Leather Care Buying Guide

Leather materials are beautiful and it’s important to know how to care for them properly to maintain their integrity.

Leather Care Buying Guide

There is a reason why we continue to create furniture and home decor made from leather. Leather is a highly durable, quality material. It makes an appealing impression in any room it is placed in.

Thanks to modern technologies, leather processes result in resistance to peeling and cracking. Natural and faux hides augment the environment with their smooth feel and unique look. Many top-of-the-line home decor products integrate the use of quality leather. Beautiful hides are directly associated with premier products and elegance.

The Benefits of Purchasing Leather

Why should I buy leather furniture?

If you like to entertain or you have a family, leather is a great choice. Spilled wine can be easily wiped off of leather. If your child drops pizza on the couch, it will be fine. Food and drink spills can be easily wiped off of a leather sofa.

Whereas, if you had a fabric couch, you’d be more concerned with eating and drinking in the same room. Sensitive fabrics often create off-limits zones in the home, defeating their true purpose. Alternatively, leather increases the ease of living. Family and guests will feel freer to enjoy a snack and beverage on the couch.

How does leather hold up over time?

Mid-grade leather typically does not peel and crack as long as you care for it. Leather that has not been maintained is more susceptible to peeling, cracking, discoloration, and stains. Different types of leather require different care.

If you want a sofa that will last 15-20 years or even longer, real leather is an optimum choice. Top-grain and full-grain leather are the best for longevity. This is often a driving reason why people choose to purchase a leather sofa. You can rest assured that it will hold up better over time than a fabric sofa. The better you care for your sofa, the longer it will last.

How To Care for Leather Furnishings

Top grain leather care and cleaning

The cleaner you keep your sofa, the longer it will last. Lightly vacuum dirt and dust from the cushions regularly. You don’t want to rub dirt on the leather. Avoid this by removing any dust and dirt before applying any products. Then, wipe the recliner or sofa with a clean microfiber cloth, water, and light soap.

Don’t use harsh chemicals and detergents on your leather. These chemicals may remove some of the protection from mid-grade leather, which is damaging. Scrubbing your leather will cause damage to the protective layer as well. Once these initial cleaning steps are complete, it’s safe to use a cleaner specifically for your type of leather. There are a variety of leather cleaning kits available on the market.

Proper leather conditioning

Follow up the cleaner with a conditioner. Why apply conditioner? It will give your leather a small degree of resilience by preventing the absorption of body oils and hair products. Tanneries add protective layers to the hide, helping it last longer. Regular cleaning is going to help preserve these important protective layers. The hide remains moisturized from regular cleaning. As long as you keep the furniture clean, you’re far less likely to see unsightly discoloration, cracking, and peeling.

Cleaning frequency is going to depend on how frequently you use the furniture and whether you have children and pets. Vacuum and wipe down your leather every two to four weeks. Conditioning is not needed as frequently. You’re safe conditioning your furniture annually. You can condition more often if the furniture is in direct sunlight or a very dry environment.

Cleaning bonded leather

What if you need to clean bonded leather? Fortunately, bonded leather is easier to maintain than top grain or split hide. Bonded leather does not retain moisture, so it doesn’t need to be conditioned. You don’t have to worry about discoloration with bonded leather because the hide has not been dyed. Maintain bonded leather with dusting, vacuuming, and wiping with a microfiber cloth. Try to avoid heavy use so that your bonded leather doesn’t get worn down quickly.

What should I look for when choosing a leather sofa?

Look for solid hardwood construction and a good spring system. Sinuous springs are the most common while 8-way hand-tied is considered the best. A quality leather piece will have high-density foam in the cushions. Higher-end pieces will contain 2.0-2.5 density foam. Cushion density directly correlates to cushion endurance. A foam block of 2.2 density foam measuring 12 x 12 x 12 will weigh 2 lbs.

Features and Benefits of Leather Furniture

You can achieve a variety of different looks with leather. A leather sofa can be sleek and minimalist or reminiscent of the old world. Give your space the exact look and feel you’re aiming for. There is certainly a hide pattern or grain you’ll love.

Aged leather has an attractive appeal. Unlike many materials that fade or lose their integrity over time, the fibers of leather become more supple. Dyed leather does not fade because the pigment is actually absorbed by the material. Leather is notably different from its vinyl counterpart.

