Genuine Upholstered Leather Furniture: Why You Should Always Buy It

Leather has long been seen as a luxury item that’s only found in the dens of the wealthy, while thrifty consumers settle for cheap knock-offs. The problem is that faux leather, as it’s often called, is going to let you down and cost you more in the long run. However, the wear and tear of faux leather isn’t the only reason you should get the real deal. Here’s why you should always buy genuine upholstered leather furniture in order for your living room decor to have a long and healthy life.

Genuine Leather vs. Faux Leather

Before we get into the reasons behind why you should buy genuine leather furniture, let’s take a step back to examine what genuine leather really is. The difference between genuine leather and its faux leather counterpart may be obvious to some, but what isn’t so obvious is the ingredients list of either.


Reverie Genuine Leather Sofa
Genuine Leather Sofa


Faux leathers, such as bonded leather and bicast leather, (also known as ‘pleather’ or ‘vegan leather’) are composed of very little of actual leather and mostly synthetic ingredients, mainly vinyl (plastic), and can be dyed any color you like. It’s the reason you see so many crazy purse colors on designer bags from brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada, etc. (you get the picture).

Genuine leather for upholstering furniture like sofas, sectionals, chairs, and ottomans is made strictly from animal skins and rawhide using a tanning process. Cattle is the most common animal real leather is made from. Since this type of leather isn’t artificially manufactured, imperfections can be seen in the animal skin. This is a distinguishing characteristic of genuine leather, one that many consumers don’t realize is to be desired rather than shunned.

Choosing a Type of Leather

Did you know there are many different forms of leather when it comes to furniture? While choosing leather furniture is less difficult because you don’t need to match printed patterns and colors, the type of leather you choose for your home will make the difference as to how it holds up over time.


Types of Leathers


The four most common forms of leather are: top-grain, full-grain, corrected grain, and split leather. A brief overview of each form/type would be as such:

  • Top-Grain – This variation is most common and uses a tanning process in which the top grain layer is sanded and buffed. A finish coat is then added. Top-grain leather’s quality is second only to full-grain leather, but it is more stain resistant, especially if it’s pigmented and typically retains an even tone without patina.
  • Full-Grain – Being the highest quality leather, full-grain is also the most expensive. This type of leather will develop a nice patina (pattern of highlights brought on by wear) over time. Full-grain leather comes with either an aniline or semi-aniline (aniline-plus) finish. Aniline leather uses a clear finish, while semi-aniline uses a light top coat.
  • Corrected Grain – As the name indicates, corrected grain leather is animal skin that has been abraded to remove imperfections, after which an artificial grain layer and pigment are added for more uniform color. Keep in mind, this is still a top grain leather product.
  • Split Leather – Split leather is animal skin that has had the top grain completely removed or ‘split’ from its surface. This form of leather will crack and peel more easily than other leathers and is stiffer (won’t flex), making it more ideal for shoes or belts. In furniture, it is sometimes used for the sides and backs of sofas, for example, since those areas won’t see use and thus reducing the price of that sofa.


Full Aniline Brown Leather Sofa
Full Aniline Leather Sofa


Full-grain leather will last you the longest, but top-grain leather is easier to care for. Both types of leather are suited for furniture. Corrected, top grain leather has a more even finish than either full-grain or top-grain leather, but those who want an even tone in their leather furniture will find this variation more to their taste.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of leather types and how to tell genuine leather from the fake stuff, it’s time to take a look at the advantages of buying it.

Genuine upholstered leather furniture…

…outlasts nearly every other fabric covering.

Unless you’ve got a sofa made from marble, you won’t find a more durable material than leather. A genuine upholstered leather sofa, for example, can last up to several decades when cared for properly (see more about Proper Leather Care further down). Many consumers are turned off by the high price tag, but consider this: a single genuine leather sofa will last longer than several of its faux leather counterparts. This brings us to our next point – aging.

…ages well over time.

Some leather furniture (full-aniline leather) can actually improve over the years. Once you’ve broken it in, so to speak, genuine leather furniture will fit you and your family like a glove. As we mentioned above, full-grain leather develops a patina with age. This pattern of highlights and toasting is highly coveted, and it proudly confirms your sofa or chair as real, 100% genuine leather. Think of patina as your sofa’s wrinkles, lines of wisdom that come with age. If you don’t see a sheen of patina right away, don’t despair; patina takes time to appear. Be patient!

…won’t crack, peel or tear when cared for properly.

If your ‘genuine’ leather couch starts to crack and peel, even with proper conditioning and maintenance, you’ve been duped. Real leather is tough and has a certain amount of moisture that makes it soft and pliable. Full-grain leather sofas have around 12-14% water as part of their composition due to the natural moisture in the animal’s skin. In order to have the best chance at combating breakdown of your furniture’s leather fibers, you need to maintain its integrity through balanced levels of humidity and conditioning.

Red rot is a common problem in genuine leather furniture that is often blamed on the material itself. In reality, red rot is more likely due to the chemical reaction between the leather and a person’s natural body oils. It can also occur in excessively high temperatures; for this reason, you should keep your leather furniture indoors and out of direct sunlight.

…acclimates to your body temperature, keeping it warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

If you ask the average Joe, they’ll tell you that leather is hot, sticky and uncomfortable. When it comes to bonded leather, bicast leather, or vinyl, that’s probably true! Genuine leather furniture, on the other hand, is quite comfortable and will warm or cool to your body temperature relatively easily. This is because the material is breathable, allowing it to acclimate to your individual body temperature, as well as to the room’s climate. Fans and air conditioning units help keep leather cool and smooth in the summertime, and vice versa in the winter. If your leather couch is cold to the touch or hot and sticky, change the thermostat before you toss the couch.

