Taking Care of All Things Leather
Types of leather
There are countless benefits to leather furniture as it’s a lavish and functional upholstery material; however, not all leather is the same. There are different types of hides, grains and dying processes, and all of this affects the use and cost of your leather furniture. To determine what type of leather is best for you, here are some things to look out for:
Aniline, Pure Aniline, Full Aniline
Aniline leather is the most natural type of leather because it has been dyed exclusively with soluble dyes and the surface has not been covered with a topcoat or pigment. This treatment results in a hide that has retained its natural grain and characteristics. Only the best hides are used for aniline leather because all surface marks remain visible and may become more prominent over time as the leather develops a patina. Because there is no topcoat added to the surface, aniline leather will always be soft to the touch but more sensitive to fading or staining. For these reasons, aniline leather is great for the person who wants a soft leather and appreciates the beauty of the leather’s unique natural markings. The expectation should be that the furniture will not be used in young families or high traffic areas.
Aniline pull-up is an aniline leather that has been pulled tight across a drum and then dyed to create a color that is deep and vibrant. The resulting effect is a leather that produces a burst of color when stretched, giving it a buffed and distressed finish. Pull-up leathers are covered in an oil or wax treatment which gives it a soft, velvety feel.
Nubuck is a top grain leather that has been lightly buffed or sanded to produce a suede-like feel with a slight nap. Nubuck leather is a natural, fine product and does not have a protective coat which means that it is more sensitive to fading and staining. This would be a good leather for someone who wants a unique, stylish and comfortable leather who doesn't mind a little extra care.
A semi-aniline leather is produced through the same dying process as aniline, but has been covered in a thin topcoat or pigment layer for finish. There may be an additional pigment added as well to create a two-tone look, but wrinkles, scars, and bites may still be as visible as aniline leather. You should choose semi-aniline leather if you foresee the furniture getting a lot of use in a high traffic areas. Ultimately, semi-aniline is for the person who values the softness and texture of natural leather, but needs a little more protection from the elements of everyday life.
Protected leather has been pigmented to ensure color consistency and protection against everyday use. This is the most durable type of leather, but not the most natural because the markings have been removed through buffing and sanding. An artificial grain is usually embossed onto the hide to replace the surface markings, resulting in a consistent grain and coloration. Protected and pigmented leather is the most durable and cleanable type which makes it good for the person who is willing to give up some softness and natural texture for more practicality. This leather is easy to take care of, but does not have the same uniqueness or natural vibe of an aniline leather.
Grain refers to the outside layer of the hide consisting of cells, wrinkles, pores and other natural characteristics. Full and top grain leathers are the best types of leather to look for in any leather product.
A full-grain hide is a leather that has not been altered on the grain layer. These leathers contain all the unique variations in natural markings, including wrinkles and stretch marks that were developed over the course of the animal’s life. Full-grain leather will begin to show more of its markings and become deeper in color as it develops as a patina.
A top-grain hide has gone through a sanding process that buffs off the natural variations which results in a leather that is less varied, but still strong and durable. Top-grain leather is easier to clean due to the less-natural surface.
Other types of grain: Corrected or embossed grain. Suede.
The best part about leather upholstery is that it will certainly last for decades with good care and attention to detail. Care is relatively simple, more simple than other upholstery materials, but each leather is has a different coating, so each leather requires a different kind of care. Before you jump into cleaning, it is important to understand the type of leather you have or want to buy.
Aniline leather: Because aniline leather is unprotected, we recommend merely dusting it with a clean, dry cloth or regularly vacuuming it with a soft brush nozzle so that the dirt has no chance to build up. For spills or stains you’ll want to blot the area as quickly as possible with a cloth to absorb it, however most stains will dissipate into the leather over time. Take extra precaution as the natural look of aniline leather is sensitive to scratching and staining.
Semi-aniline, or protected leather: As these leathers are protected to some degree, they can stand up to heavier use and less forgiving cleaning methods than aniline leathers. For stain removal a damp cloth and some time for absorption should be all that it needs, but for more stubborn stains it should be fine to use a gentle soap and water to help work it out. For an oil-based stain you’ll need to wipe off the excess oil with a cloth; do not use water, the oil will dissipate on its own over time.
Also when cleaning, you want to make sure you never get the leather overly wet. If you’ve used soap you do not need to rinse it off afterwards because the soap will condition the leather for you, instead, simply buffer with a soft cloth. Be sure to use only a very small amount of very mild soap, like dove or ivory. This works on most stains as well as for general cleaning and upkeep. In any case, it is best to try out your cleaning method on a small area that can’t be seen just to sure that the technique won’t distort the leather.
To keep your furniture looking its best, you should avoid positioning your leather furniture near direct sunlight or air conditioning sources to prevent it from fading or drying out.
Stains, dust and dirt are all things that are bound to come into contact with your furniture, but keep in mind that harsh cleaners can damage the value of the leather. The best thing to do is to keep it simple, and avoid home remedies and harsh chemical cleaners. After all, the easiest and quickest way to keep your furniture looking its best is to vacuum or dust the surface on a weekly basis. This will allow the leather to breath and last longer.
- Erin Spencer