Friday, August 9, 2013

How to Dye or Stain Leather Furniture

Several years ago, Dusty & I were given a hand-me-down sofa from my mother. It is American Signature brand and was a taupe-ish colored leather. The sofa had lived a good life, 6 or so years in her living room and 4 or so in our rec room, so when we started redecorating the room we were torn. The color of the sofa really didn't look good in the room. Tan walls, tan tile, tan sofa? I think not. 
Boomer on the Tan Sofa-- BEFORE!

My husband really wanted a darker color but we hated to discard such a good piece (plus we didn't have the funds to purchase a new piece). He said to me "why don't you dye it?" and I thought he was crazy... turns out its not only completely possible but its EASY!! So, here is how you do it:

  • First of all, I think this probably only works if the item in question is genuine leather. Bonded leather, I don't know about.
  • Order your supplies. I ordered online from and received my goodies in around 2 days. If you can't wait, I know that Tandy's Leather shops also sell this brand. 
  • You will need Deglazer, Dye, and a Finish. I used 32 oz fiebing's deglazer, 32 oz professional oil dye in walnut, and 32oz tan kote finish
  •  I used Fiebing's deglazer in the 32oz size for this project. The 32 oz was fine, but if I were to do it again I might double up.
  •  I have also read that you could use straight acetone but the fiebing's really isn't that expensive so I figured, why risk it? 
  • The deglazer removes dirt, body oils, and any existing finish that is on your sofa. We were AMAZED at how easily it all came off. It prepares your surface to accept the dye, so your leather will have an almost suede-like texture when you're finished. Apply the deglazer evenly but don't scrub. We started out using old socks, but switched to some left over felt I had and this worked well.
  • Next is the dye application. I used Fiebings professional oil dye in Walnut I purchased 32 oz of this as well, and could have easily gotten by with about 1/3 the dye. 
  • We used the felt again for this and it worked well. It is a good idea to use an old spray bottle of water to mist your leather as you apply the dye- it does help the dye go on more evenly. Use broad strokes.
  • I did a first coat, the a second coat mainly to even out the color an hour later

The sofa after 2 coats of dye
  • We then left the sofa in the garage overnight to dry. I am not really sure if this is necessary but I didn't want to risk smearing the dye with the finish. 
  • The next morning we applied the finish. I used Tan-kote . There are a lot of finishes available if you want a glossier finish or what not. 
  • We switched back to socks for this application, but I read terry cloth works well too. The finish reminded me of hair conditioner in consistency. It gives the leather a nice, conditioned look and sheen while it seals in your dye and makes the leather and color water resistant. 

After 2 coats of dye + tan kote finish
We let the finish dry for around 6 hours then moved the sofa back in the house have been enjoying it ever since!

Our new old sofa in its spot
Last but not least- Wear gloves!! It took me a week to get the dye off my hands.

Some tips:
  • Wear gloves!
  • Do not try indoors- the fumes from the deglazer and dye were particularly noxious
  • Take a before picture! Sorry, I forgot to do this.