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8 is Enough!
(8 simple facts for first time leather buyers)

First time leather buyers have many questions and concerns. Unfortunately, the advice that they will get while shopping can vary from store to store. Plus, there is a lot of confusing lingo out there. Here are some simple answers to the most common questions:

  1. How can I tell if my furniture is made of genuine leather?
  2. Should I buy the highest quality leather?
  3. Why are there so many choices and price differences?
  4. Aniline and pigment finishes are confusing. What does it mean?
  5. What is the difference between top grain and split grain?
  6. How do I take care of my leather furniture?
  7. Which leathers are easier to care for?
  8. Does leather change or wear out over time?


 

1. How can I tell if my furniture is made of genuine leather?

One dead give away is the back of the piece.  If the entire back of an 8 foot long sofa is one piece (not several stitched together) you might want to ask where they found such a huge cow (the average hide is only 3' x 6'). Also, look for subtle markings that distinguish natural from synthetic materials. Leather will typically be warmer to the touch than imitation materials. Finally, if you are able to open a zipper on the piece, observe what the reverse side of the material looks like. Leather will be unfinished (no color), and rougher on the bottom than synthetic materials.

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2. Should I buy the highest quality leather?

No.  Ok, well...maybe.  It depends on your lifestyle. If you plan to eat buttered popcorn on it, don't buy the highest quality leather. High quality hides are desirable because they create a sofa that feels great against your skin.  But -- do not confuse high quality with durability. The less expensive hides go through some extra finishing during the tanning process. This results in a leather that is "protected" from spills and stains. The best choice for most people is to compromise between the highly protected leathers (pigmented) and the more natural softer leathers (full aniline).  That compromise is called "semi-aniline".  It is currently the most popular of all the leather options you will see in the store.

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3. Why are there so many choices and price differences?

Leather prices are a reflection of the quality of the hide. Think about what influences the price of diamonds, for example. A small, flawless diamond is more valuable than a larger one with imperfections. In the same way, a hide that has no scars on it is much more valuable than one with barbed wire marks and warts!  When hides are sold, the high end manufacturers, who are willing to pay more, get first choice.  The end result is a soft, supple, luxurious couch for you to snuggle up on.

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4. Aniline and pigment finishes are confusing. What does it mean?

Every tanned hide is finished. There are a lot of ways to do this, but essentially there are three important terms you should know when shopping.

Pigment:

Pigment is a protective opaque color which coats the grain very consistently. It is the most durable, stain resistant finish.  In most cases it appears to be "painted" onto the hide. It is slightly cooler to the touch and will fade the most in sunlight.  Is easiest to clean, but light colors can appear dingy over time if not maintained.

Semi-aniline:

Combines aniline with pigment.  This enhances soil resistance while remaining soft to the touch.  The extra protection of the pigment makes for easier cleaning, less moisture absorption, and will provide a slight shine to the leather.  Meanwhile the aniline dye provides a more natural appearance to the leather, and softens it a bit as well.

Aniline:

A clear (transparent) organic stain, which colors but doesn’t coat completely. It is less stain resistant, but leaves the hide softer, more pliable and warmer to the touch.  Do not confuse aniline leathers with suede, which comes from the cheaper, rougher split grain.

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5. What is the difference between top grain and split grain?

At the tannery, a leather hide is split into 2 layers – top grain and the lower grain or "split." The lower, bottom grain is the flesh piece and may be split one or more times. It is likely to be used on the outside parts (sides and backs) of a piece of furniture.  That is fine, as the main benefit to top grain leather is it's feel and that is what most brands use on the seats and armrests.  Since only very unusual people flip their sofa over and sit on the back, it doesn't make much difference, and it helps keep the price lower.

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6. How do I take care of my leather furniture?

Regular dusting with a damp, clean cloth is advised. For further care and handling, please see your retailer about the specific cleaning instructions for your particular leather.

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7. Which leathers are easier to care for?

Leather with heavier pigment (opaque coloring) and corrected grain are the easiest to care for. Aniline leathers, with transparent color, require more delicate care. Darker colors tend to hide dirt and soil more easily than lighter colors. Leather is easier than fabric to repair, if damaged.

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8. Does leather change or wear out over time?

Aniline leathers, with their light protection, may produce an aged "patina" finish over time adding to their natural character. The patina will be darker where you sit the most, giving it an uneven appearance.  Protected pigment leathers will become more subtle and soft over time.  Any type of leather can be damaged if not kept clean, so dust often. Leather outlasts synthetic materials 4 to 1 and will not easily show wear. Leather will not tear and is much more difficult to puncture than first time leather buyers think. All leather and synthetic materials (including fabric) have a tendency to fade if subjected to direct sunlight for long periods of time.

 

 

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