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Leather Furniture Buying Guide

Leather furniture is a luxurious investment that will last for years. Leather furniture is also four to five times more durable than fabric. Leather is tough enough to withstand years of usage, yet it is soft and comfortable. If cared for correctly, leather furniture won't crack, peel, lose its shape or sag. Because leather is a natural cover, it will adjust to your body heat to feel warm in winter and cool in summer. Leather is also soft and supple and develops a deep patina over time.

Genuine leather is a creation of nature and therefore no two hides are identical; they vary in size and structure according to the breed, feeding and conditions of the climate where the cattle was bred and raised. The grain of a leather hide is like a unique fingerprint. The natural texture variations, unique grain and distinctive markings add to leather’s character. Different parts of the hide have different grain, and some hides even have stretch marks caused by the calving process. Natural folds of the hide will also create patterns during the dying process. Other markings include scars from healed scratches, injuries, branding or insect bites. These unique markings identify your leather furniture as authentic, not defective. In no way do they affect the durability or quality of leather.

The processes and finishes used to dye the leather will penetrate differently depending on the grain structure of the hide. This creates attractive variations in the color of the hide. Many hides are used to produce one sofa, so slight variations of color are to be expected. These are usually imperceptible.

The method used to process a leather hide will affect the leather’s character, care and cost. Customers should choose a leather finish that matches their needs and usage. Most spills on leather will bead up and wipe off, but some finishes are more susceptible to stains and signs of excessive wear than others. Take care to sit properly on the furniture (not leaning excessively on the arms or sitting on the back, and switching seats frequently) and never place leather furniture in direct sunlight or near a heat source such as a heater, register vent or radiator. This will cause the leather to fade, crack or peel. Shoes, buckles or sharp objects can permanently damage leather.

Types of Leather:

Cowhides are often too thick to use, so they’re split into two layers that result in a few different types of leather. When leather is split the resulting cuts are:

Top Grain Leather refers to the top surface of the hide. This is the strongest, most supple part of the hide.

Full Grain Leather is leather from the surface layer and possesses its original, natural grain. The natural grain and markings are left intact and have not been altered.

"Splits" or "Split Leather" is the under layers of leather, generally finished as suede, or embossed with corrected grain for use on secondary surfaces of upholstered furniture.

Leather Terminology:

Aniline

The preferred method for adding color to leather using non-toxic aniline dyes. This translucent dye does not conceal markings that are part of the natural beauty of leather.

Bonded Leather

Reconstituted leather that is leather fibers bonded together with latex and adhered to a polyester/cotton backing.

Bycast Leather

Leather that is split with a layer of polyurethane applied to the surface and then embossed - originally made for the shoe industry.

Corrected Grain

Leather in which the surface has been sanded, or buffed to remove imperfections, then micro-pigmented and embossed with a more uniform grain texture.

Leather Match

A lower cost alternative to 100% leather, leather match combines top-grain leather seating with skillfully matched vinyl on the sides and back of the furniture.

Protected Aniline

Aniline dyed leather which has had the surface micro-pigmented and sealed with a transparent synthetic protective coating.

Sauvage

Adding depth to a hide’s finish, this marbled appearance comes from blending similar colors during the dyeing process.

Semi-Aniline

A semi-aniline leather has been aniline dyed, then slightly pigmented. Because pigment is solid , this type of leather ensures color consistency while having stain and spill resistance.

Top Coat

A transparent, protective coating applied to the leather surface. May also impart luster to the surface.

Leather Care:

Each piece of leather furniture has a Cleaning Code that tells you how to clean and care for the leather.

Do not use soaps or alcohol-based products to clean leather. These will dry out the leather and shorten its useful life. Always check the Cleaning Code before using any solution on leather.

Wipe off surface dirt every two weeks with a clean white cloth dampened with water or as directed by the Cleaning Code. This will remove dirt and grime that can get in the pores of the leather, creating an abrasive effect that will damage your leather furniture.

Dust or vacuum your leather furniture frequently using a crevice tool on the seams.

Apply a leather conditioner in accordance with the Cleaning Code as often as recommended, usually twice a year. Follow the directions on the bottle.

Most spills can be removed very easily:

  • Blot spills gently with a clean white cloth as soon as possible.
  • Do not use a colored cloth or the dye may transfer to the leather.
  • The cloth may be dampened with water but do not over-wet the leather.
  • In accordance with the Cleaning Code, you may use a solution of mild soap (like Ivory or Neutrogena) on a slightly damp cloth to wipe any stains.
  • Wipe the spill gently, do not scrub the area excessively.
  • Use another clean white cloth to rinse any soap reside, then dry the leather with a dry white cloth.