If you need to fix cracks in leather, there's good news–most repairs are simple and easy to do yourself. There are many products on the market to make even big cracked leather repairs approachable, but figuring out exactly how to fix cracks in leather is a dilemma.
Cracked leather might not look new, but the beauty of leather is that it's natural and takes on new character as it ages. So if you tend to minor imperfections early on and keep the leather hydrated with conditioner, your item can last decades and continue to build a character all its own.
What Does Cracked Leather Mean?
Leather is made from animal skin, a natural material that has been dried and tanned with chemicals to give it a long life and an even color. But, like all materials, leather needs a little maintenance from time to time.
Over time, the oils added to leather begin to dry out. Its fibers begin to crack and break apart as the material becomes brittle. Cracks in leather will begin to appear faintly but will eventually grow until the material parts.
If you regularly clean and condition your leather products, you will never have a problem with cracking. But if you let them dry out, expose them to a lot of sun, or use them daily, some cracks may form.
The good news is that they can be repaired if you catch them early on. Severe cracking can be patched with fillers, but you cannot repair it to like-new condition.
How to Repair Cracks in Leather
The steps to repair cracks in leather will depend on how severely it has been damaged. In every case, preventing cracks is preferable to trying to fix them. So, step one is always preventative cleaning and conditioning.
Step 1: Clean and Condition Your Leather Regularly
It's natural for leather products to dry out over time. The only way to prevent it is to apply a leather conditioner routinely.
Leather conditioner works into the fibers to rehydrate it. In many ways, it's like using lotion on your skin to relieve dryness.
While things like avocado or coconut oil will work to rehydrate leather, they are no replacement for a proper leather conditioner. Commercial conditioners are relatively inexpensive, and they soften the leather without leaving it greasy. They will also restore the leather's color and shine and remove most rough and dry patches.
To use a conditioner, follow the manufacturer's instructions. If you haven't conditioned your leather in a while, consider cleaning it with a saddle soap first. This will remove any built-up grime from the material and allow the conditioner to soak in.
Step 2: How to Repair Cosmetic Light Leather Cracks
Conditioner is so helpful to dry leather that it can even make minor cracks seem to disappear. So if your leather is just starting to show cracking, you can likely fix it with a liberal application of conditioner.
It's worth noting, however, that leather cracking is permanent. Once the material's fibers begin to come apart, you can't put them back together again. So, while conditioner will make it look much better and stop the deterioration, it cannot repair the damage already done.
Don't just spot-treat your leather with conditioner. The cracking is a sign of dehydration, so fix the entire item.
Find the best-quality conditioner you can, and get a soft fine bristled brush for rubbing it in. You'll also want a soft, clean microfiber towel to apply the product. If you want to clean the leather first, find a mild soap or leather cleaner. Be sure to test all of the products on an inconspicuous patch before proceeding to ensure it doesn't affect the item's color or texture.
Follow the instructions on the bottle for using your leather cleaner. Once the item is completely dry, start working on the cracking by applying a smooth layer of conditioner. Use your cloth to work it into the cracks and smooth out the surface. The leather will need time to absorb the conditioner, so let it sit overnight. Repeat the process the next morning if the cracks are still too obvious.
Once you've got the cracks smoothed out, apply up to five coats of the conditioner to the entire item.
Step 3: How to Repair Deep Leather Cracks
If the leather is damaged with deep cracks, you can keep your item usable by applying leather crack filler or leather glue. With the right technique and a little practice, you can get your item looking good again.
The leather repair compound comes in various colors, so you should be able to find one that matches the original item. You can also use leather dyes to help blend the repair into the original surface.
There is an element of art to cracked leather repair. Someone with a little experience patching and repairing fine leather pieces will do a better job than someone who has never done it before, especially when matching colors and textures with fillers.
So, if you have some prized leather with sentimental value, then it's worth your while to take it to a professional leather shop. On the other hand, if it's something you don't mind experimenting with and want to try to fix cracked leather, there's no reason not to give it a try.
Leather filler is a paste that you apply into the cracks to smooth them out. It cures into a flexible glue that will bond to the leather and seal it. You can then use dyes to blend the patched area with the surrounding leather surface to make the filler as unnoticeable as possible.
The filler needs a clean, smooth surface to bond. Start by working a small piece of 600-grit ultra fine sandpaper around the cracked leather where you will apply the product. Rub with the grain of the leather, and make the surface as smooth as possible.
Apply a thin coat of filler with a small palette knife. Put enough filler in to close the crack completely, and then some--the filler will shrink a bit as it cures. Wipe the excess away with the palette knife and let it dry.
Another technique to repair cracked leather is to make the cracks less noticeable without using a filler. Rub them with 600-grit fine sandpaper, making the surface as faired out as possible. Then, apply a leather dye to blend the sanded area with the rest of the leather's surface.
This method makes it easier to achieve a good look, but it leaves the leather weaker than before. On the other hand, it doesn't involve using a filler, which might not look as good if you've never used it. It all depends on how deep the cracking in your leather is and how far you want to go to repair it.
The final step to using fillers and dyes is to seal them into your leather. Spray the leather sealer onto a clean sponge, then rub it into the repaired area. It may take two or more applications. You can help the sealer cure by carefully heating the area with a hairdryer.
Once you are happy with the appearance, you can condition the entire item with a high-quality leather conditioner.
Other Notes on How to Repair Cracked Leather
Here are a few thoughts on specific leather repairs you might be considering.
How to Fix Cracks in Leather Seats
Leather seats, especially those found in automobiles, tend to have two sources of cracking and damage. One comes from their repeated use in high-wear areas, where the leather flexes with each use.
There's also the problem of direct sunlight, which can dry out the leather quickly. For this reason, it's vital to use leather conditioners fairly often on car seats, especially in convertibles.
How to Fix Cracks in Leather Couch Cushions and Leather Furniture
Repairing a leather sofa isn't difficult, but it is a big project. The good news is that a sofa or couch provides many inconspicuous areas to practice your skills. If you need to make repairs with fillers or dyes, consider doing it on the back of cushions first. Save the most obvious spots, on the front of the couch, for last.
How to Fix Cracks in Leather Shoes
Leather shoes see a lot of wear but seldom get conditioned. So before investing in shoe shine or other products, clean them thoroughly with a shoe cleaner or saddle soap. Once they're dry, follow up with a leather conditioner.
Cracks in shoe leather are more likely to worsen quickly if not tended to. If you use filler, ensure it is applied properly and cures completely before wearing the shoe.
Well, there you have it! With the right tools, you can fix cracks in leather. But, more importantly, with regular cleaning and conditioning, you can keep cracks from happening in the first place.
How to Fix Cracks in Leather FAQs
What does it mean when leather cracks?
Cracks in leather are a sign of deterioration. The fibers that hold the material together are beginning to give way, whether due to wear, sun damage, age, or simply drying out. In nearly every case, cracks can be prevented by regularly applying a high-quality leather conditioner. In severe cases, you can patch cracked leather with filler.