How to Tell the Quality of a Leather Sofa?

How to Tell the Quality of a Leather Sofa?

Here is the guide to identify the quality difference between various forms of leather available in the market.

Leather is one of the most durable, luxurious, comfortable, popular, and classic fabrics for sofas.

How to Tell the Quality of a Leather Sofa? You can tell the quality of a leather sofa by its strength and price. The slightly rough feel and rich aroma of the leather define its high quality. In addition, grainy or smooth appearance and the ability to stretch are helpful to distinguish different forms of leather. 

You should know about some properties before buying a leather sofa to make sure you are buying genuine furniture.

Every type of leather differentiates in some characteristics that increase or decrease its quality. 

Different grains, coatings, and textures make it confusing for you to recognize the best type for your sofa.

Leather has resistance against damage and deterioration as it is a naturally strengthened material.

It is warm and long-lasting, having distinct characteristics which make it best for use in different furniture like sofas, couches, chairs, and stools. 

It is a lightweight fabric that weighs about 3 to 4 ounces only on a piece of furniture. 

Tanning is the process by which manufacturers cure animal skin to create leather.

Tanning has the same price for all the forms, and it is the finishing process adding the difference in their prices.

The hide is the main component used as furniture upholstery which is the skin of cattle.

Only 2 to 6% of hides are pure that do not undergo any other processes for furniture use: the rest all undergo additional processing.

The average hide is only 4 to 7 feet, and a single sofa contains several leather-hides as a single leather-hide cannot cover a complete sofa.

Aroma or odor of the original leather

Pure leather has a distinct smell that is pleasant and appealing. 

The aroma is rich and does not resemble any chemical or plastic.

However, synthetic material gives off a strong plastic smell, or it may smell like some chemicals.

The chemical-like aroma in fake leather is due to its treatment and processing with different dyes, coatings, and finishing.

Also, the synthetic fiber from which the manufacturers obtain faux material adds up an unpleasant smell to it.

Feel or touch

The texture and feel of genuine and synthetic leather are different in softness and smoothness.

The original material is not even and is not soft and supple: it is rough and hard to touch.

It has some graininess and a textured surface that feels porous and irregular.

As the quality lowers, the surface texture becomes more smooth, buttery, and gliding like synthetic or fake leather.

It is because these faux materials do not have grains and pores, making them soft.

Also, processes like buffing and oiling make the fabric more smooth: Lacquering makes it over-coated and plasticky. 

You can identify this property by rubbing your hand on the top skin: if you feel graininess, it is more genuine. 

The appearance of leather sofa

Genuine or full-grain leather has clean and quality stitching but has some flaws and mess around the corners and edges.

It has some wrinkles on the surface that appear like fat granules.

You will see that high-quality leather is not present on the back or sides of the sofa because of its high price and is present only on seats.

It retains its original shape and texture for a longer time. 

Moreover, it has some imperfections as it is not processed and is pure. 

On the other hand, the lower quality fabric is even with no scars or scraps. 

These materials do not get dirty or stained soon because they have a coating and liquoring on them.

Pigmented leathers are vulnerable to fade under sunlight, while others do not fade in color soon.

Moreover, fake leather has uneven, clean, smooth seams, corners, and edges. 

Keen examination on all the sides, corners, and edges can give you the idea of whether it is top-quality material or not. 

Strength and durability

The more the leather is genuine, the more it is strengthened, durable, and long-lasting.

A high-quality material can last from 25 to 40 years, and with age, it becomes more attractive.

As the quality declines, the strength reduces, and it starts to degrade with time and does not last more than 15 years.

Also, there are no chances for the high-strength fabric to wear or tear even after applying much pressure.

Pores on the leather

A unique property that an original or high-quality leather possesses is its ability to withstand heat.

These have minute pores that appear as grains on the top skin to regulate moisture level.

This feature makes them water-resistant as they can absorb water and prevent sweating.

Though pigmentation can reduce this property by blocking pores, it still has breathability.


Every type of leather has some stretching ability, which prevents cracks on the skin while stretching.

In some forms, overstretching is good and appreciated as it gives uniqueness to the furniture.

Tanning and processing increase this property because of the use of oils.

You can examine the flexibility by placing a heavy object on it: the more it stretches without forming cracks, the more it is top grade.

