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How to Repair Cracked Leather

How to Repair Cracked Leather

Is it possible to repair cracked leather? It's one of the most frequently asked questions we get as leather experts. The response is dependent on the type of damage, but restoration will always work wonders.

Of course, nothing beats the charm or sophistication of genuine leather – and the last thing you want to see is your prized bag or briefcase steadily losing its luster. So, if you have cracked leather that needs to be fixed or you just want to keep your hide looking newer for longer, follow our tips for keeping your hide looking newer for longer.

Cracks in leather are common when it dries out or is exposed to sunlight. The leather fibers abrade one another. Although the damage is irreversible, several cracks can be easily concealed by rehydrating the leather with a quality conditioner. Deeper cracks must be filled in or dyed to fit in with the leather's coloring. A valuable piece of leather can be revitalized with due care.

How to repair cracked leather
The Welch Briefcase | Vintage Leather Messenger Bag

How and why does leather crack?

Before we get into how to repair cracked leather, it's important to understand some of the science behind the skin. Leather, like any natural material, can become worn and degraded over time. It is, by definition, animal skin, which can dry out and crack.

When leather splits, it is due to microscopic changes in the material: leather is made up of countless tiny interwoven fibres packed tightly together, with denser connected fibres near the surface and looser connected fibres further in. These fibers will eventually dry out, causing chafing and a worn appearance.

Throughout the animal's life, the skin is kept nourished with replenishing natural oils. When an animal skin is turned into leather, tanning agents replace the water in the skin's protein. Depending on the type of leather, lubricating oils and waxes may be used to maintain flexibility. Vegetable-tanned leathers, especially Italian leathers, are among the best-lubricated leathers available.

If you have dry skin, you are aware that a lack of water and oils in the skin's upper layers will result in rough and dry patches. Leather is no exception. Similarly, if you fail to moisturize your skin for an extended period of time, your skin will suffer more damage. As the leather flexes and moves, the packed fibers can constantly rub against one another due to moisture loss. These fibres eventually become rigid and tight, creating cracks at the stress poinLeather is made out, animal skin, which can dry out and crack.ts.

The Olaf Rucksack | Vintage Leather Travel Backpack

Repairing cracked leather

Cracks are permanent by definition, since the fibres – the very structure of the leather – have been destroyed. But it's not just bad news. The good news is that many cracks are easy to conceal – and the repair can be done quickly – by using leather conditioners to reinforce the fibers around the cracked leather.

If you notice cracks, a quick inspection can decide if they are light surface cracks that are easily treatable or deep cracks that are more difficult to treat but can be repaired using leather crack filler, coloring, and nourishing techniques. Continue reading for information on how to preserve dry leather and fix cracked leather.

Fixing the light leather cracks

The first port of call should always be a good conditioner that not only strengthens the fibres covering the cracks, but also aids in the blend of the scar with the rest of the leather. On cracked leather, the results can be amazing – a scratch or light crack can be smoothed away and made to appear like a normal imperfection.

First things first, you will need a small leather repair kit, here’s a list of items you’ll be using:

  • A high-quality conditioner or cream
  • Soft, dry brush or cloth
  • Fine-bristled brush
  • Mild soap
  • A spoon

1. Clean your leather

To remove any dirt or dust, use a smooth, dry brush or cloth to clean the surface of the cracks and surrounding leather. Then, using a shoe dauber (or any tiny, fine-bristled brush), apply leather cleaner or saddle soap to the leather cracks, thoroughly cleaning them. Saddle soap contains mild soap and softeners, and after cleaning the broken leather surface, it should be soft and flexible enough to proceed to the next level.

2. Smoothe it

For this stage, you can use a cracked leather repair compound, but we suggest dabbing the cracking areas with mink oil or neatsfoot oil. Smooth the oil into and over the cracks with gentle pressure. This can be done with a cloth or even the back of a spoon.Continue to apply to the broken surface until the cracks become less visible. Wipe away any excess oil with a soft rag. (First, spot test the oil in an inconspicuous place to see whether it has any impact on the color of the leather.)

3. Repeat

You may be satisfied with the softer look and texture of the cracking areas at this stage, but don't forget to apply a leather conditioner to the treated surface area as well as the surrounding leather surface with a soft cloth. To maintain the leather bag in good shape and avoid further drying and cracking, apply conditioner to the entire bag once a month.

It is much easier to read on how to patch cracked leather than it is to do it. Please test any cleaner, repair compound, oils, or conditioner you want to use on a small area first. And congratulations on your efforts to get the cracked leather back to life.

Repair deep leather cracks
The Dagny Weekender | Large Leather Duffle Bag

Repair deep leather cracks

If your leather is porous and has deep cracks, using a conditioner is unlikely to help because the conditioner would simply soak into the leather. But all is not lost; with a little more elbow grease, to repair cracked leather and restore it to its former glory. Here are two methods for dealing with more severe harm.

Method 1: Using filler to repair leather cracks

You'll need the following:

  • Soap or leather cleaner
  • Microfiber cloth or sponge
  • 600-grit super-fine sandpaper
  • Good quality leather filler
  • Palette knife

Step 1: Clean
Wash some dirt away with a cloth or sponge and soap or leather cleaner. Again, test the cleaner on a small area first, then blend any soap with water first.

Step 2: Wait overnight for the leather to dry completely
If there is some moisture on the leather, the filler will not settle into the cracks. Wipe away any excess moisture with a dry cloth to ensure that it dries quickly.

Step 3: Smooth
Smooth out the cracks with a piece of super-fine sandpaper, using gentle pressure as you go. Stop when you have a smooth-to-the-touch finish. Then, using a dry rag, clean away any dust. Avoid using harsher, coarser sandpaper because it can leave marks.

