mixed properly. Then, use your cloth or applicator sponge to apply the first layer of dye to the leather. Pour a small amount of the dye onto your applicator and gently apply it to a small area to test it before covering large sections of the couch.
Testing it on a small spot first allows you to see if the color matches what you had in mind and lets you decide if you want to move forward or switch to a different dye color. If everything looks good, keep applying the dye. Apply light pressure to the surface with your dye and applicator, being careful not to leave streaks of excess dye. You can remove the cushions and do those separately to make the process easier.
Dry the Dye
Once you’ve finished applying one coat of dye to the entire leather couch, it’s time to let it dry. The dye will dry naturally in a few hours, but you can use a hair dryer to speed things up. Using the hair dryer to quickly spot dry areas of the dyed leather will also prevent the dye from pooling up or streaking, which can cause unsightly stains.
Allowing the couch to dry in a well-ventilated area will also make the process go faster. Plus, working in a ventilated area, like a garage or open-air room, will prevent you from breathing in hazardous fumes.
Apply another coat of dye to the entire leather surface, following the process outlined in step three. You don’t need to apply any more leather oil at this point, but try to avoid streaks of excess dye, which can cause inconsistent coloring and lengthen the drying time.
As you did in step four, allow the dye you just applied to completely dry before moving forward. Again, you can either allow it to dry on its own or use a blow dryer (or a combination of both techniques).
You can even leave it to dry overnight if preferred. That method may cause the project to take longer, but it might work better for you and your lifestyle. If you go that route, just be sure to keep the drying area off-limits from others and where it can’t be ruined by the elements. Rain will cause damage.
Repeat the process of applying dye and letting it dry as many as five times. The more layers you add, the longer the dye will last and the more enhanced the color will be.
When dyeing dark leather a lighter color, more layers may be necessary to get the look just right. Additionally, more layers may hide any issues that occurred earlier on in the dyeing process, like accidental dye streaks or stains.
Apply Leather Sealant
Clean and dry your applicator cloth or sponge before pouring a small amount of leather sealant solution onto it. Then, gently use the applicator to spread a layer of sealant over the dyed leather, being careful to evenly coat every area of leather. The sealant essentially finishes the dyeing process, preventing the transfer of the dye onto your clothes and protecting the leather from fading. Once you finish applying the sealant to the entire couch, allow it to dry for about an hour.
The project is done when the sealant dries. Feel free to move the piece back into your living room (or wherever it belongs) and voila! It looks as good as new.
Why is my leather dye rubbing off?
Leather dye can rub off for several reasons: First, it's possible you applied too much dye in the process. Second, if you used an alcohol dye that dries quickly, it can lead to rub-off. Lastly, a water-based dye with a water-based sealant can also lead to rub-off.
How do you maintain dyed leather?
After dying a leather couch, apply a waxed-based leather conditioner to rehydrate the leather. Treat the leather with a conditioner every few months to help maintain its suppleness.
How can you darken leather naturally?
To darken your leather couch without dying it out, apply mink oil or neatsfoot oil to the leather, working it into the couch in a circular motion with a horsehair brush.