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What are the different types of leather?

Leathers are animal skin distinguished by different tanning and finishing methods. Naugahyde and faux leather are synthetics made of vinyl (PVC), polyurethane (PU) or polyester.

Tanning

Vegetable tanned leathers (typically used to make saddles, belts, luggage) are heavy and stiff with a classic tawny color.

Chromium tanned leather (used in upholstery and garments) creates a softer, stretchier hide with a grey color.

Aldehyde or brain tanned leathers are less common, especially in upholstery.

Dye

After tanning, most leathers are dyed, commonly with aniline dyes. This impregnates color into the leather.

Most leathers also receive some finish coating. Learn more about the difference between leather dyes and finishes.

Finish

Full grain/top grain leather – original epidermis (skin surface) and grain remain intact; pigmented finish resists liquids and stains but can still discolor or fade over time; leather may be monochromatic (single, solid color), have varied tones, or different base-and-print and colors

Corrected grain leather – epidermis was sanded to correct blemishes; pigmented finish applied; leather may be monochromatic (single, solid color), have varied tones, or different base-and-print and colors

Semi-aniline – full-grain leather with epidermis intact; the dye accentuated natural variations in the fiber; a thin clear finish makes it susceptible to fading, stains and body oil; a fingernail can easily mark the surface

Aniline – full-grain leather with epidermis intact; the dye accentuated natural variations in the fiber; no finish whatsoever; warm, velvety feel but very susceptible to stains and fading

Pull up – full-grain aniline leather with a colored waxed or oiled finish; this finish must be removed prior to any restoration work

Split leather – lower half of the hide (no epidermis) and therefore a weaker leather

Nubuck – full-grain leather that has no finish and has been brushed; warm, velvety feel and susceptible to stains

Suede – raw leather or the backside of a finished leather with a fuzzy texture

Bi-cast – split hide with polyurethane coating

Leather Match leather (usually pigmented, finished or corrected grain) is used where your body touches, but the back and sides are made of vinyl, sometimes polyurethane; this is done to reduce cost

Synthetics

Vinyl – a synthetic made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC); the backside is woven mesh; Naugahyde was a trademarked brand in the 1950s

Bonded leather – a synthetic made of ground scrap leather or polyester microfiber (microsuede) with a polyurethane (PU) coating that peels or flakes

Faux Leather a smooth finished polyester fabric that does not peel or flake but exposes a fuzzy microfiber

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Tina says

    I have a 3-seat cognac leather sofa and ottoman that I want to dye camel with your product. As well as dyeing it I’d like to make the feel warmer first. I was thinking of sanding. Will that work or can you advise a better approach?

    • lesandre says

      Refinishing leather is not going to make it warmer in temperature. Sanding will remove any roughness or wear and make it feel smoother.

  2. Dave Eriksen says

    My new spa cover is a much lighter brown than anticipated. Can the vinyl material be darkened with your product?

  3. Brenda Hernandez says

    I bought an upholstered faux leather bed frame in white but the color is actually off white. I want to recolor the faux leather to a bright white so it matches my other furniture. Would I be able to use Bright White Vinyl & Leather Finish on my furniture?

  4. Roe says

    I have a recliner but am not sure what kind or leather it is but I am certain it is not absorbent, does your product work on both absorbent and none absorbent leathers? Thank you!

  5. Jerry Bartlett says

    I have a stadium sofa piece that I got from Room to Go iij t is black and resides in my man cave/garage in the hot and humid New Orleans area. It is some type of cheap or bonded leather that is starting to wear off. Not horrible but starting. Do you have a product for this?
    I could send picture if u have that ability.

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The Knowledge Hub is a library of articles and videos complied to help our customers complete their DIY leather and vinyl restoration projects.