How to Repair and Restore Cracked Leather
by Albert Varkki updated 01-05-2023
As experts in leather, here at Von Baer we often get asked if it is possible to fix cracked or scratched leather. The answer is not completely straightforward. Not every type of imperfection can be completely repaired, but with a little bit of know-how, we can tell you with confidence that it is always possible to get your leather items looking better than before.
The luxury and beauty of leather is second to none and nobody wants to see their beautiful leather items lose any of their good looks. Whether you are hoping to guard against possible damage in the future or repair a leather crack in your favorite handbag this article can help.
Why does leather crack?
Leather is a natural material and like all natural materials leather can get worn and damaged over time. Without proper care and maintenance leather will become worn looking, dry and prone to cracking.
To avoid leather cracks, it may be helpful to understand a little bit about how leather is made. Leather is comprised of small tightly woven fibers, these fibers are especially dense near the surface of the material. When these tiny fibers start to dry out the material will show signs of ageing which could include a worn-out cracked appearance.
As you know, leather is made from the skin of animals. While the animal is alive the skin will be kept smooth and supple because the natural oils will be continuously replenished but when the animal skin is transformed into leather water and natural oils are replaced with tanning agents. Lubricating oils and waxes will help the leather to retain its beauty and flexibility. There are different methods of tanning leather. Using natural vegetable tanning agents is environmentally friendly and vegetable-tanned leathers are arguably the most robust leather type available.
You have probably experienced dry areas on your own skin. Leather similar to your own skin, in that lack of oil and hydration will result in rough and dry areas. If you don’t moisturize your skin, you will eventually start to see even more damage and the same is true for leather. When the fibers that make up leather become too dry, they constantly rub against each other and this may eventually cause unsightly cracks.
Steps to Repair Cracked Leather
It is not actually possible to completely remove a crack from leather, when you see a crack occur in one of your leather items you know that the core of the leather has been damaged, and that crack will always be there. On the positive side, most leather cracks are easily hidden using a good leather conditioning agent.
Light surface cracks or scratches in your leather can be treated and hidden easily by applying a good leather conditioner. If the cracks are deeper, you may need to take further and more complicated steps. Leather crack filler, coloring and nourishing techniques can be used to hide deep cracks.
Light Leather Cracks? Do This:
The leather conditioner you choose should do two things. It needs to strengthen the leather fibers surrounding the crack. It also needs to effectively blend in and hide the crack. With the right leather conditioner or cream the results can be incredible. A light crack or scratch will be made virtually invisible. In order to repair a light crack here is a list of items you will need:
- A strong leather conditioner or cream (we like Von Baer)
- A soft dry cloth (a soft brush would also work)
- A fine-bristled brush such as a toothbrush
- Gentle soap
- A spoon or sponge
Part 1: Clean
Begin by testing the soap on a small hidden section of the leather. Using a clean dry cloth or brush clean off any loose debris from the leather. Use the fine-bristled brush and mild soap to fully clean the cracks in the leather.
Part 2: Condition
Test the conditioner on a small section of leather before proceeding. Use the sponge or the back of a spoon to smooth the conditioner into the cracks. Apply enough conditioner so that the crack is less visible. Wipe any excess conditioner off and leave your leather item to dry naturally. Allow the leather to absorb the conditioner and completely dry, this could take several hours.
Part 3: Repeat
If the cracks are still visible, repeat the process one more time but if after the second try there is still no change you may need to try something else. Over conditioning your leather will just collapse the structure causing an unappealing waxy look. Ideally, the conditioner should be applied to your leather items once a month to keep them looking beautiful and prevent cracks.
Deep Leather Cracks? Do This:
If your leather is very dried out and has visible deep cracks don’t give up hope! With a little bit of effort, you still have a good chance of repairing the damage. Here are two methods for treating leather that has very deep cracks.
First Method: Leather Crack Filler
You'll need the following:
- Mild soap or leather cleaner
- Cloth or sponge
- 600-grit super-fine sandpaper
- High-quality leather filler
- Palette knife
Part 1: Clean your leather
It is a good idea to test your leather cleaner on a small section before cleaning your leather item. Once you are sure it is safe, thoroughly clean the leather using soap and water or a specialized leather cleaning solution.
Part 2: Let it Dry
Wipe off any visible excess moisture with a dry cloth. The leather must be allowed to dry completely before proceeding. Any leftover moisture can prevent the filler from working effectively.
Part 3: Sandpaper
Use very fine sandpaper to smooth out the leather cracks. Apply gentle pressure with the sandpaper. A course, gritty sandpaper can leave scratches on your leather so be very careful that you are using only the finest 600 grit sandpaper. Use a dry cloth to wipe off any dust.
Part 4: Use Filler
Use your palette knife to spread filler over the cracks. Ensure you use enough filler to completely fill the cracks.
Part 5: Remove Excess
Use the side of the palette knife to thoroughly scrape away all excess filler.
Part 6: Let Dry
It is important to let the leather dry in a well-ventilated room for several hours. Keep it away from direct heat or sunlight which may cause more cracking. Check your leather after a minimum of six hours. If the filler has shrunk, re-apply.
Second Method: Leather Dye
Gather up the following supplies:
- Gentle soap or leather cleaner
- Soft cloth
- 600-grit sandpaper
- High- quality leather filler
- Artist style palette knife
- Leather dye in the shade of your item
- Color-fast applicator pad
- Leather sealer
In some cases, you will only need filler or dye to correct a flaw in the leather, however, if deep cracks are present combing the filler with a leather dye is the most effective solution.
Part 1: Filler
If you are using filler, follow the steps above. After the leather has completely dried proceed to step 2.
Part 2: Sandpaper
Use your superfine 600 grit sandpaper to ensure you have a smooth surface on which you will apply the dye. Use gentle pressure with the sandpaper in the direction of the leather’s grain. Use your cloth to wipe away any debris before continuing.
Part 3: Apply Dye
Ensure the dye is a close match to your item’s color. Use a color-fast applicator to apply a thin coat of dye over the cracks. Blend the dye with the area surrounding the cracks.
Part 4: Dry
Set your hair dryer to the lowest setting and dry the leather by moving the hairdryer back and forth across the cracks for approximately two minutes.
Part 5: Blend
It may take up to five coats of dye to completely hide the cracks. Every time you apply the dye be sure to blend it into the surrounding area and dry it with the hairdryer.
Part 6: Sealer
The final step is to apply a leather sealer to the cracks. This will protect and condition the dye preventing further damage. Spray the leather sealer onto a cloth or sponge and rub into the treated cracks. You may want to apply a second coat of sealer. Use the hairdryer on a low setting for two minutes to dry and cure the sealer.
How to Stop Leather from Cracking
There are several steps you can take to prevent damage to your precious leather items. Begin by keeping them away from direct sunlight or direct heat. Once a month apply a good conditioner to your leather. These easy steps should prevent any drying and cracking. If damage does occur use the steps outlined above to treat the cracks.
The Von Baer leather conditioner is perfect for this, keeping it looking new for years to come.
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