Do-It-Yourself Leather Repair Kit: Does It Work?

Do-It-Yourself Leather Repair Kit: Does It Work? »Play Video
SEATTLE - They've been advertised for years and clearly someone's buying them, but how well do those do-it-yourself leather and vinyl repair kits really work?

The ads make it look like you can repair torn leather and vinyl so that the tears are barely noticeable.

The product costs $35.50 including shipping and handling. So we decided to order one and have KOMO viewer Kari Cantey test it out.

The goal was to repair a rip in a red vinyl purse. The product's colored adhesive compounds are supposed to seal the damage.

The instruction say "Apply compound into and around the damaged spot, blending it in with the natural surface."

Then, take the provided heat transfer tool and hold it against a home iron for 3 to 4 minutes.

"When it is hot, immediately place metal tip on the grain paper atop the X, moving in a circular motion," the instructions continued.

Different grain papers are provided so you can match the grain of the item being repaired.

The heating tool bonds the compound to the vinyl or leather and helps it cure.

Kari did her best to follow the instructions, but it didn't work.

"I definitely think I could've done more heating," she said. "Maybe that would've helped."

So, to make sure we're giving it a fair shot, we went to a professional -- Mark Allen, the owner of European Leather Repair in Bothell.

First, Mark used the repair kit to mend a tear in an old leather seat cushion. He says if Kari would have glued a piece of cloth backing behind the purse tear she might have gotten better results.

And that little heat transfer tool in the kit -- it doesn't get hot enough.

Mark used the electric heating tool that came with the kit instead.

But it still didn't repair the leather tear, because the leather was too old. Mark says the grain papers are too stiff to get a good connection with old tough and cracked leather, so the color compound can't cure properly.

So we asked Mark to try using the repair kit on a vinyl briefcase, and here we had better luck.

"Well, the repair compound did pretty well," he said.

The color doesn't match, but there's no tear.

Mark's verdict: You may be able to fix some tears, but don't bet your hopes up too high.

"You would probably have to repeat the repair process 2 or 3 times before you finally had a feel for how all of this works, and by that time you'd run out of material," Allen said.

Mark says our kit would work best with small repairs that are not in a stress area -- like a seat cushion. Also, unless you're dealing with black, expect matching colors to be difficult, and no matter what you're repairing, don't expect it to look like new. Even experts have a tough time with that.

Mark says as a leather repair exert, he's seen a lot of attempts to make repairs with do-it-yourself kits -- usually after people bring him their damaged furniture to fix what they could not.