Leather glue: Choosing the best glue and how to use it

Leather is a durable material. But after being used day-in, day-out, all your favorite leather items are prone to damage. Got an unsightly tear in your leather jacket? Or holes in your leather car seats? Read on to discover the best ways to fix them.

Leather glue: What you need to know

Leather has long been a material of choice for clothing, footwear, furniture, sporting goods, and many other applications. It’s malleable, weather resistant, and has a uniquely rugged look. Because it’s made from rawhide and other natural fibers, leather requires particular care to keep it from breaking down and looking fresh. But, even when you’re careful, cuts, tears, and other damage can occur.

Leather is constantly bending and flexing, requiring a glue with flexibility to keep a durable bond. Ordinary white glue or wood glue doesn’t bond well with leather and can cause damage. Instead, look for specialized leather glues for the job.

Shoe glue: A flexible solution

To keep leather items in top shape, use glues that are waterproof, clean-drying, and flexible. Most importantly, you want to choose a glue that can create permanent bonds.

Shoe glue is a versatile adhesive that bonds, seals, and repairs leather, vinyl, canvas, textiles, foam, reinforced polyester, and many rubbers. Meant for strong bonds requiring constant flexing, it dries clear and resists vibration, impacts, moisture, and extreme temperatures.

Shoe glue’s gap-filling properties make it ideal for bonding imperfect surfaces like leather and other textured fabrics.

How to repair leather with glue: Step-by-step instructions

Gluing leather items, such as shoes or jackets, is easy, but it requires knowing how to prepare, apply, and clean after use. Follow these steps for a powerful bond that keeps your leather looking great.

  • Prepare before using. Choose a well-ventilated area and a work surface with adequate space. Cover tables or benches with protective cloths or papers. A leather glue is best applied at temperatures between 41°F and 104°F.
    Examine the parts to be joined and test the fit. Clear away any fragments or particles obstructing a seal. For improved adhesion, you may want to roughen very smooth surfaces (e.g., hard plastics or metal) with fine grit sandpaper prior to cleaning.
  • Clean the leather. Surfaces to be bonded should be clean and dry. To clean leather, use castile bar soap on a damp rag. Use the rag to gently buff the leather and remove dirt. Use a second rag or cloth to clear any soapy residue. Allow the leather to dry completely before continuing.
  • Apply the leather glue. Apply a thin but consistent layer to one surface to be joined. For a gap-filling seal, apply the glue more thickly, in a layer of up to 1/5 inch. To achieve a more intense initial grip, apply on both surfaces.
  • For repairs requiring a more accurate application, look for Loctite Super Glue Ultra Gel Control. It comes in a patented side-squeeze design for maximum control and airtight storage. Resistant to moisture and temperature, it’s meant to create a durable but flexible bond with leather and other materials.

Wear latex or nitrile gloves (not PVC, nylon, or cotton) to protect your hands while using leather glue.

  • Join the pieces. Position the pieces as desired and press together firmly. If necessary, hold surfaces together with rubber bands, tape, or clamps to ensure a tight seal without gaps. Leave parts undisturbed for 1 to 3 hours as the bond forms.
    Leather glue sticks quickly, but a full bond takes time. Within 24 hours, 70% of full adhesion is usually achieved. Full bond strength is achieved in 24 to 48 hours depending on temperature, humidity, and the thickness of the application.

As a general rule, the cure time for leather glue is approximately 24 hours for every 1/8 inch of adhesive.

  • Cleanup and storage. Wash any surfaces exposed to the glue immediately using mineral spirits. If any overflow or running adhesive has cured, carve it away using a razor or sharp-edged tool. Be careful not to scratch or otherwise damage the leather.
    Store the remaining glue at room temperature with the bottle tightly sealed. Avoid storing it at extreme temperatures (below 41°F or above 122°F).