Because leather is a natural skin, it is able to “breathe” and dissipate heat and cold. This feature allows the leather to adjust to the temperature of your body. Whereas, vinyl furniture is more likely to feel sticky, hot, or uncomfortable due to its inability to release moisture.

Furniture that stands the test of time

If you desire legacy or heirloom furniture that you can pass on to family and friends, leather is a great option. A leather sofa is likely to last four to seven times as long as fabric. It resists punctures, tears, dirt, and beverage spills. It’s easy to clean too-simply wipe with a damp cloth.

Real leather is hypoallergenic and doesn’t hold dust or allergens. Leather improves with age and it’s tough enough for daily family or business use lasting up to years. It is not uncommon for a leather piece to last up to a lifetime. In particular, top grain leather is a good choice for families and busy households.

Aniline vs. semi-aniline

Aniline leather is considered one of the top-grade leathers, but you need to understand its features. Aniline leather has been treated with soluble dyes which results in a natural surface “unfinished” appearance. Aniline leather will scratch and absorb grease from your palms or hair.

Mid-grade leather is more appropriate because it is a protected leather that repels stains and is fairly resistant to scratches. Semi-aniline leather has had the surface ground down to make it more even. After grinding, a pressure roller is used to add texture. Semi-aniline leather is going to be more resistant to children, stains, and messes. A variety of cleaners can be applied to semi-aniline leather without any issues.

Things to Consider Before Buying

If you expect the patina to age over time, this leather is referred to as full aniline or pure aniline. However, due to the lack of a protective coating, this leather is more sensitive to stains. If you care more about color, consider pigmented leather, which also happens to be easy to clean and resistant to stains.

Leather Consumer Trends

Many people continue to buy leather furniture because it’s stylish furniture that can last a lifetime. Here are a few consumer trends that have risen in popularity:


  • A nod to grandmother’s style
  • Chintz, frilly pillows
  • Granny chic
  • Traditional pieces
  • A modern, updated version of the English countryside
  • Baby blues & forest green


  • Camel colored leather
  • Warm & cozy
  • Geometric patterns and less detail with more dramatic shapes
  • Multifunctional spaces
  • Pet-friendly, modular leather sectional
  • Jute and wicker materials
  • Patterned walls or floors

Types of Leather

Regarding leather types, there are full-grain leathers, top-grain leathers, split leathers or genuine leather, and bonded leathers. Full-grain leather stands at the top tier of leather choices. This type of leather is left as natural as possible and retains the original thickness. Full-grain leather exposes barb marks and insect bites. This leather type does absorb moisture, oils, and develops a patina as it ages. Note that full-grain leather is more likely to become distressed from pets, food, and drinks. This leather is a good option if you prefer a rustic, distressed look.

The highest quality top grain leather does not need to be corrected. Lower quality top grain will be corrected before it is sold. The most common form of correction is stamping on a pattern that looks like top grain. Uncorrected leather looks natural and feels soft. Corrected leather has a degree of stiffness, receives more treatment, and is embossed with designs.

Top grain leather is extremely durable. In general, it costs more and lasts longer than other leather types. You can take a swatch of top grain leather and attempt to penetrate it with an ink pen-you’re more likely to break the pen than create a hole.

What’s the difference between split hide and top grain leather? All leather that is removed from an animal has to be split into two layers first. The top grain is the uppermost leather and is the most durable and softest part of the leather. The top grain is comfortable and will not make you sweat. The split hide feels thicker and more grainy, it’s not as soft as the top grain.

Quality top-grain leather is not the same as the leather seats in your car. Top grain leather will be the same temperature as your home. The leather of your car seats is most likely split hide rather than top grain. Car leather is the reason why many people associate leather with being too hot, too cold, or sticky. The thick layer of polyurethane on your car seats is responsible for this feeling.

Final Thoughts

There are major differences between real top grain leather and faux leather/ bonded leather. The latter is not nearly as durable as the top grain. Bonded leather is more comparable to a fabric than leather, as the name suggests. Bonded leather consists of leather shavings that have been reconstituted into a fabric.

The leather shavings are layered onto polyurethane or polyester fabric, creating bonded leather. This type of leather is typically 57% polyurethane, 26% poly/cotton, and 17% leather particles. Bonded leather can have a smooth feel but a key difference between bonded and top grain is that bonded leather is not pure animal hide.