How To Restore Leather Seats

Your leather seats beginning to resemble crocodile skin and isn’t crocodile leather? Let’s fix that.

Leather Seat
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So your leather seats have been left in the sun for so long they look like Greyscale from Game of Thrones? Well, fine meister or madame, you’ve come to the right place. With a little guidance on how to restore your leather seats, we can and get your leather looking baby-skin tight!

Although automotive leather is factory tanned and treated with chemical agents,  they can still be damaged over time. Heat, direct sunlight, heavy use, accidental food, and beverage spills, and excessive drying or wetting can all diminish your interior’s glamour and the car’s value. 

Restoring your leather seats is the perfect weekend project. To restore your ride’s interior to factory-fresh, The Drive’s crack How-To team is here to help and guide you through restoring your leather seats. Let’s get to moisturizing!

Basics

Estimated Time Needed: Two hours to one day

Skill Level: Intermediate

Vehicle System: Interior

Leather Seat
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Safety

Working on your car can be messy. It can also be dangerous. Here’s what you’ll need to ensure you keep your jeans, shirt, and skin spotless, and your bones intact.

  • Nitrile gloves (to repel chemicals used and irritants in the seat cushions).
  • Long-sleeve shirt to protect your arms.
  • Safety Glasses.
  • Ventilator (optional)

Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You don’t need a blowtorch for this job. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)

You’ll also need a flat workspace, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking that’s also well-ventilated. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not violating any codes when using the street because we aren’t getting your ride out of the clink.

Leather Seat
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Everything You’ll Need

We’re not psychic, nor are we snooping through your toolbox or garage, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to get the job done. 

Tool List 

Parts List 

Leather Seats
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Here’s How To Restore Your Leather Seats

Reconditioning Your Leather Seats 

  1. Remove the floor mats.
  2. Wet scrub brush with soap and water.
  3. Scrub floor mats until clean.
  4. Set floor mats aside to dry.
  5. Using the appropriate socket wrench, detach the car-seat base from the floor.
  6. If there are any electrical components connected (e.g., power-seat controls), detach the connectors.
  7. Remove the seats and set them on a work table or bench.
  8. Vacuum your car, removing any pocket lint, leftover cookie crumbs, and other debris that may be caught in between or under the seats and their padding.
  9. Vacuum the seat crevices to ensure there’s no debris that could mix with the leather reconditioner and cause a mess.
  10. With a damp microfiber towel, wipe down the seats and let dry.
  11. Apply a small amount of the leather reconditioner to a clean microfiber towel and apply it to a similarly small section of leather to test. If it doesn’t negatively impact the leather surface, continue. 
  12. Leather reconditioners often come with toner to help match your seats. Use it if you’re not happy with the test section.
  13. Once you’re happy with the color and tone of the reconditioner, apply a larger amount of reconditioner to the microfiber towel and apply it across the surface of the seats Don’t apply to the seats’  crevices and creases. 
  14. Dilute the reconditioner with water to a 7:3 product-to-water ratio and apply to crevices and creases. 
  15. Once you’ve applied the reconditioner across all of the seats’ surfaces, let dry in the open air. 
  16. If you’re unhappy with the color, follow the recoloring steps below.
  17. If you’re happy with the color, reattach seat bases to seat frames.
  18. Congratulations, you’re done!

Recoloring Your Leather Seats

  1. After the seats have dried from the reconditioner application, take a fresh microfiber towel or sponge and apply a small amount of leather recoloring agent.
  2. Apply to an inconspicuous section of the leather to test the color. 
  3. Once you’re happy with the color, apply to the rest of the leather surfaces. It may take one to three coats. Let each coat dry fully before applying the next coat.
  4. With the desired color achieved, dilute recoloring agent with water using a 4:1 product-to-water ratio and apply a final coat.
  5. Remove excess product with a clean microfiber towel before it dries. 
  6. Let the seats dry overnight.
  7. Apply leather reconditioner to bring out the leather’s shine.
  8. Let dry.
  9. Reattach seat base to seat frame.
  10. You’re done! Congratulations.

Reupholstering Your Leather Seats

Your seats may be too far gone, making simple chemical restoration out of the question. The only way to restore your leather seats properly is to reupholster them. Click the link here for our guide on How To Reupholster Your Leather Seats.

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Tips From a Pro

Here are The Drive’s pro tips for restoring your car’s leather seats.

  •  As leather ages it can become brittle if treated poorly. Keep your leather out of direct sunlight using a sunshade if you live in sunny climes. You can also do a refresh conditioning coat during the summer months when the heat and direct sun are the harshest.
  • If you have cracks or tears in your leather seats, consider replacing those sections using the reupholstering How To guide above. 

How Often Do You Need To Restore Your Leather Seats?

Depending on your usage and age of the vehicle, you may only need to restore your leather seats once or twice in your ownership when their color begins to fade or cracks return. Yet, if you’re harsh with your car’s interior or don’t protect the leather from common problems like direct sun, you may have to restore them every few years. 

Life Hacks

Since you may not have access to the right tools, we also compiled a list of hacks to make your life easier and drain your pocket less.

  • If your leather seats are too far gone, visit your local pick-and-pull junkyard. You’ll often find well-maintained seat upholstery and, with a little sweat and a few tools, you can save hundreds on materials.

How Much Does It Cost To Restore Your Leather Seats?

Professional restoration can cost several hundred to several thousands of dollars depending on the car, materials, and time it takes to complete. Doing your own restoration with off-the-shelf restoration products and a little bit of elbow grease can bring that figure down to right around a hundred dollars. 

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