Get To Know Your Leather Types

Get To Know Your Leather Types

April 22, 2023

Jane Smith, Managing Director


What Is On The Surface Of Leather?


We all look at leather and think that’s genuine skin, but not all skins have genuine grain on them.

There is a lot is misleading information regarding leather and people believe they don’t have leather as it has a coating on it, leather has had a painted coating on it for over 100 years.

Get To Know Your Leather Types

Leather is not something new, it dates back to 5000 BC, it’s a natural product it's eco friendly and it is far safer and better for the planet than faux vegan leathers which all mainly use petrochemicals to manufacture them causing issues for our planet, leather can mulch under ground within 15 years, vegan leather can take well over 500 years to begin to break down. Gases from the production of leather last no more than 100 years in our environment whereas gases from fake leather and vegan leathers last for over 1000 years in our environment.


The leather industry has been using pigments for a very long time, in the 19th century pigments and solid colours probably with the best coverage being in the Japanese resins / lacquers which came to the West in the 19th century. In the UK we were well into the 20th century before we introduced pigments, so for 100 years leather has been pigmented with a painted coating. Leather is tanned differently today compared to 100 years ago, from the 1950’s onwards synthetic polymers were introduced changing the look and feel of leather color – leather colour painted leather became a normal look for leather, making it more hard wearing with this painted surface coating. Leather was always veg tanned, but from the 1950’s onwards leather tanning changed as greater awareness was put on our environment, veg tanned items remained popular, but newer methods were developed, chrome tanned pigmented leather became more known.

Pigmented leather is not aniline leather, aniline leather is very absorbent and is top grain leather showing all-natural grain and blemishes, it’s just dyed through with no other surface pigment coating. Natural grain pigmented leather is found in some top end cars or higher models, lower model ranges have embossed grain that’s pigmented.  Coated leather is different to pigmented leather, coated leather in a lot of cases is a drop split and is coated with a grain imprisoned plastic coating, which is not what’s in cars today, what’s in cars is pigmented leather in almost all cases or vinyl. There are so many  manufacturers of cars with fake faux materials in cars.

Some of the materials used in cars today as these in this picture below. Two of the main leathers in cars today shown in this picture are embossed grain and genuine grain leathers.  But both require a different approach to care, all four of these materials requires a different approach and you need to be aware what you’re dealing with of you could end up damaging the seats and if you run a detailing business ruin your reputation in the process.


Get To Know Your Leather Types & Faux Materials

When you look at this picture and study it, you will begin to notice characterises within each type so you can identify them in real life, so you don’t continue to make mistakes.

Look at the main difference between the genuine grain and the embossed grain, it will actually now stand out every day to you, you will look for this at once so you can be more informative to your customers.

All that is means is the leathers in cars are not coated leathers at all, that’s wrong information they are in a lot of cases embossed leathers, a coated leather in almost all cases is something that’s had a coating applied that’s more than 0.15mm in thickness. For leather to be legally classed as leather the full surface thickness can’t be any more than 0.15mm thick, anything over that its classed as a coated leather which has a plastic surface to it and not a pigmented surface to it.

Here are some pictures of coated leather, as you can see, they are different to what’s in a car, coated leather peels off like a skin whereas pigmented leather which is what’s in a car wears off and colour / color loss happens to the surface layer, meaning this can be re painted with leather paints and sealed again with a clear coat. Whereas coated leather is like a plastic sheet that’s applied to the surface of a split skin in most cases and bonded to it with glues and resins.

These pictures show typical wear of the coloured / colored surface coating on a pigmented car seat which is what’s found in a great deal of cars, this is not coated leather, this is pigmented / painted leather there is s huge difference between the two materials and because people are listening to the wrong people and not reading up on the correct facts they just assume everything is coated and wont even listen to a professional as they cant accept the facts they are wrong, this is bad business practice, because you should have an open mind to learn and educate yourself fully on processes, and procedures to ensure you know what your dealing with.

Get To Your Leather Types and What Colour Loss Is

These two pictures show colour loss, this is not a coated leather as this is pigmentation paint coming off coated has plastic sheets bonded to the surface which are far greater then 0.15mm in thickness.

It’s also surprising how many mistake this as a leather stain, this is not a stain its colour – color loss.

The problem we have is people are uneducated regarding materials as people believe they are not dealing with leather they are actually dealing with a coating, so they steam it, use APC on it, use magic erasers on it, scrubber pads and even worse, you can view the top 100 what not to do to leather here.  People need to understand the damage your causing you can’t see to the naked eye, you can only see the damage with equipment, people look at it and state its fine see look okay, but its isn’t okay as the surface coating has been damaged and then all that’s left is the painted finish on the surface and in time this starts to breakdown, eventually someone may say I think your leather is wearing out, unawares they caused that damage to take place, due to lack of education and not being prepared to listen because they think they are right, when in fact they are very wrong, they created the damage using the wrong products to care for leather.

The issues you get is listening to leading youtubers, people believe them, as they must know because they have 1 million followers, that’s a dangerous game to play, after all you would not speak to your dentist about a heart issue, so why would you talk to and believe a YouTube sensation?

To get to know what leather types you have in vehicles there are multiple tests you can carry out, first look and see what the item looks like, you can tell by looking at these close up images how they all look different to each other. Next is the touch test, anything fake will always have a colder touch to it, third fake will also have this plastic affect it stretches very easily whereas leather is more robust and can’t be stretched by pulling it, next is the finger test rub you finger along it if the grain follows your finger you have genuine leather, if it doesn’t then its fake, you can also push into the leather with a finger you will gain a star shape look where as plastic type fake materials will just be a round indentation.

There are plenty of help channels out there to find out more about leather, the leather encyclopedia is one of the greatest information platforms out there for leather.

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