DIY Distressed Leather Sofa

leather couch with houseplant and brick wall
  • 2-4 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-50
What You'll Need
Leather sofa
Leather balm
Carpet-cleaning brush

A distressed leather sofa is among the less-prevalent styles, but it's still an option for creating a stylish, wabi-sabi ambience in the living room. Distressing of leather isn't limited to leather sofas. In fact, many kinds of leather items such as purses, belts and bags are often distressed during the manufacturing process or on special requests at premium outlets. This is because some people prefer the aging look of leather rather than a shiny, new appearance. The main challenge in distressing leather is to safeguard the basic integrity of the material while manipulating its appearance to create the desired impact.

Another reason for wanting a distressed leather sofa is the existing ambience of the living room. It the room has a rustic appearance; a new sofa with its typical shiny, surface can jeopardize the visual aesthetics. This is particularly true for houses with old rugs and vintage elements. Thus, the ‘aging’ of any new addition to the room, including the sofa, is needed.

Most of the distressed leather-making techniques involve using staining and brushing in order to age the outer surface of the leather without actually harming the material. Distressed leather can be created at home using basic supplies and some household tools.

leather couch in stylish living room

Step 1—Wetting & Washing Leather Sofa

Ensure that the sofa is located at a safe distance, away from the home’s electrical outlets. Using a bucket filled with water, wet the sofa. Ensure that you pour water over every part of the sofa. Using a sponge or a light-bristled brush, scrub the thoroughly-soaked sofa. Scrubbing on a wet surface ensures that the surface is scraped but not to the extent of leaving behind, deep-seated/damaging marks.

Step 2 - Blow-Drying

Using a blow-dryer, start drying the sofa. Ensure that the blow-dryer has been set for the maximum temperature. Heating the leather surface immediately after having cooled it to a certain extent produces the ideal kind of cracks that are needed for distressing the leather, i.e. surface cracks that aren’t deep but still create the weathered look. If you feel that some of the cracks are too small, you can make them more pronounced by rubbing them with a carpet-cleaning brush. However, do this very carefully as a dried leather surface is prone to crumbling around the edges of cracks.

Step 3 - Pigmenting

Apply a thin coat of microcrystalline wax that is also sold as leather balm for all kinds of leather surfaces. Use this balm more liberally along the headrest and armrest of the sofa, as they are more prone to weathering. You can apply the balm with an old rag. However, don’t leave the balm on the sofa for too long. Within a minute of applying it, brush it off with the rag. The balm contains natural pigments that make the sofa appear darker and more aged.

Step 4 - Sanding

Using some sandpaper, sand the pigmented surface of the sofa. This spreads the pigment evenly and rubs-off any kind of polish or finishing ingredient that is responsible for giving the sofa its finished appearance.

Step 5 - Bending

This is a simple method to augment the effects of all the distressing measures used above. Grip small pieces of the leather sofa and twist it. Try to bend it and maintain your grasp for a few minutes. This induces wrinkles in the sofa and loosens the fibers of the outer surface.