Leather Finish Types
How to Determine the Leather Finish Type That I Have?
According to "industry standards" and lots of information that you will find on the internet, leather finish type identification can be a rather complicated and confusing undertaking. Much of this information is completely irrelevant to consumers when it comes down to selecting care and restoration products. So, to make the process easier and less complicated, we have broken down the leather types into five distinct categories along with simple tests that can be easily performed to identify them. Terminology and definitions may vary slightly from some of the more technologically oriented sources, but rest assured, this information is true and correct and will undoubtedly provide you with the proper guidance.
The following information will help you to Determine Leather Finish Type. There are basically five different types of Leather used in the manufacture of upholstery, clothing and leather accessories. It is crucial that the identification of these various types of leather be determined prior to using any kind of maintenance or repair products. The use of improper chemicals or techniques may create extra work in correcting damage caused by the application of an improper product, and may even cause permanent, irreparable damage to the leather. The following list will help you to identify the type of leather you may have and basic tests that may be performed.
Protected Leather: Also known as “Top Grained”, “Coated”, “Finished”, "Protected" or “Pigmented”. These leathers are the most durable and easiest to maintain. Protected Leather is made with a top coating, usually of polyurethane or silicone, that “seals” the leather and helps to prevent absorption of dirt, liquids and oils that would otherwise cause the leather to become stained or “dingy” looking. Protected Leather is best suited for high use areas while providing the rich, unique appeal of leather. Appearance: Smooth, grained finish. The grain pattern embossed into the surface of the leather will vary greatly depending upon the design of the leather. Grain pattern may be of a very small, lightly impressed pattern to a very distinct heavily embossed pattern. The finish will be of a “Matte” to “Semi-Gloss”. Identifying: Place a small droplet of water onto the surface of the leather. The droplet of water should “bead up” and remain on the surface of the leather. When pressed heavily with a finger, small "wrinkles" will appear on the finish surface around the pressure point. Maintenance & Repair Products: Regular Leather Cleaner and Leather Conditioner and Colors Coats designed for "Top Coated"/"Protected" Leather. Leather Protection Cream and UV Guard is highly recommended.
Semi aniline leather is leather that has been dyed through, but has a very thin layer of pigmented coating on the surface and possibly a very thin, clear final coat. Semi-Aniline leather is used primarily in the furniture industry, but may also be found in leather jackets and on rare occasion, automotive seats such as the Ford King Ranch series trucks. These leathers are very attractive due to the rich look and feel of the leather itself, but are much more difficult to maintain and keep looking good. There is very little protective coating on Semi-Aniline leathers, making them very susceptible to liquid absorption and staining. Many retailers will apply a "Scotch Guard™" type repellent to the furniture prior to sale to protect the surface for a short time. Exposure to liquids, oils and dirt will cause staining of the leather. A protective “sealant” material such as Leather Protection Cream should be applied to Semi-Aniline type leathers to reduce the effects of this exposure. Semi-Aniline should be avoided when the application requires heavy use. Appearance: Semi-Aniline: Smooth grained finish. The grain pattern embossed into the surface of the leather will look very much like “Protected” leather except that the Grain pattern may be tighter and very small and lightly impressed into the finish. Finish will be Matte to Semi-Gloss. Semi-Aniline will scratch much easier than "protected" and may even show light scratching from finger nail scrapes. Identifying: Place a small droplet of water/rubbing alcohol mixture (1 : 1 ratio) onto the surface of the leather. The droplet of water should sit on the surface for a short time and then soak into the leather and cause a darkening where it has been absorbed. Plain water may or may not work due to the "Scotch Guard" type protective spray that may have been applied by the retailer. Maintenance Products: NuBuck/Aniline Leather Cleaner, NuBuck Leather Conditioner to prevent staining of the leather. Leather Protection Cream and UV Guard are both highly recommended. "Protected" Leather Color Coats and repair materials should be used on all Semi-Aniline Leathers for repairing and refinishing of Semi-Aniline Leather.
