Identifying And Properly Maintaining Your Leather By Precision Leather Restoration

Purchasing leather can often be confusing for consumers, designers, architects, and others interested in knowing exactly what they are purchasing. We are providing some very basic information to help everyone identify leather types and the required maintenance for each type.

Rawhide is an animal skin that has been chemically stabilized during the tanning process as it is made into leather.

Leather is an organic product – created by nature. Its texture is rich, its color vibrant with each hide telling a uniquely different story. The natural makings and subtle color variations of genuine leather are part of its distinctive character inherent in each hide – wrinkles, scratches, and scars make each piece an original.

Always ask; What type of leather is this?

TYPE - A: Aniline Leather (also called unfinished, natural, pure aniline, full aniline, naked)

These leathers are colored with transparent colorant. This means you can see the actual surface grain and natural markings in the hide. Pure Aniline dyed leathers are known for their soft, natural feel. These leathers have very little or no protective treatments applied to the surface resulting in little resistance to soil, stains, or the effects of sunlight.

Identifying this type of leather is simple; wet your finger and lightly rub it into the leather. It should darken and then disappear when it dries or in a hidden area lightly scratch the leather which should cause it to lighten in the area.

In the leather hide industry these hides are in low supply because they have the fewest surface defects which drastically increase their value from supply and demand economics.

TYPE - SA: Semi Aniline Leather (also called unfinished leather)

Semi-Aniline leather processing provides some stain protection,  more color consistency, and slightly lower maintenance retaining many of the same characteristics of Type A leather. This leather will generally have more natural markings on the surface than Type A leather and is somewhat less expensive.

Identify this type using the same method for Type A leathers. The water may take a little extra time to absorb. Lightly scratching the leather may or may not leave a light mark.

TYPE - P: Pigmented Leather (also called finished or protected leather)

Identify this leather by placing some water on your finger and touching the leather. The water will stay on the surface of the leather.

Protected leathers are the most practical for consumers or public use. The leather is tanned and then colored to a crust color. If the hides have too many natural makings or other damage they are buffed down to even out the appearance of the leather. A much heavier pigment is then applied to cover all the flaws in the leather. This does effect the softness compared to TYPE -  A and TYPE – SA leathers however it is still very comfortable and provides more durability and resistance to stains or surface wear.

This leather will be less expensive than both Type A and Type SM

TYPE - N: Nubuck ( also called suede, distressed, or chaps – is also a TYPE A leather)

Identify this leather by applying a small amount of water to hidden area. The surface will darken and then dry to a slightly darker shade. The surface has a texture similar to velvet. By moving your hand across the surface shading traces will appear similar to carpet when it is vacuumed. This leather sometimes has a wax coating on the surface so in a hidden area rub the surface with a sponge and then apply the test above to obtain identity results. Type N leather is more expensive than all the other leathers described above.

Nubuck leather often has a grain or print pattern stamped into it.

Leather is a protein from the keratin class of proteins. Included in this class of proteins are hair, skin, wool, fingernails, and feathers to name a few. Leather is a degradable natural material, but with simple proper maintenance on a regular basis you can dramatically slow down the cumulative effects of heavy daily and the environment that cause surface damage to your leather.

Cleaning the types of leathers we have identified here requires different products and techniques. Each product is formulated to provide the leather exactly what it needs to maintain a soft feel and clean appearance over a long period of time.

Over time the nutrients (moisture) applied to the leather during the tanning process evaporate resulting in extreme dryness on the surface of the leather (dye coat). This loss of moisture/nutrients is primarily caused by exposure to sunlight even if indirect and effects from daily use which includes salts or oils from our skin, pet skin, dirt, dust accumulation, or food/beverage stains. 

As a result you must stabilize the leather by applying the correct moisturizing products to the leather with the proper PH balance. PH is a numeric scale used to specify the acidity /alkalinity in the collagen layers of the leather. As the leather proceeds through the tanning process the goal is to arrive at a neutral PH value helping retain the dyes applied during processing creating a type of shield against contaminants that cause damage to the leather.

Applying a conditioner with a neural PH value is critical so that the surface of the leather does not lose the nutrients applied to the leather during the tanning process. We strongly advise using cleaning and moisturizing products with a PH value of 7. If a product does not disclose this information do not buy it.

We offer a leather conditioner that was formulated to meet these standards. For cleaning purposes we only recommend using distilled water which also has a PH value of 7.

These recommendations are even more important to keep the leather in good condition after your leather has been refinished with our process. Because our conditioner was formulated with these properties you may also apply it to leather footwear, vehicle leather, leather handbags, small leather goods, clothing, and leather inserts on furniture.

You cannot use this conditioner on Suede or Nubuck leather. We recommend testing a small hidden area for all Pure Aniline leather to make sure the proper results are possible because some of these leathers have been injected with oil or wax.

This simple maintenance will be vital in extending the life, appearance, and feel of your leather however it will not protect your leather from sun damage. Even the most expensive leathers will suffer from surface wear as it is a natural organic material, but offers the flexibility of being refinished as often as necessary for long term use and enjoyment.

There are other types of material in the market place that are called leather; bonded, bi-cast, blended, and many other names, but we strongly suggest you avoid these. Always ask to be shown top grain full grain leather and make sure the same quality covers the entire piece of furniture.

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