Grading of leather for a sofa

Grading gives you an indication of the quality, and it relies on the part of the animal from which manufacturers obtain it.

1st grade

It will form the best product, and sofas having these hides have no defect or scars on the skin.

2nd grade

The hide from part of the animal that has some scraps or rotting is second grade, and it is less superior than the first grade. 

3rd grade

Third-grade leather has more defects, and it comes from the animal with skin having scars and rotting on a quarter part of body skin.

4th grade

They hide in this grade have most defects and scraps as it comes from the animal that has 45 to 50% damaged skin.

Despite being in 3rd and 4th grade, these hides have the highest price. 

What are the types of leather used for the sofa?

There are various types of leather that are used to make furniture, including sofas. I have explained all of their details.

Leather type Look Feel Cleanability Durability
Pure aniline 90 to 100% 95 to 100% 30 to 50% 90 to 95%
Semi-aniline 90 to 100% 90 to 100% 80 to 90% 90 to 100%
Pigmented 50 to 80% 60 to 80% 80 to 100% 80 to 100%
Nubuck 50 to 80% 60 to 90% 60 to 70% 70 to 90%
Suede 70 to 90% 70 to 100% 10 to 30% 20 to 40%
Bi cast 20 to 60% 20 to 50% 80 to 90% 10 to 15%
Bonded 10 to 305 10 to 30% 80 to 90% 10 to 20%

Full-grain leather

Full-grain leather is the most beautiful, fine, and long-lasting. 

It will stay new for several years and will mature with age, becoming more stunning and unique.

The hides of the full-grain fabric have no blemishes and are usually large in pieces. 

It is 100% organic and is extremely expensive: making it fall under the category of luxury fabric.

Top grain

Top grain is also high-quality leather, but it is not as beautiful as full-grain.

It has some blemishes, insect bites, scrapes, and scars that decrease the quality a bit.

These hides undergo processing that decreases their natural properties To remove all the defects.

You can find them at low prices than the full-grain, and they are durable with characteristics like scratch and stain-resistant.

Pure aniline

Aniline has relatively low finishing and remains naked, which looks beautiful.

These hides undergo the process of dying in which the crust becomes colored, and the surface remains natural.

These colors are also natural, and there is no addition of synthetic products in the final product.

It fades under UV light and is also vulnerable to scratch and stains.


It is the next step to the aniline dyeing in which the surface also becomes colored.

This treatment is necessary to make the fabric scratch and stain-resistant.

A full-grain and top-grain undergo this processing to keep them in their original appearance for a longer time.

Pigmented leather

It is the third type of colored leather, which has an opaque and consistent coating on the surface to make it long-lasting.

It is the most stain and scratch-resistant form, but it can fade under sunlight.

Corrected grain

In this type, the top surface or skin receives buffing to even the scars and blemishes.

In this way, the leather looks clearer and even as the embossed effect hides the scars.


The hide has three skins, the uppermost, the center flesh, and the lower.

Split is the process of separating these three layers to obtain the center layer. 

This skin is soft and has no grains, which can have an artificial grainy, colored coating to look like original leather. 

It is free from scars and stains, so you should examine it properly to prevent yourself from loss.


Nubuck is a decorative type that is smooth and long-lasting and is processed form of top grain.

The buffing and sanding make the grain even, and the skin becomes soft with no texture.

It makes a velvety feel on the surface and is water-resistant.


Suede looks appealing and attractive and is not suitable for heavy use.

Although it is soft due to having entangled fibers, it is not easy to keep it clean and maintained for a long time.

It stains easily and is porous: it changes color with regular use and becomes visibly dirty.

Bi-cast leather

Bi cast or pleather is less expensive and easy to maintain as it does not take much effort to clean.

It is synthetic form as it contains a polyurethane layer on the top of the split layer.

It does not require daily conditioning and adds to the aesthetic of the room.

Considering its durability and crack resistance, it is the lowest grade leather and can cause sagging of the sofa.

Bonded leather

It is the cheapest type you can get as it is not leather, and it can result in the peeling of your leather sofa.

It is the combination of all the leftover leather scraps and pieces from processing.

Manufacturers glue or bond these leftovers alongside other synthetic products and form a sheet.

This sheet looks original in appearance, color, and texture by a different type of treatment. 

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