Leather, the oldest “fabric” known to man, has evolved with time from being just a raw hide that clothed Stone Age men to Texan cowboy garb and Parisian runway couture. Today, leather is used not only as clothing, but also to cover furniture and furnishings, floors and walls, artwork frames, vehicle seats and more.
Different types of leather can be identified according to appearance.
Full grain: The finest and the most expensive type of leather, it is made from natural hide and is called full grain because the natural grains on one side of the hide are left intact. This makes the leather strong and durable. No artificial coating or paint is applied on full-grain leather.
Top grain: Also called the corrected-grain leather, it is cheaper and is made by sanding off the natural grains from one side of the hide. The surface is then heavily painted to cover up the abrasion caused due to sanding. The other side is smoothened by removing fuzzy particles such as hair. It is used for upholstery, furnishings as well as accessories.
Split grain: The hide in this variety is split into several layers. The entire surface can be split completely or partially to form multiple textures. Carpets and upholstery are often in this variety of leather.
Full aniline:Known for its natural appearance, the surface is often coloured with dyes or special coatings that also protect it against spillage or soiling. Coloured aniline is used to make fashion goods.
Semi aniline: Also referred to as pigmented or protected leather, such leathers have a natural appearance and texture, and a uniform surface. It contains a pigment that helps retain colour and prevents staining. Semi-aniline leather is far more durable than full aniline. It is ideal for use in homes with children or pets. In fact, it makes the most long-lasting leather upholstery for furniture and car seats.
Suede: In suede leathers, the grain is either completely removed or the hide is split into various uniform layers. Each layer forms a suede surface. But because it is thin, it is less durable. It is mostly used in a smooth, fuzzy texture, which makes it a hot favourite for upholstery, apparel and accessories.
Brushed: Also called nubuck leather, it is made from full-aniline type. In these, the grains on the surface are scrubbed to reveal fuzzy, protein fibres that lend a fine, velvety finish. Brushed leather is more durable than suede, but requires more upkeep than other varieties. It is comfortable on the skin and is hence used to make leather clothing.
Caring for leather
You can keep your leather upholstery soft and supple by vacuuming it and then wiping it with a damp, soft cloth once a week. For thorough cleaning, wipe gently in a circular motion. Do not use soap or detergents.
Use a specialized leather-cleaning solution on a monthly basis. These cleansing agents absorb grease and stains. You can use a sponge to gently rub the solution on to the article/furniture till the leather is clean.
Use a leather conditioner to replenish the natural oils that make leather soft and shiny thrice a year. Conditioners are best used when the surface is warm. This allows optimum absorption.
Clean minor spots and spills by wiping off excess liquid immediately with a cloth or sponge. Remove butter, grease or oil stains by wiping off the excess oil with a clean dry cloth.
Buff minor scratches off the leather surface with a chamois. Use a chamois dipped in distilled water in case of prominent scratches.
Remember to keep leather goods away from sharp objects that can tear the surface, oils, abrasive cleaners, soaps, furniture polish, varnish, ammonia, chemical-based formulations, direct sunlight and direct heat sources (leave a minimum distance of 30cm from any direct heat source).
Rukmini Kamat/ Better Interiors