How to Repair Holes, Cuts & Tears in Leather or Vinyl

Introduction: How to Repair Holes, Cuts & Tears in Leather or Vinyl

About: We are a mother-daughter business with over 50 years of combined experience as leather and vinyl repair artisans. We served Southern California's aviation, RV, auto, and marine industries and now offer tailore…

See the step-by-step process demonstrated in this video.

Download or print our free written instructions.

Learn about other types of damage that can be repaired with vinyl or leather repair compound.


  • rags or old t-shirts
  • paper towels
  • denatured or rubbing alcohol
  • piece of cardboard
  • small board, book or other flat weight
  • iron-on patch or strong, thin mending fabric
  • flexible glue (3M® Plastic Emblem & Trim Adhesive or LocTite® Vinyl, Fabric, Plastic Adhesive)
  • scissors
  • tweezers
  • large needle or toothpicks
  • palette knife (or plastic butter knife)
  • smoothing card or glossy business cards
  • sunshine or lamp with incandescent bulb
  • food handler's gloves or saran wrap
  • assortment of 220, 320, 500 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper
  • cellulose sponge
  • air-dry leather repair compound like Soft Filler
  • water-based leather finish like Rub 'n Restore®

Step 1: Cut a Subpatch

Make the subpatch larger than the hole, and round the corners for easier insertion. If necessary, cut out little triangles along curves and corners so it won't overlap and create bulk.

Step 2: Insert the Subpatch

If the patch has adhesive on one side, insert this side up so it will contact the back of the leather or vinyl. Ensure the patch completely covers the hole and sits smoothly between the substrate and the upholstery. Any wrinkles or folds will create a bulge that looks and feels uneven.

Step 3: Glue the Subpatch

Apply a thin layer of flexible fabric glue between the patch and the leather. Follow with a smooth, firm weight, and hold. Allow the glue to completely dry.

Repeat until a firm bond is achieved around the perimeter of the hole.

Step 4: Clean

Clean the leather or vinyl with a solvent like denatured alcohol, rubbing alcohol, or even lacquer thinner to remove excess glue and any oil or wax. Do not use acetone. Allow to dry completely.

Step 5: Apply Leather Filler

Apply an air-dry leather filler with a palette knife. Use a glossy business card or similar spreader to smooth the filler in a direction parallel to the tear. Gently feather and blend the perimeter of the filler with a fingertip.

Many thin layers will dry faster and stronger than one thick layer.

Clean your tools with alcohol.

Step 6: Let Filler Cure

Sunshine or an incandescent bulb can be used to speed cure time of air-dry fillers. Allow the bulb to heat up, and then position it over the repair so that it warms the surface but is not hot enough to burn the back of your hand. Do not use a hair dryer, which pushes moisture inward.

The filler is cured when it appears translucent and does not feel squishy or displace when gently touched. Allow the surface to return to room temperature before proceeding.

Step 7: Apply More Filler & Texturize

Use rubbing alcohol to smooth any imperfections in the cured resin. Sandpaper can also be used, but take care around the perimeter where it is gently feathered, so the filler does not peel up.

Apply more filler and allow to cure until the surface is even.

Apply a final thin coat of filler and emboss with a gloved hand or piece of saran wrap. Allow to cure. Gently sand with 500 grit wet-or-dry to remove any roughness.

Step 8: Refinish or Recolor

Apply a water-based finish to conceal the repair. Some companies can formulate a matching color, or you can completely change the color.

A clear finish may be needed to add more luster.

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    2 years ago

    Any pointers on where I would obtain "an air-dry leather filler" ?