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Leather Peeling on Your Car Seats? Do This Now

If there is one thing that defines auto luxury, it’s a leather interior. And, like any luxury item, it needs to look good.


Unlike other materials, such as suede, the leather on your seats could start peeling away, and we don’t blame you for being worried! This problem needs a cure. And it needs it quickly!


The Basics - Why Does Leather Peel?


Real, traditional leather is different from faux leather as it doesn’t peel. Sure, if it isn’t cared for correctly, it will crack or discolor over time. It might stain or stretch, but it will never peel. It’s important to understand the difference between genuine and bonded car leather to identify a problem solver.


Genuine vs. Bonded Car Leather


Any peeling leather is almost certain to be bonded leather, whether it’s in your car or bonded leather furniture (also known as ‘faux leather furniture’) in your living room. This is a composite material made from pulped scraps of old leather and off-cuts. The scraps are ground up into a paste and glued together. Basically, a bonded type of leather is to real leather what MDF or chipboard is to wood. The fact is that, like MDF compared to solid oak, bonded leather can never hope to match the quality of the genuine article, it’s of poor quality.


So, should we just accept those shabby-looking seats? No way! Read on, and in just a couple of minutes you’ll know how to prevent your leather from having peeling areas in the first place. And, if it already has peeled, you’ll find out what you can do about it right now.


How to Fix Leather Peeling (And Prevent It from Worsening!)


Even though bonded leather isn’t a high-quality leather, it’s still animal hide. So, just like a pair of quality shoes or a vintage biker jacket, it needs to be cared for.


Proper maintenance can prevent 90% of peeling before it even starts to avoid leather repair. And even if your seats are already peeling, it’s never too late to take the right steps and stop the problem from spreading. Here is a simple tutorial with some suggestions for your leather repair kit!


Leather Restoration Products


Without proper hydration, any leather will dry out and break down. Natural oils keep the hide’s fibers flexible and robust. But, over time, those oils dry out and need replacing as they don’t have much durability.


If you have leather seats in your car and you aren’t already using a high-quality car leather conditioner, then get one on the shopping list quick. It’s only a matter of time before that upholstery starts dehydrating and showing its age. There’s an endless variety of different leather treatments and tanning procedures, source animals, and cuts. Car leather is specialized and requires a purpose-built conditioner. We recommend the Chemical Guys leather conditioner and leather cleaner which can be found on Amazon.


Leather Conditioner will penetrate every fiber of the leather and ensure its supple and healthy. Apply your leather conditioner with a damp microfiber towel to get the most benefit out of the vitamins within the conditioner that will help protect your leather from the sun. For cars that frequently sit in the sun, we recommend reapplying your conditioner about once a month.


What if the leather has already peeled? Can I repair it?


Leather Paint


Leather paint is a great way to minimize the appearance of damage to your leather seats. There are paints specifically intended to blend into leather, like a leather dye. So, you can forget about your every-day emulsion! These paints are flexible enough for seat fabrics and are available in common, leather-like colors. Of course, it isn’t a miracle cure, sometimes the paint won’t match the exact color of your leather, but it will greatly reduce the appearance of peeling. The aim of painting isn’t to repair the gaps; it’s to blend-in the gaps. With some careful work and a little luck, the seats should look normal at a glance.


If you want to give paint a shot, the first step is to color match. Try to get a shade that is as close as possible to your leather. It can take some trial and error, but it’s worth taking your time to get it right. Next, have a look at the damaged area of leather and peel away all the loose edges. We want to create a flat, smooth surface that will blend in with the surrounding area.


Use a small paintbrush to apply a thin, smooth coat of paint over the damaged area. Take care to cover all the edges and stick them all down completely. Once it’s dry, apply at least another two coats. The first couple of coats will soak into the fabric underneath, leaving an unconvincing matte texture. That’s not going to fool anyone! So, keep applying coats and a topcoat until you get a smooth finish that closely resembles the surface of your leather.


Soft Filler


Filler doesn’t work so well for large patches that have peeled, but it does a great job on hide that has thinned out. If the fabric under the leather has become exposed and left the surface looking like scaly skin, a soft filler can rescue the situation.


Here is what you need to do:

  • Find a vinyl or fabric-specific filler. It needs to be flexible enough to move like fabric.

  • Using a putty knife or old business card, scrape a little of the filler across the area that has thinned out. You are aiming to fill all the tiny cracks and gaps between the leather.

  • Wipe away any excess, but make sure that you’ve filled every little gap. None of the fabric should be visible.

  • Allow time for the filler to dry. Each brand is different, so check their instructions.

  • Once it’s dry, recheck it for any gaps. Make sure that all the edges are stuck down.

  • Paint the area to blend it with the original color. Follow the same painting procedure we mentioned earlier.


Summary - How to Prevent Leather Peeling


At first sight of any peeling or flaking, some people might be ready to give up on their upholstery. But we won’t fall into that trap! With a little work, it’s totally possible to make the situation look better and as for peeling, there will be less than before!


But the real secret is preparation, preparation, preparation! This is the #1 way to beat the problem.


Whether you’re getting ahead of the issue before it begins, or doing damage limitation, a proper leather conditioner is absolutely essential! So, if your ride is blessed with that coveted leather interior, do it justice by purchasing a quality leather conditioner that will protect and restore that new leather shine!

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