We Know: All About Leather Upholstery

How is leather upholstery made?

Leather upholstery is made from hides (animal skin), a byproduct of food-related animal processing. Leather is made from cows, goats, sheep, snakes, deer, and other animals.

The process of making leather is called tanning. Tanning means turning part of a formerly living animal into a non-rotting, soft, durable textile. The hair and flesh are removed from the skin which is then cured, stretched, and dried. Some of these steps are done physically, while others are achieved chemically.

What types of leather upholstery exist?

There are three basic types of leather upholstery. They are:

  1. Top Grained (coated) leather, which is used in almost all applications including automotive, furniture upholstery, and clothing. This type of leather requires the least amount of maintenance and water spills will run off, instead of soaking into, this fabric.
  2. Aniline (soft) leather has no finish on the surface. It is susceptible to dirt and staining. It requires more maintenance than top grained leather. This leather is also known as brushed leather. A spill on this fabric will create a dark spot.
  3. Semi-Aniline leather (uncoated) appears to be finished. It looks like coated leather, but a spill will result in a dark spot. Although this leather is very popular, it is also difficult to care for. If you purchase this type of leather, be prepared for a great deal of maintenance or a well-worn or weathered look.

How do I care for leather upholstery?

Leather upholstery needs to be cleaned (using products made especially for the type of leather you own). Using leather conditioning at least twice a year will help your furniture look better, longer. Occasionally, leather furniture becomes stained. Do not attempt to clean the leather with anything but an ink and stain remover, or you may drive the stain deeper into the fabric.

How long can I expect leather upholstery to last?

A well made leather sofa will last 15 to 20 years. When compared to a fabric sofa, the life of the leather furniture is two to three times longer.

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