Step 4: Apply leather filler
With a palette knife, spread the filler over the holes, then brush in the paste to fill in the gap. More should be applied before the crack appears to be filled.

Step 5: Remove the excess paste with the knife
Scrape off the excess paste with the palette knife's edge tipped sideways. Continue doing so until no more overspill is visible.

Step 6: Let the leather dry for six hours
This ensures that the filler sets and solidifies. A well-ventilated space or the open air can aid in the drying of the leather. However, avoid direct sunlight and keep the leather away from direct heat, as these factors will dry out the material and cause additional cracks. As the filler dries, it can shrink, necessitating another coat.

Method 2: Blending cracks with leather dye

You'll need the following:

  • Soap or leather cleaner
  • Damp cloth or sponge
  • 600-grit super-fine sandpaper
  • Good quality leather filler
  • Palette knife
  • Leather dye
  • Colour-fast sponge or applicator pad
  • Hairdryer
  • Leather sealer

A dye may be used to repair cracked leather, but a mixture of a leather filler and dye works better for deep cracks. If the interior of a crack is lighter in color than the outside, a dye is your best bet.

Step 1: Prepare the surface with filler.
If required, repeat the steps above to add leather filler. Allow the treatment to dry.

Step 2: Sand and smooth
To prepare the surface for the dye, sand the leather with ultra-fine sandpaper and wipe it clean. Gently brush along the grain of the leather until it is smooth to the touch. Wipe away any dirt and dust, as these can interfere with the color's absorption.

Step 3: Apply the dye
Select a leather dye that closely matches the color of your piece. Using a color-fast sponge or applicator pad, apply a thin coat of the dye to the cracks. Rub the cracks to ensure that the dye is evenly distributed.

Step 4: Let it dry
Allow the dye to dry for two minutes with a hairdryer set on low, moving the dryer back and forth around the cracks to keep the leather from drying out.

Step 5: Blend the cracks
If necessary, blend the cracks with many coats of dye. Up to five treatments can be needed depending on the severity of the crack. Dab the dye directly into the crack with each treatment, then rub the surrounding area to mix it together. Each time, use a hairdryer to dry the dye.

Step 6: Seal the deal
Using a leather sealer to treat the cracks helps to preserve and condition the dye. Spray the sealer directly onto a sponge and rub it into the infected region, covering the dye with a second coat if necessary. This should help to keep stains and more damage at bay. Cure the sealant with a hairdryer for two minutes, moving the dryer back and forth across the crack.

Prevent leather from cracking
The Asta Weekender | Handcrafted Leather Duffle Bag

Prevent leather from cracking

In a nutshell, avoidance is the best method of treatment. When you receive your object, keep it away from direct heat and sunlight, and avoid storing it in excessively dry areas. Investing in a quality conditioner is important for leather treatment, as it prevents the skin from drying out and cracking.

And, if the worst should happen, keep in mind that there are useful methods to repair cracked leather. The golden rule is to treat on a daily basis. Your prized leather will turn heads for seasons to come with a little patience and care.

Tips on repairing cracked leather

  • Apply a leather conditioner every 3 months to keep the leather from cracking. Leather cracks when it dries, so a good conditioner can keep the majority of the damage at bay.
  • Keep leather away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Heat causes leather to dry out, which causes cracks. If your leather pieces seem to crack often, it may be due to heat exposure.
  • Seal rips and tears with leather glue. Simply spread the glue and press the torn piece down to secure it. The tear can then be blended in with filler or dye.
  • To fix faux leather, use leather dye or paint.
  • Consider taking your leather product to a specialist if it is expensive or heavily damaged. Professionals may make substantial repairs or even reupholster pieces to keep them in good condition.
The Asmund Backpack | Genuine Leather Rucksack

FAQ

What causes leather to crack?

To begin, it's a good idea to understand what's going on when leather cracks. Leather is made up of countless tiny fibers that weave and wind together in intricate patterns, thick at the surface and looser as you go deeper. This leather was kept nourished with constantly replenishing natural oils when it was living skin.These oils are no longer replenished because it is no longer living skin. This ensures that the fibers that weave together the leather are continually rubbing against each other when it flexes or moves, and as the fibers begin to dry, they chafe and scrub each other into dust over time.To avoid this, the leather's fibers must be oiled and slippery with the use of a conditioner, allowing the fibers to brush against each other without damage. Leather can dry out if it hasn't been conditioned in a while. This is particularly true if the leather has been exposed to direct sunlight on a daily basis, which causes leather to age prematurely and breaks it down on a molecular level. UV radiation is a major cause of cracked leather.

How to maintain leather shoes?

Keep cedar shoe trees in your leather shoes (especially dress shoes) when you aren't wearing them. This preserves the form, removes creases, and eliminates excess moisture/odors naturally. Dress shoes should be washed and polished on a more frequent basis. Work-style or daily wear boots don't need as much maintenance, but they should be wiped down regularly (or twice weekly if worn every day) and conditioned every 1-6 months, depending on where you live, the time of year, and your preferences.

What is bonded leather?

When shopping for leather furniture, there are so many different styles of leather to choose from that it can be overwhelming. There are fake leathers, faux and real mixed leathers, and genuine leathers. Bonded leather is widely used in the manufacture of items such as clothing and furniture. Bonded leather is a hybrid of real and synthetic leather. It is constructed from scraps and fibers left over from the processing of authentic leather, combined with a polyurethane binder. These fibers are then rolled together and adhered to a paper backing using adhesives. Some manufacturers can apply an additional polyurethane coating to the bonded leather and emboss it to give it the texture of real leather.