Love Your Leather

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Just like your favorite leather jacket or baseball glove, leather furniture can show natural markings and color variations throughout years of use, creating a timeline of your life. But with a hide’s differing characteristics, distinguishing between leather types will help give you the look you want in your leather furniture.

Leather can come in a range of colors and finishes, but the three used most commonly in the furniture industry are aniline, semi-aniline and pigmented.

Aniline leathers, sometimes called full aniline leathers, feature the most natural look and texture, with rich color and variations indicative of the animal it came from. Aniline leathers are colored with dye only and not with a surface coating, which keeps the integrity of the hide. Scars and markings are common on full-aniline leathers, but they actually intensify the strength of a hide rather than decrease it. Aniline leathers feel soft and unsealed and only the best hides, about five percent or so, are used for aniline leather. But while it makes for stunning furniture, it might not be the most viable option if you have young children, as it’s difficult to clean.

When it does come time to clean your aniline leather furniture, you can brush the piece with a feather duster to remove any loose dust and then use a hand vacuum for a deeper cleaning. Then brush one area of your sofa or chair with a soft-bristle brush, which can be found at most retail locations. Spray an aniline leather cleaner over the area and brush it again after waiting about two minutes. Use this method to clean the entire piece, one small surface area at a time.
Semi-aniline leathers, also referred to as partial aniline, create furniture with a streamlined, more uniform look. This leather’s durability is increased by the application of a light surface coating, which contains a small amount of pigment not found on aniline leather pieces. It can stand up to tougher conditions than full aniline, but it loses the aesthetic of complete, authentic-looking leather.

A soft brush or handheld vacuum are also helpful in cleaning semi-aniline leathers, but the real beauty of this type of leather is that a damp cloth and a mild soap solution can be used to remove everyday dirt and grime. Protective solutions, creams and conditioners are available to provide more protection for your furniture.

Aptly named for their polymer surface coating that contains pigment, pigmented leathers (or protected leathers) are the most durable and give the most uniform look to furniture. Pigmented leathers are an ideal option if you’re looking for low-maintenance leather furniture. Think about how easy it is to clean the leather seats in a car and how resilient those types of seats are to years of heavy use. Pigmented leathers are commonly found in car interiors for this very reason; however, it can be difficult to tell one kind of grain apart from the other as the surface of pigmented leather is so glossy and embossed. Think of pigmented leathers as the leather that looks sleek and shiny.

In general, pigmented leathers require minimal care. You can use lukewarm water and mild soap and go over the leather with a soft cloth. Rinse off any excess water or suds with a towel. There’s no need for cleaning solvents or any other solutions, such as polish or saddle soap, for maintaining the look of pigmented leather.

The use of “traditional” household remedies, oils, saddle soap or other similar products are not particularly beneficial to leather furniture. In fact, some of these products may cause harm to the leather by deteriorating the leather’s fibers and its finishing products.

It’s beneficial to give your leather furniture regular maintenance, usually about once every three months. Remember that the first step is to determine which type of leather you’re working with, as maintenance differs depending on the type. Often times, your furniture retailer or the piece’s manufacturer will have these cleaning products available for you. Conditioners may also be available for some types of leathers to help maintain its look.

It’s important to consider the entire make of a furniture piece–its frame, joinery and cushioning if applicable–rather than simply the leather itself. Leather can cover the frame construction or cushions of furniture pieces, and is a beautiful option that’s incredibly comfortable and durable. Studies show that construction featuring webbed suspension increases the life of high-quality cushions. Often times, leathers will be available in a variety of colors to match your desired aesthetic.

Leather is a long-lasting furniture option that looks great in any home style. No matter the type of leather furniture you choose, you can rest assured that maintenance and cleaning solutions, as well as a vast number of guides, are available to make sure it lasts. HLM

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