Repair kits have received a poor stereotype due to the massive number of products which are non-effective. Either the product does not contain the best components for the leather repair kit, or the user does not understand how to properly apply the contents to the leather. In both cases, the results are less than ideal. Here is how to choose the right repair kit.
Understand the material which will be repaired
The very first thing that you need to consider is the material which needs repair. Thicker leather such as cowhide, will need stronger glue and perhaps stitching. Additionally, thicker leathers tend to showcase patches rather loudly (meaning that if you have a leather jacket and you put a leather patch from your kit upon it you are very likely to see the patch against the leather). This has to do with the gauge of the leather. The thicker the leather in the kit, the more recognizable the fix. If the tear is near a seam, you may wish to avoid a repair kit and sew the leather by hand.
When choosing a kit, try to find leather which matches the material which will be repaired. This will ensure that the fix appears natural. You do not want to have a spot on a jacket, couch, or upholstery appear to be partly synthetic due to a mixing and matching of leathers.
Avoid the heat
Just like a person would be advised not to use heat on curing their leather, it is unadvised that you use heat on repairing your leather. It is more damaging to your leather than it is beneficial to the leather. The reason for this is that heat is unrepairable. If you perform the functions wrong, there is no coming back from that. Second, the leather becomes weaker as you are compromising the seams/tear of the leather which needs to be fixed. The result may be a quick fix but prolonged deterioration of the leather. Avoid heat application leather repair kits. Preferable are water based or air drying leather repair kits.
Does you kit mainly consist of polyvinyl acetate?
One of the key components to be aware of in your leather repair kit would be the adjoining agent offered. In many kits a polyvinyl is the main sealer. Primarily, one will find this type of sealer in water based repair kits. The problem with polyvinyl acetate (PVA for short) is that it has the same compounded ingredients as school glue. You might as well use a .99 cheap glue than to spend the extra money on a leather kit which offers this as the main solution. It cracks, flakes, and is not durable (just like school glue). It is far better to look for polyurethane based repair kits as they are more apt to hold the bond of the leather over a prolonged amount of time.
Choose a kit with quality colors
It may seem a bit rhetorical, but the color included in your leather repair kit should match the color of the leather on the product you are trying to repair. Close enough really does not cut it when you are repairing leather. Consider it in this way. Leather is the skin of an animal. To get close enough would be comparable to applying a spray tan to only your thumb or forearm and leaving the rest as is. Obviously, anyone looking would see the contrast. Such is the case when the colors of the repair kit do not match the leather. It is strongly advised that if you do not know the color of the leather that you need to get the advice from your local professional leather artisan. He or she will be able to tell you the combination of colors, or dyes needed to give your project a professional looking repair.
Buy the kit which best meets your project needs
Not all kits are created equal. There are kits which are for tears, burns, water damage, etc. To get the best results, look for kits which specialize in the repair that is needed. Miracle repair kits generally do not offer the best results as there is no miracle solution to repairing leather. For jobs where the leather has faded, it may be more expedient and yield better results to clean and recondition the leather than it would be to re-dye the leather. Keep in mind that anytime you do an additive fix (meaning that you are adding dye, chemicals, or glues) the leather becomes compromised.
Treat Nubuck and other specialty leathers as such
While most leather repair kits will fix about any type of leather, it should be noted that lambskin, nubuck, and other specialty leathers should be treated as such. The leather from such products typically have undergone special processes to get the look and feel you want. For example, Nubuck leather is sanded down. If repairing such leather, apply the patches or glues to the inner side of the tear. If the leather has been damaged by burns or discolored, first attempt to use a cleaner and a brush to restore recondition the leather rather than dying the leather.
Don’t know where to start? Get advice
Perhaps the greatest tip on how to choose the best leather repair kit would be to find someone who knows what he or she is talking about. Again, it is advisable that you ask a local artisan the best kit to use, or if you are uncomfortable in doing the repair have a professional mend and repair the leather. Should you not have a professional in your area, check the customer reviews of the product which you are considering purchasing. Look for before and after pictures, videos, and testimonials about the product. Be cautious, with digital software and image manipulation software, images can be adjusted to appear that the solution is ideal. Perform a small test on a scrap piece of leather if possible to avoid any chemical damages to your leather.
You get what you pay for
The bottom line is that when it comes to leather repair kits, you generally get what you pay for. If you get a cheap kit, then the contents will typically be cheap and produce cheap results. This is not to say that expensive brands are the best, but they do tend to have better solution options. As with any repair, read the instructions, ingredients, and ask questions before you attempt to use the product.