Auto upholstery is chrome-tanned leather, which is fairly tough and impenetrable. It is more like the tough, painted leather of your shoes than the softer, dyed leather of kid gloves. Thus it is hard for paint to penetrate the upholstery, and you can likely remove it yoursef if it is latex paint. Oil requires a professional's care.
Things You'll Need
- Leather cleaning system
- Soft cloth
Try to loosen the paint with a warm water compress using a face cloth or piece of cheesecloth. This should soften the paint and loosen its grip on the leather so that you can gently peel it away.
Apply a leather cleaning system if step 1 does not work. These systems are available from furniture retailers and include two bottles: a colorless cleaner and a conditioner. (Valspar Guardsman for leather is one example.) Apply the cleaner per manufacturer's instructions. The cleaner contains mild concentrations of several organic solvents, which don't dissolve the paint but loosen its grip without removing the leather's paint or finish.
Repeat Step 2 however many times are necessary, allowing the solvent to sit a bit longer (perhaps by 25 percent) than the manufacturer recommends.
Apply conditioner per the manufacturer's instructions. The leather will appear dulled after using the solvents, but the solvents are not strong enough to damage the leather. The conditioner will restore the luster and blend it with the rest of the item.
Seek a professional technician if the above steps do not work or if the paint is oil based. A technician will likely have to refinish and blend the area.
Tips & Warnings
- Do not use razors or box cutters to scrape away the paint. You will scrape away the leather's finish.
- Do not use products that claim to be "good for leather or vinyl; they are effective for vinyl but generally too harsh for leather.
- Do not use "elbow grease" to remove the paint; the solvent should do the work. Any vigorous rubbing will remove the finish of the leather or change its texture.
- Do not use soap, which will introduce detergents into the leather.
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