Do Leather Repair Kits Really Work?
In a word: YES! So long as you choose the right kit. “Do-It-Yourself” Leather Repair Kits have been around for quite some time. Many people have tried different brands of kits
available either online or from a local auto parts or department store. The vast majority of results have usually been much less than acceptable. The varying processes represented by these different brands simply confirms the immense lack of knowledge and intent of the manufacturers of these kits.
As a result, the reputation which has been established for the industry has been rather negative. Consumers have become dissapointed with the results and have come to belive that the process cannot be completed effectively.
News Media, Consumers Groups and private individuals have all conducted their own “tests” and confirmed the inadequacy of these kits. The unfortunate fact is…All repair kits are then “stereotyped” into this same catagory. When a search for “leather repair kits” is performed, a large number of results are returned and the vast majority of these results are simply the “same old junk” that doesn’t work.
There ARE repair kits available that truly provide the results that are promised. Leather Magic!™ has set about to provide products and services that truly perform far better than expected. And we are not the only ones. Some of our reputable competitors include: Magic Mender, Leatherique, Leather Renew and a very few others. Companies such as these have developed and produced products that WILL provide the expected results and strive diligently to avoid falling into the same catagory as the “run-of-the-mill” products that have traditionally been available. When comparisons and “reviews” are performed, “state-of-the-art” products should be included and highly scrutinized. The old adage: Compare apples to apples should be considered when making the comparisons.
To help you in making an informed decision on purchasing a repair kit, a description of what is available is listed below. You may also view Leather Magic!™ high quality leather repair kits here.
One of the more popular repair kits found on the market involves using a “Heat Cure” process. This process was developed nearly 50 years ago and has never been an acceptable method of leather repair. Here are the facts:
The “repair” material is simply a colored screen printers ink. That’s right…the same used to print T-shirts!
Heat, is very detrimental to leather…it “cooks” the fibers and causes premature deterioration of the leather. Even if a repair could be completed satisfactorily, the surrounding areas of the leather are damaged to the point where it will begin to break apart and cause a much larger damaged area over a short period of time.
The process is very difficult to texture and blend into the surrounding areas. The amount of heat required to “cure” the material is much greater than the leather can stand. Therefore, lesser amounts of heat are generally suggested, resulting in an even weaker repair which breaks apart quickly.
These kits are generally referred to as “Vinyl & Leather” repair kits. Vinyl and leather are two completely different materials and impossible to repair using these same products and techniques. Although these kits can perform better on Vinyl materials…they should be avoided for use on Leather.
Because the “repair material” is weak to start with, a permanent repair will never be accomplished.
Water Based or “Air Dried” repair materials are best for the repair of leather. However, there is a great deal of difference between the water based repair materials available.
Most commercially available repair kits that are “water based” are formulated from a chemical compound known as polyvinyl acetate, or PVA for short. To describe this material in “layman’s” terms, it is the exact same material used in Elmers Glue™.
PVA has a great deal of good uses, but, by itself, “leather repair” is not one of them. PVA is not flexible enough and will crack and split when the leather bends and flexes due to the fact that it does not permanently adhere to the edges of the leather nor is it flexible enough. When it dries, it turns very hard and stiff, making the repair very uncomfortable to sit on. A permanent, long term repair is not going to happen unless the repair is made in an area that gets no use, flexing or exposure. PVA does not, by itself, bond to the fibers of the leather. Within a short period of time, the repair will split and the damage will be much more difficult to repair a second time.
In order to make PVA work well with leather, it is imperative that the formulation of the product be done so as to make it chemically compatible with leather. These additional additives increase the cost of the product and do not allow for the “cheap” price that many of these kits are selling for. In addition, there are polyurethane based repair materials which are far superior to PVA but, again, the cost of these materials are much higher as well which affects the selling price. To put it in short: You get what you pay for.
Television has become a major marketing tool for business. There are myriads of products advertised and promoted through the air ways. Most of these products are legitamate,valuable assets to have and purchase. But the “As Seen On TV” mark does not necessarily prove a product to be worth the purchase.
Infomercials and advertising spots bring a great deal of “brand recognition” to a particular product and a large amount of product is sold using this technique. The idea behind the concept is to make the buyer feel comfortable in making the purchase because it is being promoted through a legitimate and popular method.
The reality of this method is that it requires a great deal of money to be included in these promotions. As a result, a very large return is expected. In order to be profitable for the manufacturer and the producers, the cost of the product must be low enough to warrant the expense and ensure profits. This requires that the product be manufactured cheaply, usually at the expense of quality.
Very few companies are able to take advantage of this method of product promotion. Those that are should be highly scrutinized before making the purchase.
When searching for repair methods, many web sites and blogs will point you in the direction of “home remedies”. While this information is intended to provide you with useful and practical advice, the vast majority is provided by posters who have little or no knowledge of the processes involved. Many people will share an experience which has worked successfully for them, and may work in other similar situations. But, when working with leather, no two situations are ever the same.
Certain reccomendations may fix the immediate problem, but inadvertantly, and without realizing it, the “solution” may cause irreversible damage in other ways.
