How Hides are processed to produce upholstery grade leather
Most of the leather used today is made from the hides and skins of domestic animals: cattle, goats, pigs etc., although some wild animal skins are also used. Cowhide is the most popular generally, especially for upholstery leather. During processing the outerskin, (the hair/fur/wool side) is removed and the portion of the middleskin (or corium) that now becomes exposed is called the grain side. The underskin is also removed and the part of the corium now exposed is the ‘suede’ side. Some leathers are also cut horizontally through the corium, producing two thinner pieces of split leather, the top part being the better quality piece. Split leather will not have the same strength and durability that leather which is not split has.
Leather hides are colored in one of three ways.
1. The very best hides (the top 10%) are immersed in a semi-transparent dye that penetrates the leather from one side to the other. These leathers are called Pure Aniline or Nubuck depending on the finish and are sometimes referred to as 'raw' leathers because they do not have a protective coating of pigment. Only the very best hides are treated this way as imperfections are not hidden by this process. These leathers are soft, strong and beautiful but because they do not have a protective pigment they stain easily and if these stains are not treated immediately they become very difficult if not impossible to remove.
2. Hides that are high quality but not in the top 10% are both immersed in a semi-transparent dye and top-coated with pigment. These are called Semi-Aniline or Protected Aniline depending on the amount of pigment used. (Semi-aniline will have slightly less pigment than protected aniline). These leathers can be cleaned and stains are relatively easy to remove (professionally).
3. Less expensive hides are heavily top-coated with an opaque pigment on the grain side. These are called Protected Leathers. This process conceals the imperfections which are more abundant on this leather. This type of leather is most often used for auto upholstery. It is easy to clean.
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