Ultimate Guide to Identifying Leather Types


Have you ever wondered what kind of leather is in your living room? Have you ever asked yourself, how do I find what kind of leather I have? Is it genuine leather? By answering a few yes and no questions, this interactive leather guide will help you determine the type of leather you have such as fully-aniline, semi-aniline, pigmented, etc. Once you correctly identify your leather, you’ll know the proper leather care that you should use so that you can enjoy it for years to come.

 


 

Pull-Up Leather

Pull-Up leather is sometimes referred to as oily or waxy pull-up because it features aniline dyes which are saturated with natural waxes and/or oils instead of using pigments. It is a high-quality, natural, full-aniline, untouched leather that has a supple and soft hand. When pressure is applied to this leather such as pulling, bending, or stretching, the oils/waxes temporarily darken the aniline color.

Features:

  • Distressed look which ages over time.
  • Markings are visible.
  • Natural looking grain patterns.
  • Prominent color and shade variations.
  • Develops a desired patina over time.

Nubuck Leather

Nubuck leather is a quality leather made from outer layers of the hides that have gone through the buffing or sanding process to create a nap that is soft and velvety to the touch. Unlike suede, which is made from leather splits, nubuck is more durable and is widely used for footwear as well. Although it features a desirable and distinguishing look, it is more vulnerable to everyday stains than other leathers.

Features:

  • Durable and wear resistant.
  • Soft and luxurious surface.
  • Develops a desired patina over time.
  • Susceptible to everyday stains.
  • Requires more maintenance than other leathers.

Suede Leather

Suede is a type of leather that is made from the underside of the hide (splits) that is sanded and buffed until it becomes a nap that is supple and soft. It is delicate and less durable than leathers made from outer layers of the hide. It is not as water resistant as other leathers nor is it easier to clean but it offers such a luxurious feel like nothing else out there.

Features:

  • Delicate leather.
  • Raised fibers offer a very soft, textured surface.
  • Stains easier than other leathers.
  • Requires more maintenance than other leathers.

Aniline Leather

Aniline leather is the finest, top-grain leather out there and offers a natural look. Imperfections and natural scars are visible (a desirable trait). Aniline, transparent and organic dye, is used to color the hide allowing the visible variations, grain patterns, and natural blemishes to show through. It is less resistant to everyday soiling and stains than other leathers (protected leathers) but it is oh so beautiful, luxurious, and supple.

Features:

  • Sumptuous feel and look.
  • Prominent color and shade variations.
  • Natural markings are visible.
  • Fading occurs with too much sunlight exposure.
  • Develops a desired patina over time.

Semi-Aniline Leather

Semi-Aniline leathers are dyed just like pure aniline leathers, however, a layer of pigment and additional protective finishes are applied to the surface to make it more sun and stain resistant and to allow for more color uniformity. Semi-aniline leathers often have a two-tone look and retain their natural appearance while at the same time remaining durable. Usually they are much softer than fully pigmented leathers.

Features:

  • Natural and prestigious appearance.
  • Imitates the look of full-aniline leather.
  • Few natural markings may be visible.
  • Shade variations may be visible.
  • Better maintainability over full-aniline leathers.

Pigmented Leather

Pigment coated leathers feature a protective, opaque color layer on the surface which adds durability and stain resistance. It may be embossed and contain a corrected grain (printed grain pattern) that is uniform throughout the hide. It doesn't absorb liquids and everyday spills can simply be wiped off so it is an ideal leather choice for families with kids and/or pets. It doesn't feel as soft to the touch as semi-aniline or fully-aniline leathers.

Features:

  • Consistent color and grain pattern.
  • Natural markings are concealed.
  • Does not scratch easily.
  • Does not absorb liquids.
  • Stain-resistant, durable, and easy to maintain.

Two-Tone Pigmented Leather

Just like single color pigmented leathers, two-tone pigmented leathers are one of the most durable leathers due to their stain-resistant properties and durability. The surface contains pigments which are applied in such a way as to mimic the natural worn look of the more traditional leathers (two-tone appearance). It is non absorbent and features stain-resistant properties so spills simply wipe off. It is a highly recommended choice for families with kids and/or pets.

Features:

  • Two-tone effect adds character and depth.
  • Consistent two-tone color and grain pattern.
  • Natural markings are concealed.
  • Does not scratch easily.
  • Does not absorb liquids.

Patent Leather

Patent leather is a leather distinguished by a high-gloss finish and a hard surface. This rare furniture upholstery is designed to provide a formal and glamorous appearance. Often used in formal footwear, but as upholstery, it is not as durable as other leathers even though it is virtually waterproof. If it is not maintained properly or if kept in an exceedingly dry place it will have a tendency to crack.

Features:

  • Sleek, glossy, mirror-like finish.
  • Stiffer than other leathers.
  • Impermeable finish.
  • If not treated properly is not as durable as other leathers.

Bi-Cast or Bonded Leather

Bi-cast and bonded leathers are leather by-products that feature a "leather" backing and a layer of polyurethane as the top surface. Bi-cast leather has a split (the layer of the hide closest to the flesh) backing while bonded leather has a backing consisting of leftover scraps of leather that are grinded and infused with bonding resins. These are not genuine leathers. In certain countries like New Zealand there are laws which prohibit marketing bi-cast leather as leather. These "leathers" don't have a large lifespan due to the tendency of the backing peeling from the top layer.

Features:

  • Identical visual appearance to genuine leathers.
  • Not as durable as genuine leather.
  • Short life expectancy.
  • Very affordable versus genuine leathers.