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Why is my leather dye rubbing off

Leather furniture looks great, and it's a fixture in many homes. However, even quality leather can lose its lustre or its satin sheen, which is why many people decide to freshen up their furniture.

Knowing how to soften leather and dye to revitalise leather crafts, such as leather shoes or handbags is a great skill.

Stop your leather item losing its shine

Applying dye sounds like an easy task, but its not always easy to dye leather.

Even though there are many leather dyes to choose from, knowing the right product for dyeing leather is challenging.

Sadly, many people find dyeing leather can be difficult, and sometimes, dyed leather doesn't look great.

Are your leather items bleeding?

Bleeding dye and excess dye are common problems with the dyeing process, but this guide will restore leather goods, such as leather furniture or leather shoes. If in doubt, follow manufacturer's instructions, and try to always apply an even coating of dye.

Why does leather dye rub off?

It might surprise you to learn there are many reasons why leather dye rubs off, and if you want to prevent dye transfer or dye from rubbing off, it is helpful to know the leading causes.

Alcohol based dyes cause dry rub off

When you have a combination of moisture, alcohol and dye touching each other, it results in a weak bond. When they rub against each other, dye rub off is common. So, be careful with alcohol based dyes, and look out for dye rub off.

Water-based sealants lead to dye rubbing and bleeding

You will also find a water based dyes cannot form a reliable bond with a water-based sealant. With many water based dyes, the bond is poor, and dye rub off occurs.

Leather protectant and oil based dyes don’t work well together

Another poor combination is created with an oil-based dye and a leather protector. These substances find it challenging to form a dependable bond and will rub off quickly.

Excess dye will produce dye rub off

While you want to apply the dye to ensure it stays on, applying a generous amount has the opposite effect. Too much dye leads to oversaturation, which means the dye washes away easily.

If you have a water-based dye with solvents, water based dyes might permeate into the leather!

The dyes haven’t been mixed enough or applied uniformly

Dyes must be mixed thoroughly because if they aren’t, they won’t be distributed evenly, and this leads to some parts being rubbed off

You aren’t buffing your dyed leather in the right way

It is essential to buff your leather appropriately to remove excess dye. If you don’t do this, the material retains moisture, leading to dye rubbing off.

You can stop leather losing its shine

Natural light affects leather, so any item left in sunlight will lose its lustre and vibrancy over time.

Black leather dye is prone to rubbing off

While the tips mentioned above apply to most dyes, some colours are more likely to rub off than others. Most black leather dyes contains aniline, a water-soluble component, which leads to dye colour rubbing off.

When you apply dye to a topcoat sealant, it will likely rub off

Often, a topcoat sealant is an ideal choice, as it has a good level of adhesion, but a top coat has no, or very little, oil. As you can gather, with a top coat, bleeding color dye is likely.

How to stop leather dye from rubbing off

While there are many ways dye rubs off leather, you’ll be glad to know there are many ways you can prevent leather dye from rubbing off.

Some quick tips to consider before starting the process of protecting leather crafts from bleeding dye:

  • Use a reliable leather cleaner
  • Test for sensitive surfaces
  • Carry out a thorough cleaning
  • Clear the area of other materials
  • Look out for cracking leather

Consider if items like denatured alcohol, suede protector, tan kote, white vinegar, neatsfoot oil and vaseline act to protect your leather.

Use a damp cloth to wipe the leather

By wiping the leather with a damp cloth, you remove dust particles and any dirt from the surface. From here, dry the leather and then apply dye usually.

Choose a leather specific dye

Some dyes are made for leather, so it makes sense to choose these options. There are different dyes to choose from in various colours and prices, but opting for a specific leather dye reduces the likelihood of dye bleeding.

Protect areas that don’t need dye

You might only have to dye a small section of furniture. If so, cover the remaining areas to stop leather being affected. This reduces the likelihood of bleeding color to these areas.

Similarly, you might not have to colour every area of the leather, only certain parts. Cover everything up and focus on the selected region if this is the case.

Use a paintbrush in the dying process

An effective way to apply the dye is to use a paintbrush instead of a cloth or sponge. This helps to apply and spread the dye more evenly.

If you use a cloth, use a dry and clean cloth

If you insist on using a cloth, you must use a dry cloth. A wet cloth is liable to remove dye, negatively impacting the overall look of the leather.

Consider using a paste dye

While a liquid dye is standard, using a paste dye provides more control over the application process. This should ensure you seal the leather better and minimise the likelihood of rubbing off any dye or colour.

When the dye is applied, apply pigment sealer

When you’ve applied dye to your leather, apply pigment sealer to ensure it is properly sealed. This helps to seal dye, and prevent dye from rubbing off.

It's possible to avoid dye rub off, even with oil based dyes, waster based dyes or black dye. Following this guide will help protect your leather piece and stop leather from losing its great look.

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