Vinyl office chairs are a cheap and popular alternative to leather chairs but unfortunately suffer from the same cracking, splitting, and tearing issues.
Here, we will look at the properties of vinyl, why it cracks, and how to repair a vinyl office chair armrest.
What is Vinyl?
Vinyl is a form of plastic that is kind of an umbrella term for ethylene-based plastics. They can be stretchy or hard, but they are easily molded.
Perhaps you’ve heard of PVC, used in the making of pipes and tubing. PVC is a type of vinyl. Combining PVC with plasticizers creates stretchy and soft vinyl upholstery.
Vinyl is an inexpensive material to produce, and it is also quite durable.
The entire structure of a chair can be fashioned from hard vinyl, or they can have steel and wood frames with vinyl upholstery, which many manufacturers market as faux leather furniture.
The great thing about vinyl upholstery is that it looks and feels a lot like leather at a fraction of the cost.
Vinyl lazy-boys and office chairs are excellent products that have a classy and professional look without breaking the bank.
Why does vinyl crack or split?
Because vinyl uses plasticizers to give it a stretchy and soft texture, it requires a special coating to keep the plasticizers from breaking down. The top coating will eventually wear off, resulting in flaking, thinning, and vulnerability to tears splits, and cracks.
Vinyl cracks, peels, or splits due to degradation caused by various factors including exposure to UV light, using the wrong cleaning materials, overuse, and unintentional accidents that cause scrapes and tears.
Office chairs are some of the most used pieces of furniture out there, with employees spending at least eight hours a day sitting in them, so the backs, seats, and arms of the chair receive constant body weight and movement, speeding up the wear process.
Not all vinyl upholstery has the same quality, so nicer vinyl will last longer than less expensive, lower-quality vinyl. UV rays are especially detrimental to the structure of vinyl plastics, so if you have a particularly sunny office, your vinyl chair might see cracking sooner than you thought.
Luckily, vinyl is very easy to repair at home. There are plenty of kits for patching vinyl tears, splits, and cracks that are reasonably priced and will leave your office chair looking as good as new.
How to Repair Vinyl Office Chair Armrest?
To repair a vinyl office chair armrest, you must start by ensuring you have all the tools necessary to get the job done, so we will first go over what you need before we delve into the detailed instructions of vinyl upholstery repair.
What Will You Need to Repair Your Vinyl Office Chair Armrest?
You will need the following products:
- Mild hand soap
- Sandpaper, 320-grit
- Vinyl repair kit
- Blowdryer (optional)
- Heating lamp (optional)
- Rubbing alcohol (optional)
- Cotton swabs or q-tips
- Finishing spray or oil (optional)
There are dozens of viny repair kits or combination vinyl and leather repair kits on the market. They generally come with these items:
- A roll of vinyl patches OR liquid vinyl
- Backing fabric
- Waterproof paint
- Alcohol swabs
- Sanding paper
Most combination leather and vinyl repair kits will get the job done, but we recommend Tear Aid because it is a vinyl-only repair kit so it will do a superior job, using materials meant only for vinyl repair without using adhesive.
Also, some repair kits require a heating mechanism, like a hot clothes iron, to seal the patch onto the vinyl while others do not.
We recommend looking for a kit that doesn’t require a hot iron for sealing as it’s safer and more convenient.
Also read: How Many Years Should an Office Chair Last?
How to Repair Vinyl Armrest Step by Step
Now that you have prepared all the necessary tools and materials for your armrest repair, you are ready to get started.
Here we provide step by step instructions for you to follow:
Turn your hot water faucet on and let the water get as hot as possible.
Wet a washcloth with the hot water until it is completely saturated, then wring out excess water. Drop a dollop of liquid hand soap on the wet towel and proceed to the affected area of the office chair.
Cleanse the cracked or split part of the arm with the lathered washcloth, making sure you eliminate all traces of dirt, dust, body oils, and other impurities.
We recommend cleaning the entire armrest or at least an extra inch or two beyond the perimeter of the affected area so that your patches will properly stick to the surrounding fabric.
Take another clean cloth, run it under warm water and then use it to remove the soap from the armrest.
You will need to clean the soap off the armrest thoroughly, so you’ll probably need to rinse out the cloth and run it over the armrest two or three times.
When you have eliminated all remnants of soap, use a third clean cloth to dry off the vinyl, then let it sit for around 10 minutes until it dries completely.
Take a square of sandpaper (some vinyl repair kits come with sandpaper).
Just as you washed the armrest, use the sandpaper to lightly scrub over the affected area of the armrest, sanding both the affected area and at least a ½ inch perimeter around it.
You don’t want to over-sand as you don’t want to destroy the topcoat, so a good once-over will do. If there is any residual dust from the sandpaper on the armrest, remove it with a dry washcloth.
Now it is time to use your vinyl kit. Your vinyl repair kit comes with either patches and adhesive or liquid vinyl. So, depending on which kit you use, you will have a specific protocol.
For liquid vinyl, you will use a stirring stick to mix in the color paint you will use to match the rest of the chair.
Other liquid vinyl formulas have you apply the color after you have applied the liquid vinyl, so be sure to read your kit’s instructions.
If you are using a vinyl liquid, you take a spatula (one is usually provided in the kit) and spread the first layer of vinyl over the affected area and about ½ inch beyond the affected area in all directions. Make sure the first layer is as smooth as possible as it will be your base.
If you are using vinyl patches, you will take a pair of scissors and cut the patch to the size you need, which should cover the crack or split completely and extend out about a 1/8-1/4 inch onto the unaffected area surrounding the cracks.
Mix the adhesive with the color paint that matches the rest of the chair. Place the patch over the affected area. If it is a split, place the adhesive inside the slit, spreading the edges out underneath the insides of the surrounding vinyl with your fingers or a pair of tweezers.
Spread the adhesive over the patch and slightly beyond the patch.
If you are using liquid vinyl, you will need to spread multiple layers of liquid vinyl over the affected area, waiting 15 minutes in between each layer for the previous layer to dry completely.
You can use a hairdryer on cool or even a standing fan over the affected area to facilitate faster drying. Wipe the spatula clean after each layer to make sure there is no gunky or clumpy residue.
If you are using patches and adhesive, you will have to follow the instructions on your specific kit as some require you to use multiple layers of patches and adhesive, and with others, you will only need one patch but various layers of adhesive.
Again, with each layer of the adhesive or liquid vinyl application, wipe down the spatula, let the area dry, and smooth it over with wet fingertips.
Use a cotton swab or Q-tip and rubbing alcohol to rub over the repaired area lightly.
You can also use the sandpaper to smooth everything over, but just a few quick swipes.
You can rub or spray a coating of vinyl finishing spray or oil over the armrest to set everything in place, but this is optional.
How to Clean and Maintain Vinyl
If you look at vinyl repair kits, many of them are labeled as “Vinyl and Leather Repair Kits,” so while they may be completely different materials, they have similar looks, textures, and maintenance protocols.
However, vinyl does not require very expensive, leather-specific cleaners.
The best way to thwart cracking and splitting is by oiling the upholstery every week or so with baby oil, which keeps the fabric supple by preventing it from drying out.
Another product to use when cleaning vinyl is leather conditioners. They will waterproof the coating and penetrate the deepest layer of vinyl upholstery for the most thorough cleaning. They will also leave a long-lasting shine on your furniture.
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