How to remove dye transfer stains on leather

Dye transfer from clothing on light leather colours is not uncommon. Automotive and furniture leather are the ones mostly affected. The discolouration is caused by a wide variety of clothing. Jackets, pants and belts cause such stains. 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 and It’s impossible to remove such stains with conventional water based leather cleaners.

We recommend using COLOURLOCK Strong Leather Cleaner with the COLOURLOCK Leather Cleaning Brush for the first attempt to remove dye transfer stains. If this doesn’t solve the problem, the stains must additionally be cleaned with COLOURLOCK GLD Solvent ND. The GLD Solvent ND is a solvent based product and we always recommend using a water based cleaner first.

Lightly damp a white cloth with GLD-Solvent and carefully clean the stained areas. Always test in a hidden area first! GLD-Solvent slightly dissolves the colour coating. When trying to remove the discolouration, also the leather colour can be removed. Be very careful not to remove too much.
If too much colour is removed or visible stains remain, such areas can be recoloured with COLOURLOCK Leather Fresh. In areas where a high opacity is required, apply several layers and dry in between with a hair dryer.

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. Only apply Leather Shield on clean leather.

Frequently asked questions

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 gastronomy etc. As most dye transfer stains are local, there is a fairly good chance to remove stains with the The 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 and a soaking time of about one to two minutes, the discolouration is inside the colour layer and can't be removed with water-based cleaners.
COLOURLOCK Leather Shield is a protection against abrasion, stains and discolouration. If leather is sensitive to discolouration, COLOURLOCK Leather Shield should be used regularly. This is not necessary if a strong colouring textile was the reason behind the stains. But if the leather is generally sensitive, this recommendation is true for all contact areas. 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.
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, always consult a leather specialist first. Such leather is mostly sensitive and the damage can increase.
In case of artificial leather (synthetic leather, vinyl etc.) Cleaner for Artificial Leather with Sponge is the first choice. If this doesn't succeed, COLOURLOCK GLD won't help either. The colour layer on leather can be dissolved in most cases and can be refreshed. But this is not possible on artificial leather. If the dye transfer is resistant, there is no way to clean it. Even specialists have little chance, and even a colouration of the stain carries the risk that the ink moves through the new colour layer to the top and becomes visible again. Specialists use a blocker to avoid this. Ask a specialist for advice. But not all dye transfer stains on artificial leather can be cleaned or hidden.

Recommended products

  • COLOURLOCK Mild Leather Cleaner, if the rest of the leather surfaces are clean.
  • COLOURLOCK Strong Leather Cleaner, if the leather is durable and otherwise also very dirty.
  • COLOURLOCK Leather Cleaning Brush - Helpful against discoloration and dirt in the grain structure.
  • COLOURLOCK GLD Solvent ND - Solvent based cleaner against stubborn stains. Please follow the instructions!
  • COLOURLOCK Leather Shield, for final sealing and to reduce new discolouration.
  • COLOURLOCK Leather Fresh according to our colour chart or matched to a sample with surcharge. Minimum amount for special colours is 150 ml.
Leather Cleaning Brush normal
The Leather Cleaning Brush is ideal for:  Using with the Mild or Strong Leather Cleaner to remove ingrained dirt Using with the COLOURLOCK Cleaner for Artificial Leather to remove ingrained dirt from vinyl or plastics Brushing up nubuck and suede Polishing shoes and boots with COLOURLOCK Elephant Leather Preserver Amount: 1 piece. One brush is usually sufficient for cleaning a car interior or a set of furniture multiple times.With its durable bristles and high-quality wooden handle, the Colourlock Leather Cleaning Brush is great for removing dirt and stains effectively and gently from leather car seats, sofas, chairs, clothing and handbags. It can also be used to clean Alcantara and other Textile materials as long as it is used gently.
Brush Size

Leather Cleaner with sponge
Ideal for cleaning leather car and furniture upholstery, bags, suitcases or garments.The Leather Cleaner is provided in a foam dispenser bottle. Foams clean the leather more efficiently than liquid agents, the consumption is considerably smaller, and the leather does not become wet, which could otherwise become hard after drying.Firstly, clean the leather thoroughly before refreshing the colour or applying care products. Use COLOURLOCK Mild Leather Cleaner against normal soiling. Cleaning before treatment prevents the dirt sticking to the leather's surface. Our COLOURLOCK Leather Cleaning Brush effectively removes ingrained dirt (use circular motions and work from seam to seam). After cleaning, it is always best to apply a care product to protect it against general wear and future staining.Amount: 200 ml Mild Leather Cleaner. This is usually sufficient for the cleaning of a whole car interior or set of furniture.Amount: 1 litre Application of Leather CleanerAlways test any products first on a hidden area in case they affect the colour.Dispense some foam on a sponge or brush. Do not apply to the leather directly! Clean the leather from seam to seam using the foam; repeat several times, if necessary. Remove dirty foam residue with a slightly moistened piece of cloth, then allow to dry.On older leathers, stains might sink into the surface, or perceived dirt might actually be colour damage. Such stains cannot always be removed by cleaning, in which case, use COLOURLOCK Leather Fresh for refreshing the colour, or ask us for advice.These products are also suitable for "Cool Leather/SRT (SunReflective Technology) Leather"!
Available Sizes

