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From digest.v7.n129 Mon Aug 18 01:20:51 1997
From: "Duane C" <>
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 1997 00:26:20 -0400
Subject: Leather Dye vs Paint

> From: "Daniel Turner" <>
> Date: Sun, 17 Aug 1997 07:06:27 PDT
> Subject: acrylic on leather
> The old man at the shoe repair shop where I bought a can of spray paint
> for my leather shoes said paint and dye are the same thing.
> It was interesting to here from people with leather dye
> products to sell, but they didn't really explain to my satisfaction how
> one pigment in a solution will bond with leather and another won't.


I'm not a chemist and have no leather products to sell, but I do enough repairs with leather upholstery in my business that I can tell you that the paint "lays" on top of the surface whereas the "dyes" sink into the leather itself. When the repair is performed initally either method will give you satisfactory results. Over time, usually in a few months, the paint method flakes and peels off as it's only laying on the surface and will not hold with the flex the leather goes through being sat upon and such.

Look at it this way: If you take an old t-shirt and paint it with layers of acrylic paint, the paint will eventually leach/flake out of the shirt with repeated washings/stretchings. The dye that was in the fabric orginally may fade over time, but stays intact and in the fabric itself.

A lot of the Japanese cars (like my old '89 Legend) use terrible, low grade leather that is painted (like the leather tennis shoes you wear - ever wonder why they are all leather for just $ 69.00? ). Paint covers a multitude of flaws. With use the topcoat literally strips off and it requires a "paint" repair as that was on it originally. It's the only way to fix them. These hides are usually split-grain and very mediocre - about the quality of a dog leash.

BMW has installed a premium dyed top-grain leather in their newer cars which is the same type of leather you find in top of the line leather upholstery. It's analine - dyed and represents the finest 3% to 4% of the best hides available worldwide. Because it is of such high quality it does not need a lot of topcoats (nor paint) to cover the hides as there are few flaws. Also, the leather has a nicer 'hand' than most. For that reason, you want to use a dye to repair it. On the downside, using a natural leather with little or no topcoat on it means it can dye transfer (like mine did with the tire I put in the car) or absord spills into the hide that are not promptly cleaned up.

Hope that helps some - its the 'layman' explanation. I have not a clue as to the molecular structure!!

Duane Collie
RM3DR1 <with newly dyed passenger seat
National Capital Chapter

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