Stain Removal is a classic example. Many “home remedies” will remove certain types of stains, but the results may end up permanently damaging the finish or even the fibers of the leather itself. Leather is a very tough and durable material. But it is also very delicate when it comes to the chemicals used on it. Most individuals do not realize that chemical reactions, in most cases, take time to fully progress. Immediate results may appear to be very satisfactory. But, over a relatively short period of time, the leather may begin to break down from negative chemical reations and a different type of damage becomes apparant. Most individuals will associate this new damage to inferior leather without realizing that the damage was caused by the use of chemicals which are incompatible with leather.
Many reccomendations are also posted with regards to the actual repair of damaged leather. These may be beneficial and actually work as far as keeping the damage from getting worse. But most of these suggestions do not make for a pleasing, permanent repair. If you just want a “patch” job…fine. But none of these suggestions will provide you with a solution that is a true repair. There is much more involved in making a true repair than a little bit of glue and acrylic paint.
The repair of leather has always been a highly controversial subject. The main reason for this is due to the lack of advancements in the chemistry of leather repair products. The vast majority of the “do-it-yourself” kits that you find, consist of old fashioned products and techniques used 25 years ago. These products were the only chemicals and methods available during that time period and were derived from products used in other industries and applications. Very little concern was placed on the repair of leather goods because leather was not as commonly used and the market was much smaller. It has only been within the last 10 years that companies such as Leather Magic!™ and others have begun to concentrate on the development of these products.
This creates a great deal of confusion for the consumer. Many of the products sold are produced solely from the standpoint of “making a sale”. Little concern, if any, is placed upon the actual results that a consumer can get. This has established a poor reputation for the industry, and causes many people to conclude that the repair process is a waste of time and money since these kits do not work as expected. That is why it is imperative, that if you are concerned about the results you wish to achieve, you must perform a bit of research into finding the products suitable for your requirements.
Even today, many of the more “reputable” products, remain based upon the old fashioned ways of thinking but with enough implementation of modern technology to avoid falling into the same category as the “old time” products. The results are, admittedly, better, but still lack the thorough design and formulations that can provide you with exactly what can be accomplished.
So, how do you find out which products are best? You have to compare, and as the saying goes: “Apples to Apples”. First, heat applications are dreadfully damaging to leather. This process was one of the first processes used in leather repair. However, long term and irreparable damage is done to the outlying areas of the repaired area, making the leather weak and causing premature deterioration within a matter of months. Water based, air dry systems are the best. However, there is a vast difference between repair products, and unless you are familiar with chemistry, and most people aren’t, you cannot know the differences.
Before you purchase a product, check out the testimonials from users of the product. A reputable company will have many. Read reviews (when available) from consumer based web sites. Before and after photos are nice, but beware, anyone can make a repair look great, but it is impossible to demonstrate how strong and durable the finished product is with just a photo.
Ask questions. Have the products been tested by independent laboratories to determine the physical properties of the product? Are there any recognizable large companies or corporations actually using or backing the product? Are MSDS and Data Sheets available for the product?Are the products used by professional service providers, and if so, do they guarantee their work? Does anyone within the organization have substantial experience using the product?
These are questions that can be easily asked and answered in one simple phone call or email.
Professional Leather Care and Restoration has been available for a very long time. Products and techniques have been readily available to professionals which enable them to perform the services which many individuals are willing to pay for.
In some instances, it may be more advisable to obtain professional services. If you have any doubts or questions about your project, abilities or product choices, contact a professional in your area or a reputable supplier to these professionals for advice.
Locating a professional company can be an undaunting task. How do you find them? How do you know what kind of work they will perform? Answer: ASK.
Many reputable firms will advertise in the Yellow Pages™, although many do not advertise at all. Check with a local “high line” car dealership such as BMW, Mercedes, Lexus or other. Ask a local high end furniture store. These dealerships generally use the services of professionals whose techniques and quality workmanship meet their standards. Seek the reccomendations of friends and aquaintances. Nothing speaks louder than refferals.
When you do locate a company, ask questions such as:
Which process do you use…Heat or air dry?
Water based air dry is best.
Have you had formal, accredited training?
Many suppliers and manufacturers provide training. However, most do not provide certified or accredited training classes. Many conduct 1 or 2 day “seminars” which can only provide enough information to get started. It can sometimes take years for some professionals to become proficient at their work.
How long have you been in this business?
Length of time in operation is not necessisarily so important. Abilities are, in most cases, determined by the individuals capabilities and understanding of the processes involved…and by the amount of “pride” they have in their workmanship. But the longer in the business the better.
Can you provide references?
References will give you an opportunity to check out the quality, longevity and service of the company. Any reputable service provider will be in a position to provide you with numerous contacts.
Do you guarantee your work?
Guarantees are important. Very few companies will place a “lifetime” guarantee, as Leather Magic!™ does, but a minimum of one year is acceptable. Anything less than six months should be considered “risky”.
Who are some of your regular customers?
A reputable company will be able to provide you with a list of legitimate, well know companies in your local area with whom they do business. Look for refferences that are icons of quality such as high line car dealerships, service departments, high end furniture stores, insurance companies. Question refferences to “used car dealers” or other lesser know relationships.
And other pertinant questions that will provide you with the information you need to make the decision. Unfortunately, just as with consumer repair kits, there are numerous products and techniques used by professional restoration companies. Some of these work well, others fall miserably short. You can only know by asking the right questions and getting the right information.