How To Restore An Aniline Leather Lounge

Aniline leather lounges are beautiful to look at and luxurious to touch. They are generally more expensive and more vulnerable to damage than other lounges. Over time, aniline leather lounges tend to fade especially if situated in a light-drenched room or by a window. This is because the dyes used to colour the leather are not UV stable. Unlike pigmented leather, they are not finished with protective coatings and are therefore vulnerable to marks and stains. Their once luminous colour can take on a greyish tone and after years of use, they can be spotted with marks, stains and greasy patches; far from their original beauty.

And yet, because anilines are usually full-grain leather, they remain strong and viable. Restoration works can provide a way of rejuvenating the colour, covering the stains and giving the lounges a new lease on life.

The aniline group includes unfinished and semi-finished leathers. Often, the colour you see comes predominantly from dyes rather than pigments (paints). The exception is semi-anilines which can have minimal transparent pigments or pigments as well as dyes in a protective finish.

Aniline leathers can be 100% unfinished or lightly coated with colour and topcoats

Restoring: The Trade-Off

To cover stains and re-balance uneven colour, the opaque characteristics of leather pigment/paint are needed. Translucent aniline dyes can be added to the pigments to create an all-in-one semi-aniline effect. Whilst this approach adds coatings to the surface that were not there when new, the resulting finish is cohesive, chroma-rich and gives a pleasing semi-aniline look. In essence, the leather will transform from unfinished to finished, from unprotected to protected, from aniline to pigmented. This is the trade-off between correcting years of wear and tear and changing the finish on the leather.

Leather Hero offers 2 ways to restore an aniline lounge;

  1. Full refinishing; a solid, painted finish, using a Leather Repair Kit
  2. A semi-opaque finish using an Aniline Dye and Colour Restoration Kit

Option 1 is not a popular choice for this group because it covers the natural features of the leather more than is usually desired. Having said that, it is possible and can produce excellent results.

Comparing Kits

Large Leather Repair Kit - Leather Hero
Large Repair Kit
Leather Hero Aniline Dye Stain & Colour Cream Kit
Dye Stain & Colour Restoration Kit

This kit contains a surface prep, primer, leather colourant and topcoat plus other components. Colours can be a solid monochromatic shade or an aniline shade that is a blend of pigments and dyes. It enables full refinishing which gives full coverage and usually, optimum durability. (Keep in mind that durability is most closely linked to the condition of the leather). Using this system enables a complete change of colour if desired. You can go lighter or darker, use a solid colour or an aniline blend.

The kit contains surface prep, aniline dye stain and colour restoration cream. The dye stain boosts and balances faded dyes and creates a more even base tone. The colour restoration cream contains a blend of pigments, dyes and resins. Coverage can be sheer or almost complete, depending on the number of coats applied. Balancing the vibrant translucency of dyes with the opaque coverage offered by pigments, it lightly conceals marks whilst allowing the beauty of the natural leather to shine through. It is best to stay very close to the original colour although it can also work to go slightly darker if the camouflaging of stains is a high priority. It is hardwearing but may not be as durable as full refinishing in high wear areas. Refreshing worn coatings is, however, easier.

When new, semi-aniline leathers can have a mottled bi-tone or tri-tone finish. This is painted effect using advanced techniques. It can be replicated using a base colour, accent colour and tinted topcoat using a spray gun. In most cases, it’s not a DIY project so we will not cover it in this article.

So, Which Kit Is Best?

Both kits have merit when restoring aniline leathers. The choice comes down to your preferences and priorities. We often find the Leather Hero Dye Stain and Colour Restoration Kit gives great results, sympathetic to the characteristics of aniline leather. Whilst it may not cover stains 100%, it can also be applied so that it doesn’t completely block out the natural look and feel of the leather. As a DIY kit, we like that it gives you the ability to easily refresh coatings as needed. We also like the way the layering of the dye staining under the colour cream creates depth and luminous richness to the colour and finish.

The 2 systems give similar results but with subtle differences.

When would a Dye Stain and Colour Restoration Cream Kit be a suitable choice?

  • When a semi-transparent finish is desired
  • When there are greasy stains and you don’t mind if they are only subtly blended rather than fully covered
  • When a quick and easy solution is a priority
  • When you want to restore the original colour or one that is slightly darker (than the original one)
  • When you are up for a periodic refresh on high wear areas (say, yearly depending on the amount of use your lounge receives)

When would a Leather Repair Kit be a suitable choice?

  • When stains are problematic and you want to cover them completely
  • When leather filler has been used to repair scratches, tears and holes
  • When you are comfortable with changing the finish to a pigmented one
  • When maximum longevity is a priority
  • When you want to change colour, whether darker or lighter
  • When UV light is abundant and you want to avoid fading. In this case, you would choose a solid monochromatic colour, not an ‘aniline’ colour (because dyes are prone to fading; pigments are not)
This lounge was restored using a Dye Stain & Colour Restoration Cream Kit in a custom mixed ‘aniline’ colour (a blend of dyes and pigments). Greasy marks, natural imperfections and stains were subtly blended but not completely covered. The characteristics of the leather were also, not completely covered.

Greasy Stains

If the leather has darkened with an oily appearance, it may be greasy with hair and body oil that has penetrated through the structure. This compromises both the strength and aesthetics of leather. Cleaning with Spot & Prep (No.4) by Leather Hero may remove grease from the surface but cannot fully reach the oils that are within the fibres. Recolouring is possible but the oils may resurface in time. If this happens, it is easily corrected with a few top-up coats of Colour Restoration Cream.

