Having to deal with scratches on leather furniture can be a heartbreaking situation.
You’ve spent a lot of money on a leather sofa, chair, or loveseat, and a silly accident or an unruly pet ends up causing damage that just stands out like a sore thumb.
In these situations, there are two mistakes you can make.
The first one is to rush to an upholstery repair service, and the second is to just try and cover up the scratch with shoe polish.
Instead, take a moment to assess the leather and the scratch, and then follow our advice on how to best deal with it.
Identify The Type Of Leather Finish
The first thing you need to do is identify exactly what type of material and finishing touches you’re dealing with for your leather sofa or chair.
If there’s no label on the back or underside, then you can contact the furniture manufacturer to find out.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll cover the most common types and how they are repaired differently.
Full Grain Leather
This is one of the highest quality leathers you can buy, and the good news is that it maintains the toughest outer layer called the grain.
It’s good news because it takes a lot to penetrate through this layer, and scratches will likely be just to the surface.
Secondly, it’s quite possible that the manufacturer applied an aniline or semi-aniline dye, which penetrates deep into the lower layers of the hide.
That means that even deeper scratches shouldn’t become too visible if you take some protective actions.
Top Grain Leather
Top grain leather making involves a process that removes the outer grain layer to get rid of some of the natural imperfections.
While that might make it more prone to scratching, in most cases, manufacturers apply a protective layer that they spray or roll on.
That synthetic layer acts as a tough barrier and should reduce the severity of scratches.
The more important question will be what kind of color finishing was applied. In some cases, manufacturers use an aniline approach where the dye soaks deep into the leather. But other times, it’s sprayed on pigmentation, which might make scratches slightly more obvious.
If you have leather furniture made of faux or bonded leather, then you’re going to have trouble when it comes to scratches. The outer layers of these materials are very thin, and even a small scratch will penetrate and become very visible.
These are also very difficult to repair, and in many cases, it’s impossible to remove scratches.
While suede is a less common material for furniture, it’s also important to note that scratches might be less visible but also very difficult to remove without professional equipment.
Assess The severity Of The Scratches
The first thing you need to do is assess the scratched area of the leather sofa.
The actions you end up taking to fix it heavily depend on how deep the scratches are. And if there are multiple scratches, for example, from a cat’s claws, then you have to take the time to look at every single one.
Minor Surface Scratches
A minor scratch should only have caused damage to the thin layer at the very top of the leather furniture. In most cases, this is a synthetic protective layer, and if you have top or full grain leather furniture, then it’s possible that you’ll get away lightly.
If you have a magnifying glass, then take a closer look and if you can verify that it’s only a light scratch, then jump to the next section for some easy fixes using household items.
Small But Deep Scratches
If it’s not only the coating that got damaged, then the next step would be to try and measure how deep the scratch is.
With full-grain leather, you might still be in luck as even a deep scratch may not fully penetrate through the tougher outer grain fibers.
But if you can get a fingernail down into the scratch or measure it at more than a mil, you’ll need to take some additional steps to get the best results.
It’s still not a total disaster, and you may be able to fix it without having to replace the scratched section.
Torn Leather Scratches
This is the worst thing you can face on leather chairs and sofas. Even if the scratch is only about an inch long, if the leather is ripped all the way through, then you’ll need to call for professional help.
I wouldn’t recommend trying to do DIY stitching or a glue fix, as the results will likely be noticeable.
Dealing With Different Types Of Scratches
So, you’ve assessed the scratches, and the leather isn’t torn. These helpful tips will give you some significant improvements.
Step 1: Clean The Surface
Get a soft cloth and some rubbing alcohol to clean any obvious dirt off the surface of the leather furniture.
If you have a general leather cleaner, then you can use that as well.
Step 2: Apply Oil
My top recommendation is to use some regular olive oil. It’s a 100% natural substance, and I find that olive oil tends to soak into the leather and scratches much more easily.
Rub it in a circular motion, and make sure you also apply it to the surrounding area. Leave it to soak in for a couple of hours, and then wipe away any excess olive oil with a dry cotton cloth.
Step 3: Rub In Lanolin Oil
In some cases, the olive oil will solve the problem of minor scratches, but if you can still see it, then you’ll need to apply more oil.
This time, use some lanolin cream and apply it the same way you did in step 2. Just make sure you test it on a section of leather that isn’t visible before you start this repair step.
Step 4: Draw Out The Oil
Next, use a damp cotton cloth and press it down on the area covered with lanolin oil.
Then use a hairdryer to blow warm air onto the cloth. But make sure that you don’t let the cloth and leather get hot, so keep the hairdryer a bit further away.
Depending on the type and color of leather, you may need to repeat steps 3 and 4 a couple of times.
Step 5: Apply Shoe Polish
Either find a neutral shoe polish or one in a shade that matches your leather furniture.
You’ll only need to apply a small amount to coat the scratches and buff it into a smooth finish.
Before you do this on the scratched area, test a small amount in an inconspicuous area to make sure the color perfectly matches.
Step 6: Apply Leather Conditioner
And finally, after leaving the shoe polish to dry out for a day, use a moisturizing leather conditioner to buff up the area and make sure it’s fully protected after your quick fix.
Step 1: Prepare The Damage
If you have a deeper scratch on a leather couch or chair, then you first need to prepare the area. Use scissors to remove loose fibers as much as possible, and then switch to fine-grain sandpaper to smooth out the surface.
Step 2: Apply Heavy Leather Filler
Use a dry cloth to apply a heavy filler and gently rub it into the scratches. You need to make sure that the whole scratch is filled, and it may help to use a plastic spatula or a spoon to fully push the filler into the gaps.
Leave it dry for a while, and then use a fresh sheet of fine sandpaper to smooth out the filler.
Step 3: Rub In Leather Color Pigment
You’ll sometimes see this as a leather oil with different pigments, and this step will ensure that the filler color matches the rest of the leather.
Ideally, use a fine and soft sponge and dab the leather colorant onto the scratched area and allow it to soak in. You may need to do this a couple of times to make sure that it’s blended properly.
Step 4: Apply Leather Polish
Finally, use a dry cloth to apply a leather finishing polish to fully protect the area. I would suggest doing this step 3 to 4 times as a previously damaged area will be weaker and more prone to show new scratches.
Using Leather Restoration Kits
Here are a few things that you can buy to help with the above repair processes.
Leather Binder Kits
A leather binder is a liquid solution that you apply in multiple layers on a damaged piece of furniture. Its main goal is to strengthen the damaged leather, which will likely be significantly weaker than before.
Leather Repair Kits
These most often focus on delivering a filler material for more serious damage. They are also suitable for areas of heavy cat scratches, and you can achieve a visually smooth-looking surface again.
Leather Coloring Kits
This is an important thing to use if you’ve had to resort to using a filler.
Once you find the right color pigmentation, you can easily blend the filler in with the surrounding leather, making the damage almost unnoticeable.
Taking The Right Approach To Leather Scratch Repair
When you’ve invested a lot of money in a leather couch, loveseat, or chair, then any kind of damage can be heartbreaking.
And the more visible a scratch is, the more you’ll want to take immediate and drastic actions.
But if you take the time to research and plan the repair, then you’ll have a much better chance to make sure your furniture looks great again.
Try out the above steps for yourself. And if the damage is more severe, then call for professional help to avoid doing more damage than good.