Full Aniline: AKA: “Suede”, “NuBuck”, “Full Aniline” or "Distressed”
These leathers are very attractive due to the “brushed” finish that is found on most of these types of leather. These leathers are less difficult to maintain and keep looking good compared to Semi-Aniline leathers. There is no protective coating on Full-Aniline leathers except that many retailers will apply a "Scotch Guard™" type repellent to protect the surface for a short time. Exposure to liquids, oils and dirt will cause staining of the leather. A protective “sealant” material such as Fabric Guard should be applied to Full-Aniline type leathers to reduce the effects of this exposure. Full Aniline leathers may be used in heavy traffic areas, but on a limited basis. Appearance: These leathers will have a highly “brushed” finish with a “Knapp” . Suede will have a much longer fiber makeup to the knapp than NuBuck. Identifying: Due to the “knapp” of the leather, identification may be done by rubbing the hand over the surface of the leather in a left/right motion. The surface color will lighten when brushed in one direction and darken when brushed in the reverse direction. Maintenance Products: NuBuck/ Aniline Leather Cleaner and NuBuck Leather Conditioner. The surface of the leather should be lightly brushed, using a medium soft bristle brush, such as a soft brass wire brush, to loosen any accumulated dirt, soiling and oils free from the surface fibers. Aniline Dyes should be used when refinishing or re-dyeing. Repair of tears and cuts may be done, but the techniques involved in order to maintain appearance is rather complicated. Fabric Guard and UV Guard are both highly recommended.
By-Cast Leather: AKA: Bonded Leather
These leathers are very similar, in most respects, to Protected leather. By-Cast is the most inexpensive form of leather because it is not "truly" leather. It is made from approximately 52% leather and 48% vinyl. Scraps of leather and vinyl are shredded into very fine pieces and mixed together along with a polyurethane base or "glue". It is then used in the upholstery of furniture, jackets and clothing, purses and handbags and many other leather items. By-Cast (bonded) Leather is made from finely shredded leather scraps and mixed with an adhesive to form large sheets of a leather like material. By-Cast Leather is made with a top coating, usually silicone, that colors, “seals” and hides the underlying material and helps to prevent absorption of dirt, liquids and oils that would otherwise cause the leather to become stained or “dingy” looking. Appearance: Smooth, grained finish. The grain pattern embossed into the surface of the leather will vary greatly depending upon the design of the leather. Grain pattern may be of a very small, lightly impressed pattern to a very distinct heavily embossed pattern. The finish will be of a “Semi-Gloss” to “Glossy” finish. When new, there is literally now way to visually determine the difference from Top Coated/Protected Leather. Identifying: Place a small droplet of water onto the surface of the leather. The droplet of water should “bead up” and remain on the surface of the leather. By-Cast leather will have a much stiffer, harder feel and will not bend or fold as easily as normal types of leather. Peeling and flaking of the finish of By-Cast leather is extremely common. Maintenance Products: Regular Leather Cleaner and Leather Conditioner and Colors Coats and Repair Products designed for "Top Coated"/"Protected" Leather.
Pull-Up (Wax or Oil) (Manufacturer Code "PU")
Pull-Up leather is used primarily in furniture upholstery and minimally used in jackets and clothing. This type of leather is relatively easy to maintain, and fairly durable with the exception of becoming scratched very easily. Appearance: It will appear to have a distinct "finished" look and somewhat heavier in feel than an unprotected or unfinished leather. Pull-Up will also always have a distinct "patterned" look which can be referred to as a "Two-Tone" effect. However, this alone is not necessarily a distinguishing factor. Identifying: When a droplet of water is placed on the surface of this leather, the droplet will initially "bead up"on the surface. If left alone for several minutes, the droplet may begin to be absorbed into the leather and cause a darkening of the spot but this may not always happen due to differences in manufacturing techniques. A "sure-fire" way of determining this type of leather is to lightly scrape a finger nail over a small area. A light "scratch" ( much lighter in color) will appear. This scratch may be easily removed by using Leather Conditioner designed for "Top Coated"/"Protected leather and rubbing over the area to replace the wax/oils that have been disturbed. Maintenance Products: Regular Leather Cleaner and Leather Conditioner and Colors Coats and Repair Products designed for "Top Coated"/"Protected" Leather. Our Leather Protection Cream is especially beneficial for protecting the leather as well as removing surface scratches in Pull-Up Leathers. UV Guard may also be applied.