Refresher for scratches
Leather Fresh Dye
Leather Fresh is a colour refresher (dye) for scratches, worn, or faded leather. Leather Fresh is ideal to refresh colour damages on car leather, furniture leather, leather garments and handbags. Do not use on porous leathers unless colouring the entire surface - it can make the surface appear patchy. It can be sponged on or sprayed using an airbrush.  Application Always test any products first on a hidden area to test for colour match!Firstly, clean the leather thoroughly and prepare the surface. Use Mild Leather Cleaner for normal degrees of soiling or Strong Leather Cleaner to remove heavier dirt (where the leather has been neglected for many years). Cleaning prior to treatment ensures the paint bonds to the surface well and ensures durability. Use Leather Cleaning Brush to effectively remove all ingrained dirt. Cleaning removes dirt but for long lasting results you should also de-grease using Degreaser.Use a sponge to apply the colour evenly, working from seam to seam. Dry afterwards with a hair dryer. On small spots, a one application is sufficient. Apply multiple thin layers and dry each layer using a hair dryer.A day later, after it dries, apply Leather Protector. It gives the leather a good sheen and helps blend the repair. It contains antioxidants, which stops the leather's decay, and its UV filters protect the surfaces of old and valuable leathers from bleaching and fading. Also keeps the leather supple.  46 standard colours and prepared special colours according to sample or manufacturer name.Find car leather colours for Leather Fresh Dye in our Car Leather Repair category.
Available Sizes

From £29.91*
GLD Solvent ND
For light-colored smooth leathers or artificial leathers, discolouration can occur from items like jeans, belts, bags (both leather and fabrics), or pens. These stains are common on furniture and vehicle upholstery. If not promptly cleaned, the dyes can penetrate the surface and become impossible to remove with regular cleaners. The GLD solvent ND can be used to attempt the removal of such stains when gentler cleaners have failed. Typically, 250 ml of GLD ND is sufficient as it is a specialized cleaner with a dissolving effect. For experienced users requiring larger quantities, the liter of GLD ND is recommended. APPLICATION Depending on the material, start by attempting to clean the surface with Leather Cleaner Strong or Cleaner for Artificial Leather. If unsuccessful, apply some GLD ND to a microfiber cloth and carefully clean the surface. Always test on a hidden area first! Some surfaces are easily dissolved (furniture leather), while others react more subtly (car leather, artificial leather). Carelessness with GLD ND can worsen the problem. When using GLD ND, the upper layer of leather colour is dissolved. Some leather dye may also be removed while trying to remove the discoloration, which will be visible on the cloth. Be cautious not to completely remove the colour layer. If colour removal occurs or the discoloration cannot be fully eliminated, these areas must be retouched with suitable Leather Fresh dye. Before cleaning with GLD ND, smooth roughened areas with COLOURLOCK Polishing Pad 4000. In approximately half of the cases, GLD ND alone is sufficient and colour matching is unnecessary. The more severe the discoloration, the higher the likelihood of requiring colour matching with Leather Fresh dye. Artificial leather is more challenging to clean than genuine leather. To prevent further discoloration, regularly protect the surface with COLOURLOCK Leather Shield. This product reduces dye penetration into the surface. To be safe, treat all previously unaffected contact surfaces with the leather shield. However, the shield should only be applied to surfaces previously cleaned with leather cleaner mild or strong.
Available Sizes

Cleaner for Artificial Leather with Sponge
Efficiently cleans heavily soiled surfaces. Apply Cleaner on a slightly moistened sponge and press the foam out of it. Clean the surface with the foam.For artificial leather like Vinyl, PU & Faux Leather.Amount: 200 ml, 1 litreApplicationAlways test any products first on a hidden area in case they affect the colour. Apply Artificial Leather Cleaner on a slightly moistened sponge and press the foam out of it. Clean the surface with the foam. Use the Leather Cleaning Brush (not included) to remove dirt from the grain. Remove the dirty foam residue with a clean and slightly moistened piece of cloth.
Available Sizes

From £23.29*