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Full grain, Top grain, Suede, Split, Bonded, PU, PVC leather - What are they?

Why are there so many different types of leather? Leather is popular for its longevity and ease of cleaning. Made into furniture or accessories, it is a symbol of luxury due to its price and aesthetics. Because real leather has a big price tag, to open up the market to middle income, there are artificial leather in the market that offers leather at cheaper prices. Given the many different types of leather in the market, what are their differences and types of leathers.

1. Full grain leather

First up, we have the Full Grain Leather that comes from the top layer of the hide which has all of the grain, therefore, got its name: full grain. The natural surface of full grain leather burnishes and beautifies with use. It is the best due to the utmost care required to ensure the skin is not torn or damaged.

2. Top grain leather

Photo taken by The Green Furnishing

Top Grain Leather is the second highest grade because it is split from the top layer of blemished hide then sanded and refinished. This is how they get rid of scars and scrapes and light cow brands. It is strong and durable and commonly used for sofa due to its reduced price compared to Full Grain Leather. They sanded off the strongest fibres of the hide leaving mainly the horizontal (easily pulled apart) fibres.

3. Suede leather

"Genuine leather" mentioned in the market is not the "pure leather" that everyone is referring to. It is the third grade of leather and is produced from the layers of hide that remain after the top is split off for the better grades. The surface is usually refinished (spray painted) to resemble a higher grade. It can be smooth or rough. Some even renamed it as Suede to make it sound professional and of a higher quality. Suede is indeed tougher than cloth and is excellent for lining, but it's not a good idea to use it in areas where it gets stressed like the seat of a sofa or an office chair. So next time you go to a branded shop where the sales person tells you that they sell "genuine leather", take it with a pinch of salt.

4. Split leather

Split leather refers to leather made from animal hide that has the top grain completely removed, or split from the surface. This form of leather looks similar to that of a normal top grain leather. The quality is not as good because it consists half of top grain and half of suede parts. Because of this, the fibre structure is not as strong as top grain leather and will peel and crack more easily.

5. Bonded leather

Bonded leather is the dust and shavings of the leather glued and pressed together. It is the "PT Cruiser" of the leather world. Leftover scraps are ground together with glue and resurfaced in a process similar to vinyl manufacture. Bonded leather is weak and degrades quickly with use. Most books with "leather-like" backings are covered with this.

Little known fact, you can also mix up dog poop with flour and water, press it flat and let it dry in the sun for about two days and get a bonded leather equivalent. Suede and bonded leather is usually spray-painted to look like full or top grain leather.

6. PU leather

Seen more often on the online market these days are the PU leather, or polyurethane leather. This is an artificial and man-made leather used to make furniture and shoes. It is made to mimic that of real leather, high quality PU leather are made to have the same texture as real leather. It is a great substitute to Genuine leather as it is much much cheaper and lighter. However, it is not as durable as real leather and tends to tear easily. There are types of PU leather also known as bicast leathers that are made with real leather and has a top coat of polyurethane.

There are also woven and non-woven types. Woven ones have a piece of plastic netting at the backing of the leather to prevent tears. They are more durable and strong compared to non-woven ones.

7. PVC leather

Photo taken by The Green Furnishing

The PVC leather is similar to the PU leather, but instead this leather is made by combining Polyvinyl Chloride with stabilizers to protect, plasticizers to soften and lubricants to make flexible, and then applying to a base material.


Do you know? The Green Furnishing uses mostly Thick Top Grain Leather for our sofas. We value quality the most here. View our collection of sofas here. To find out how to differentiate between leathers, click here.

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