Things You'll Need
Leather and vinyl repair kit
Upholstery batting (optional)
Fine-tip fabric chalk pen
Despite looking and smelling like the real thing, bonded leather upholstery consists mostly of plastic with a small amount of leather dust mixed with resin applied over the top. The construction method leads to an increase in peeling, especially on oft-used furniture such as sofas. Leather and vinyl repair kits can temporarily fix the issue. When you repair the peeling quickly enough, you can potentially prevent it from getting worse. But keep in mind that this type of upholstery only lasts for a few years, and large damaged areas are nearly impossible to repair.
Cut the portion of the bonded leather that has lifted away from the underlying foam or cushion. Small grooming scissors work best for this. Clean the area with a dampened lint-free cloth, taking care not to over saturate the upholstery.
Hold a piece of backing fabric over the damaged area. If your kit did not come with fabric, use thin upholstery batting. Draw an outline on the fabric about 1/8-inch larger than the damage.
Grasp the fabric with tweezers or your fingers and hold it over the damage, tucking the edges underneath the bonded leather perimeter with a toothpick, the tool provided with the kit or the tweezers. Some repair kits indicate that you only need to use the backing fabric for damage over a certain size, usually 1/4 inch or larger. But because bonded leather is so prone to peeling, adding this base to any size damage, even areas smaller than 1/4 inch, creates longer-lasting results.
Apply a thin layer of vinyl adhesive over the backing fabric, spreading it about 1/8 inch under the edge of the bonded leather. Wait four to five hours, or the time recommended by the kit directions, for the adhesive to dry. This creates a clean, smooth surface for the color compound and raises the damaged area slightly so that the finished patch sits flush with the surrounding upholstery.
Position yourself directly next to the sofa and reference the provided color guide that came with your kit to get a general idea as to what colors you'll need. A combination of white and gray matches most gray upholstery, but you may need a few touches of red to coordinate with steel-inspired shades. Honey tones require white, brown and yellow, while off-white is achieved by diluting white with a small amount of brown or black.
Mix small test batches to find the ideal match. Apply swatches to a scrap piece of vinyl and let them dry before you make your final determination. When you have a color that you're satisfied with, mix just enough of it to cover the damaged area.
Apply a thin layer of the color compound over the vinyl adhesive on the upholstery, feathering the color out towards the surrounding area to seal the exposed edges of the bonded leather. Avoid globs, raised ridges or other texture issues. The grain pattern supplied with the kit works best with a smooth surface.
Press the grain paper against the wet compound with the palm of your hand and tape it in place. Let the compound dry according to manufacturer directions. Carefully remove the paper when dry. If necessary, gently blend the patch with 320-grit sandpaper, buffing the edges of the color into the surrounding faux leather.
These kits and products are only capable of making a patch for peeling and small, minor damage under 2-by-2 inches. You can patch larger areas, but the repair will be more noticeable and wear more quickly.
If the peeling is minimal and resembles small flakes without any view of the plastic backing or cushion underneath the leather topcoat, use just the color compound to repair the issue. Clean the area, apply the compound and press the texture pattern in place while it dries.
High-end bonded leather may have a noticeable grain pattern, but many are quite smooth. If there is no visible grain on your sofa, let the compound dry on its own without the texture overlay and gently blend the edges with sandpaper.
Some repair kits require heat to set the color compound. If this is the case, heat the back of the grain pattern with a clothing iron or the heating tool provided with the kit after you tape the grain pattern over the wet compound.
Work in a well-ventilated area and wear gloves when handling the adhesive and color compound.
Amanda Bell spent six years working as an interior designer and project coordinator before becoming a professional writer in 2010. She has published thousands of articles for various websites and clients, specializing in home renovation, DIY projects, gardening and travel. Bell studied English composition and literature at the University of Boston and the University of Maryland.