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How to remove dye transfer stains on leather

Dye transfer from jeans or other clothing on leather is a common issue in modern day automotive and furniture leather. This is obviously more noticeable on light coloured leathers like white or Ivory. The discolouration is caused by a wide variety of clothing and accessories like jackets, trousers, pants and belts. Denim, stretch fabrics and other types of fabrics may transfer dyes that are not fixed.

Heavy dye transfer on furniture leather.
Dye from jeans and discolouration from a belt on car seats.

In most cases, the dye transfer can be removed by a simple cleaning process. If you wait too long, the dye penetrates into the leather surface making it impossible to remove such stains with conventional water based leather cleaners.

As with anything, it is best to attempt cleaning with the least aggressive product first. We recommend trying with COLOURLOCK Strong Leather Cleaner and the COLOURLOCK Leather Cleaning Brush initially to remove dye transfer stains. If this doesn’t solve the problem, it is likely that the dyes have penetrated the clear coat or top coat. You will need one of our solvent based cleaner called COLOURLOCK GLD Solvent. This product dissolves the clear coat very gently to remove all staining.

Lightly damp a white cloth with GLD-Solvent and carefully clean the stained areas. Golden rule - Always test in a hidden area first! Make sure the cloth has enough product and wipe gently. Repeat this process multiple times until the staining is removed. Ensure the surface is moist as the GLD-Solvent leaves the surface feeling tacky as it evaporates. When tacky, avoid rubbing as this can cause the colour layer to peel off causing more damage. During cleaning, if any colour or paint is removed or staining is still visible it can always be touched up and recoloured with COLOURLOCK Leather Fresh

To avoid further dye transfer stains in future, the leather should be regularly protected with COLOURLOCK Leather Shield. COLOURLOCK Leather Shield offers excellent protection against dye transfer. 

Initially, try with Strong Leather Cleaner & Brush

which can remove stains.

If dye has penetrated, use COLOURLOCK GLD Solvent

Any remaining stains can be adjusted with COLOURLOCK Leather Fresh


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Is COLOURLOCK Strong Leather Cleaner always first choice?

COLOURLOCK Strong Leather Cleaner is a water-based product. The COLOURLOCK Strong Leather Cleaner is for heavily soiled leather such as leather from vintage cars, furniture in hotels or restaurants etc. As most dye transfer stains are local, there is a fairly good chance stains will come off. 

How many cleaning attempts do you need with COLOURLOCK Strong Leather Cleaner?

If the stains are removable, two to three cleaning attempts should show good results. If there is no success after two cleaning procedures despite allowing the product to soak for about one to two minutes, the staining has likely penetrated clear coat and can't be removed with water-based cleaners.

Which care products do I use in the future for such leather?

COLOURLOCK Leather Shield is a protection against abrasion, stains and discolouration. If leather is sensitive to discolouration, COLOURLOCK Leather Shield should be used regularly. Traditional care products contain oils and waxes to soften the leather. But they also soften the colour layer and make them somewhat sticky. This promotes soiling and discolouration. As long as the leather doesn't appear to be too dry, COLOURLOCK Leather Shield is the first choice for the contact areas. The rest can be treated as recommended for furniture leather.

What do I do with other types of leather?

There are many types of leather. The recommendation above for leather with discolouration from textiles is for pigmented, monochrome, semi-gloss smooth leather. In case of other leather types, feel free to send us an email with some good photos so we can assist. 

What do I do with synthetic leather?

In case of artificial leather (synthetic leather, vinyl etc.) use COLOURLOCK Vinyl Cleaner. If this doesn't work, GLD Solvent won't help either. Artificial leather has a polyurethane coating and stains that have penetrated this layer cannot just be cleaned - even with a solvent based product. The surface will have to be recoloured with COLOURLOCK Leather Fresh. Depending on the intensity of the stain, specialist products like a Blocker may be required to prevent the stain showing through the paint layer. 

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