…is fire-retardant, releasing only non-toxic fumes if ignited.

It needs to be said that ‘fire-retardant’ is not the same as ‘fire-resistant’. A material that is fire-retardant can burn, but it will do so very slowly with minimal to no open flame. Fire-retardant materials will slow the combustion process and simply ‘glow’ while they are eaten up by the heat. Fire-resistant, on the other hand, means that the material is designed not to catch fire at all. There isn’t a fabric material known to man that is 100% fire-proof, but fire-resistant is the closest you’ll come to it.

Due to leather furniture’s natural moisture content, it’s the least likely decor item to catch fire in your home. If it does, you don’t have to worry about noxious fumes and choking chemical reactions; genuine leather doesn’t get the awful chemical treatment faux leather does. Because minimal treatment is used on higher quality leathers, there’s virtually no toxicity to fumes from a smoldering leather couch.

…is helpful for people with allergies.

That subtle ‘ah-choo!’ you emit when you sit down on your fabric sofa is thanks to allergens clinging to the material. Anything from dust mites to pollen and dander generally adheres to fabrics, but genuine leather doesn’t have this problem. Leather’s relatively smooth surface area doesn’t give allergens any anchor to adhere to. When springtime rolls around and your eyes start to get a little watery, consider buying genuine leather as the upholstery of choice to minimize seasonal allergies’ impact.

…is great for homes with pets and children.

You’d think the opposite would be true, wouldn’t you? Parents with nightmares of shredded couches full of gross stains had better listen up because this myth needs to be put to bed. Leather is incredibly durable, even when it comes to dog paws and kitty claws. True, an animal may be able to scratch genuine leather upholstery, but the damage done to real leather is far less substantial than the marks faux leather receives.

But What About the Kids?

Ideally, you want purchase top-grain, pigmented (protected) leather if you have kids and/or pets since this type of leather is the most soil/stain resistant. Semi-aniline leather would fall next in line as far as stain resistance.


Leather Sectional with Kids


Crayon marks can be easily removed by simply scraping your finger lightly over the mark on pigmented leathers. If that doesn’t work, you can use rubbing alcohol to remove the remaining residue. Other spills and marks should be quickly wiped off as soon as they occur in order to minimize the damage. As for regular wear from children and adults sitting on your leather sofa, it actually helps to age the semi-aniline or full-aniline sofa, meaning you’ll get that lovely patina even sooner!

Proper Leather Care

When dealing with genuine leather, it’s best not to use harsh chemical cleaners. We mentioned above that spills can be wiped off with a cloth; the cloth can be either wet or dry. Long-term care, however, should be tended to with the proper conditioners to maintain the integrity of the leather.

Caring For Different Types of Leather

No matter what type of leather your furniture is made of, you should avoid these cleaners at all cost:

  • Oils
  • Soaps
  • Detergent

Oils and oil-based products will stain genuine leather and shouldn’t be used as cleaners. Even saddle soap is a no-go. The reason for this is that oils can be absorbed into the leather, breaking it down more quickly. Remember when we mentioned red rot? Whether it’s cooking oil, natural skin oils or oil-based cleaners, any one of these substances will ruin your leather furniture.


Leather Cleaning


All you need to maintain your leather furniture is regular dusting, vacuuming (for in-between cushions), and conditioning using a qualified leather conditioner. Make sure the conditioner you buy is specifically formulated for leather furniture, otherwise you could end up doing worse damage.

Take special care when cleaning aniline leather; this type of leather is more vulnerable to stains. Ask the furniture manufacturer what cleaning products they recommend for the piece(s) you purchased. When using a new cleaner or conditioner, test it on a small area to see if there is any negative effect. If your leather furniture item shows no signs of damage from this cleaner, go ahead and give it the full treatment.

How to Remove Stains From Leather Furniture

You’ve stained your leather armchair – now what? Depending on what the stain is composed of, you have a few different options.

  • Oil Stains – Avoid washing these with water, as this will help the oil to absorb into the leather fibers. Use talcum powder or baking soda to absorb the oil, then brush off the residue.
  • Ink Stains – Rub the area of the stain with a cotton ball dampened with rubbing alcohol. This can also help remove mold/mildew.
  • Liquid Stains – Stains from wine, soda, or juice should be blotted up as quickly as possible with a damp cloth. For tough, stuck-on stains, consult your furniture manufacturer or have your leather furniture professionally cleaned.

The Leather Solution

While other materials may be cheaper, with more variety in patterns and colors, there’s nothing that beats the luxury and sophistication of genuine leather furniture. From its durability and stain-resistance to its ability to assume the temperature of the room it’s in, real leather will last you for generations and keep up with your individual lifestyle. Choosing genuine leather furniture has all the benefits you need to maintain a happy and healthy relationship with your home decor.

Where Can I Buy Genuine Leather Furniture?

Stylish designs, exclusive quality, and over 100 different leather options of our leather collections offers something for everyone. Sure we offer leather sofas, chairs, and ottomans but our sectional are modular can be configured any way you like. We even offer a choice of leg finishes from metal to various wood finishes for that final touch.


Leather Living Rooms
Genuine Leather Living Rooms


Where to Buy Leather Furniture