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Leather Furniture Tips

Why Shop for Leather Furniture?

Over the years the popularity of leather has skyrocketed! There are many factors that play in its popularity. One factor is price. Leather prices have fallen substantially over the years making it more affordable to the consumer. The other factors relate to the features and benefits of the product. Listed below are some key points to consider in your leather purchase.

Leather has become so popular because of features and benefits such as these:

  • Leather has a sensuous lure about it. It portrays elegance yet it's practical for everyday use.
  • Experts claim leather, if properly treated, will outlast upholstery furniture 4 to 1. Having a useful life of 15 to 20+ years versus 4-5 years for most fabrics.
  • Leather is one of the most durable materials used in furniture coverings. It is difficult to puncture, yet has a soft, supple feel.
  • Being a natural material, leather will breathe and will not become sticky in the summer and cold in the winter. Leather will maintain the same temperature as your room.
  • Leather ages well. Over time, leather will develop a "patina" and may become more supple with age.
  • Leather is easy to care for and clean.
  • Modern leather does not crack and peel. It retains its shape without sagging.
  • It resists heat and sun damage.

Leather Types

During the leather preparation process, hides have been tanned in large vats using a chromium salt solution. The hides are then sorted and graded. Suitable cowhides are then split into the top layer (the epidermis) and a thick lower layer, or the split leather. The top layer, commonly known as the top grain, is the part of hide that has the pores, scars, fleabites, hair and such. After the hide is split, it goes through an aniline dyeing process. Some leather coloring stops at this point of the tanning process while others receive more coating operations, with clear or pigmented finishes, that does not penetrate the surface. After drying occurs, the hides are then sorted again into two categories: corrected leathers and uncorrected leathers.

Corrected leathers have had a grain correction. Typically, corrected leathers are not the premium hides. Buffing or sanding the surface removes surface imperfections, such as brands, fleabites, and scars. After more dyeing, or pigmentation, the hide is "embossed" giving it a uniform grain. The final step prior to measuring and cutting the hide is to apply a urethane finish. Corrected leathers are more stain resistant and generally are not as soft and supple as the uncorrected leathers. Corrected leathers are the most family-friendly of all leathers.

Uncorrected hides generally have fewer markings and are not sanded or buffed. Such hides are classified as full grain or uncorrected leathers. These hides are typically better in quality and are therefore more expensive. Also, these hides have what is called patina, or their own personal identity. No two hides are alike just like no two fingerprints are alike. One hide might have color variations up to 25% when another hide might have a unique brand or scar. Uncorrected leathers have a unique look and feel that is not found with corrected hides.

General Leather Care

One of the major selling points of leather is the care factor. Over time body oils, perspiration, skin acids and soiling will work into the leather if it is not cleaned regularly. In order for leather to last as expected, the consumer must clean the leather by dusting or vacuuming on a regular basis. This will help minimize any dust or oil buildup that results from everyday living. Further, every 4-6 months, it is recommended that you clean your leather with a mild cleaner and apply a protection cream to keep the leather soft and supple. By doing this faithfully, you are guaranteed to have many years of use and enjoyment from your leather furniture.

Leather Glossary

Pure Aniline Leather: A top grain leather that has been soaked in aniline dye but receives no additional coloring. It may contain a protective treatment such as Scotchgard. The most expensive leather as well the best quality. The most soft and supple of all leathers. The natural grain of the leather has not been sanded or buffed in any way, and will develop a rich patina with age. A very small percentage of hides are actually pure aniline leather.

Semi-Aniline: A top grain leather that is aniline dyed and coated with a matching pigment and/or other topical finishes to even out the color and add protection. This leather also maintains its original grain thus allowing the natural character of the leather to show through.

Corrected (Protected) Aniline: Usually less expensive and more common than the pure and semi- aniline leathers. The coloration is more consistent and the grain is an embossed, manmade grain. Corrected leathers are easier to clean, repel water and stains, and are ideal for heavy family use.

Nubuck: A top grain leather that is buffed to create a soft nap. Often has a light finish and is especially vulnerable to stains. Nubuck leathers will fade when placed in sunlight. Do not place in windows, under skylights or in places that will put them in sunlight.

Antiqued/Distressed: Artificially created signs of wear and natural aging.

Full Grain: A top grain leather with no corrections or alterations to the natural grain pattern.

Split: The bottom layers of the hide that have been split off from the top grain. Much stiffer and less durable than the top grain leather. May be used on promotional furniture or on the sides and backs of other pieces to help contain costs.

Hand: The softness or "feel" of leather.

Suede: Leather finished by buffing with an emery wheel to produce a napped surface. Suede is made from the split layer of the cowhide.