Leather Buying Tips

Leather prices have tumbled, putting this practical material within reach for more and more people. Our tips cover buying and caring for leather furnishings.

A surge in supply and new, more efficient manufacturing processes have brought down the cost of leather. This surprisingly practical material now adorns sofas at price points once reserved for vinyl look-alikes.

Leathers are graded by the size, location, and severity of the natural blemishes that are a part of all hides. Nearly perfect, mark-free hides are rare and prized. Most aniline leathers (see below) will have visible markings, such as wrinkles and scars. These leathers will develop a beautiful lustrous patina with age and use.

When shopping, look for top grain leather, which comes from the desirable outer surface of the hide. Leather taken from the inner surfaces is split grain, which is much weaker.

Aniline (or "pure" or "full" aniline) leather is soaked in aniline dye, but does not have other finishes or pigments applied. Only the best hides are used for this superbly soft leather.

Semi-aniline (or "protected" aniline) leathers have a small amount of pigment, giving them slightly better protection against stains and fading.

Pigmented leathers are the least expensive. Although the leather used for this process are somewhat stiffer than the others, pigmented leathers are also more stain- and scuff-resistant.

Keep in mind that added finishes and surface pigments aren't necessarily bad. In addition to lowering the cost, they also increase the uniformity of the color and provide superior resistance to fading, scratches, and stains. In other words, perfect for rough-and-tumble family use.

The texture of leather furniture is partly a function of its quality. The highest quality hides are the softest.

Nubuck leathers are lightly brushed or abraded to create a short, plush nap. Nubucks are top-grain leathers so they wear better than their cousins, suede. They are also more resistant to damage.

Suede has the look of nubuck but is less durable.

Sauvage is a two-toned effect that produces a marbled or creased appearance.

Pull-up leathers are full anilines that have been processed to produce a weathered or distressed look.

Embossed leathers are lower-grade hides that have been imprinted with any of a wide range of textures.

Find out more about grains below.

Grade will determine how much you pay for leather furniture. A high-grade leather sofa might cost 10 times the price of a lower-quality piece. Still, even the lower grades can look great and wear well. For added peace of mind, you can purchase extended warranties that cover damage and stains.

To protect your investment, keep leather away from heat sources, which will dry the leather out. Excessive sunlight can cause fading.

Vacuum regularly to remove dust, and blot up spills immediately. Regularly use the recommended cleaners or creams to improve the leather's resistance to staining and to keep it soft and supple.

For more care tips, click on the link below.

Leather Furniture Care

Upholstery Care

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