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Body and hair oil sinks into leather. It’s difficult to remove so prevention is key

Method

If you’ve decided to use a Leather Repair Kit, refer to How To Recolour A Leather Lounge for further information. If you’ve decided to use a Dye Stain and Colour Restoration Kit, read on.

There are 3 main steps to this restoration system

  1. Clean the leather
  2. Stain the leather with dye
  3. Coat with 1 or more layers of Colour Restoration Cream (usually 2-3 coats)

Getting A Feel For It

With each step and each product, we recommend that you start at the back of the lounge. This gives you a chance to familiarize yourself with how your leather receives them.

Clean & Prep

Before colouring, a strong cleaner is needed. Spot & Prep (No.4) by Leather Hero has the power to remove waxes, silicones, heavy soiling, marks and surface grease. A thoroughly clean and prepared surface is key to a lasting colour finish.

Cleaning aniline and semi-aniline leathers can be confusing because the cleaner sinks into the leather immediately and very little soiling is visible on the cleaning cloth. Just the same, it is important to thoroughly clean all areas before commencing colour work as any remaining contaminants can prevent even coverage and compromise the longevity of results.

The cleaning step reveals the true condition of the leather and any original coatings as scratches and porosity show as darker areas.

Dye Stain

Whilst pigments tend to be UV stable, dyes are generally, not. If your once rich tan lounge is now a collection of greys, it because the sun has bleached out the dyes. Luckily, they can be replenished by ‘hand-rubbing’ – the trade term for apply coatings by hand – new dyes into the leather. If you have a spray gun and a suitable workspace, dye stain can also be sprayed on.

Using a shade that is as close as possible to the original colour, the dye stain is sponged onto the leather, one area at a time using firm, uniform strokes. It penetrates into the leather and due to the natural, fibrous nature of leather, there may be irregular absorption of the dye resulting in a variable or somewhat uneven result. Don’t be alarmed. This step is about re-balancing the faded areas with the non-faded areas and about creating a richer base colour, which gives depth the final result. If needed, additional applications can be applied to further strengthen or balance the colour.

If the Dye stain in your kit is more concentrated than your job requires, it can be diluted with water to produce a lighter tint.

Colour Restoration Cream

This is the finishing coat. Both beautiful and practical, it contains resins, pigments and if you’ve chosen an ‘aniline’ colour, it also contains aniline dyes. Like the dye stain, it is sponged on in layers. The colour looks lighter when wet and dries darker. Usually, 2 or 3 coats are sufficient.

STEP 1:

  • Lightly dampen a microfibre cloth
  • Pour on some Spot & Prep (No.4)
  • Working quickly, wipe over all areas
  • Use a brush to agitate soiling from the grain giving extra attention and cleaner to any marks and greasy areas

STEP 2:

  • Load some dye onto the sponge; squeeze to incorporate
  • Apply to one area at a time using uniform strokes
  • Use firm pressure to push the dye into the structure of the leather
  • Allow to dry then determine if or where additional dye is needed

STEP 3:

  • Pour some cream onto the sponge; squeeze to incorporate
  • Apply to one area at a time using uniform strokes
  • For the first coat, work into the grain, seams and crevices and finish with long even strokes or a cross-hatch pattern
  • Allow drying
  • Apply additional coats as needed
  • When dry, an optional step is to buff the coatings

Tips

Cleaning: Don’t worry about stains. They will not come out so there’s no point to saturating the leather or rubbing hard

Dyeing: Don’t worry if the dye coat is not perfectly even. Leather is fibrous and it is inevitable that there will be variable absorption and the occasional sweep mark. Where UV fading has occurred, a second or third application may be needed. If the dye is darker than you want, it can be diluted with water.

Colour Cream: Don’t worry if your first coat is not perfectly even. The second coat works wonders. You can apply Colour Restoration Cream generously for more coverage or in thin coats for a more sheer effect

Support

We are here to answer your questions, whether it’s before you buy or mid-way through your project. Contact us via info@leatherhero.com.au or to 0490 796 012.

Before & After Photos

Don’t forget to take a good set of ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots to compare with your final results. We love to see them too, so please send them to us at info@leatherhero.com.au or to 0490 796 012.

A beautiful aniline leather make-over.

The ‘aniline’ colours within the Leather Hero Colour Restoration Cream range contain:

  • Leather Paints to provide a degree of coverage, concealing blemishes, fading and stains
  • Aniline Dyes to provide a luminous quality to the colour echoing the original dyed or ‘natural leather’ appearance
  • Resins to hold the colour, bond to the surface and provide a protective finish
Colour cream dries darker than when wet. With a couple of coats, coverage becomes even and colour richness builds. The level of shine can be adjusted to your requirements using a Dulling Agent. This colour was custom mixed on site but is very similar to ‘Aniline Ember’ in the colour chart.

Custom blends can be created by leather finishing professionals for your specific needs. For waxed leather, a blend without pigment may be preferable, whilst for heavily marked and stained nubucks, the inclusion of pigments can provide much-needed coverage. This truly is an easy to use colour refreshing system that produces excellent DIY results.

You don’t have to live with a solid yet weary-looking leather lounge occupying the heart of your home. With the right products, you can dramatically improve how it looks whilst extending its viable life. So whether you love the comfort level, don’t want to contribute to landfill or don’t want to splash out on new furniture, this may be your next DIY restoration.

The feedback we’ve received from customers and DIYers says it all. Here are just a few samples:

“My wife REALLY loves me now”

” We’ve decide not to sell the house because the lounge looks so good in it”

“The couch looks absolutely incredible. I am lost for words. My son came home and said “Mum, what did you do?” I said “I found Leather Hero”