Understanding Leather Categories

In my 20 plus years in the furniture business, I have spoken with many people that have incorrect impressions on leather upholstery. This is usually due to preconceived ideas based on negative things they have heard or assumed. Let me give you some first hand information from a seasoned professional. I can with all honesty tell you there are many advantages to this timeless, stylish, and cost effective covering. True, there are some situations that the consumer should be aware of and I will let you know about these pros and cons so you can make an educated decision.

First of all let’s look at the major categories of leather so you can pick something suitable for your lifestyle and level of use. Basically there are two major categories, protected and non-protected (also known as aniline dyed or natural leather). The tanning process for the most part is similar in either category along with other processes that prepare the hide for the dying stage. For natural leather dye is added and nothing else to resist against absorption of spills or hand and hair oils. If natural leather is introduced to moisture the dye can run and cause a stain. Also, the places that are repeatedly touched will darken as the hide collects oils from our hands and hair. Not to sound to gross, the industry has a nice name for this darkening, a patina. I highly recommend a darker color to help mask this kind of look if the furniture will be in a heavy traffic area. Cleaning is limited to damp cloth and light non- detergent soap mixed in a diluted solution. It is also important not to use a lot of leather care products as they can darken the leather with the oils they have in them.

leather colors and gradesThe second type of leather is the protected kind which makes up the vast majority of leather on the market. From furniture to automobiles the ease of cleaning and cost effectiveness make for a long lasting, durable and low maintenance upholstery. Within this category there are many looks and feels, from embossed to full grain, and thin to very thick. All of these are simply characteristics that give the consumer a variety of articles to choose from. Because there is a urethane surface on the outer most part of the hide which resists against spills and the elements, this is a much more cleanable type of upholstery. When shopping for furniture it is important to discuss your expectations and lifestyle so you get the most suitable type for you. A simple damp white cloth will keep you dirt and dust free, and a high quality leather conditioner will neutralize body oils and restore a supple feel.