Leather Care Tips & Definitions of Leather Types
Have you ever been confused about the types of leather you find when shopping online? We understand! There are many types of leather and it can be very confusing. We hope our information below helps make it easier for you. Beware of online leather shops that tell you they are selling you one kind of leather, but what you get is something else entirely. At Ghost Rider Leather, we ship you what you pay for. If you pay more for Naked Leather, you are going to get Naked Leather! We have knowledge of some of the larger leather shops online who are not always so honest, and one thing that we do not like is dishonesty!
There are various types and grades of leathers, each serving a different purpose. Some require a bit more maintenance than others, but all follow a set guideline of care to ensure a longer life.
There are four stages in leather care that include cleaning, conditioning, polishing, and protection. When perusing the store shelves for a product that fits your needs, be watchful for what kind of product you're purchasing. It can be confusing to try and figure out which product is for which stage, but look for words that explain how the product is to be used. It is also important to remember to work on your leather in a well-ventilated area. Some leather care products are very strong and can cause irritations.
To clean a leather item, first choose a cleaner that will help preserve the natural lubricating oils instead of stripping them. For example, saddle soap is a commonly used product for equestrian tack. It is meant to be used as a cleaner and a protector from moisture, but it strips the leather of the oils in the process of attempting to do two jobs at once.
The cleaner of your choice should not leave any greasy residue behind. Residue makes leather susceptible to bacteria and can break down the stitching of your item. Before applying anything to your leather item, be certain to test it out for effect and possible color distortion on an area that isn't visible to the eye. Once you've ascertained whether the leather care product is acceptable to use, apply it to your item. With a slightly dampened cloth, remove the cleaning product. For areas with stitches, there are brushes available on the market. Another cleaning product to consider having in your leather care collection is a nubuck cleaning cloth. They have an astonishing ability to clean and restore leather to its original look.
Leather conditioners are meant for occasional use. They contain fats and/or oils that help lubricate leather and replenish the suppleness. Look for a product that will penetrate the strong fibers in leather, but beware of any that include petroleum or mineral oils. While petroleum by-products won't damage your leather immediately, they do over a period of time. Again, just as with cleaning, keep on the look out for thick, greasy conditioning treatments for the best care of your leather.
Polishing is done for special occasions when you want a more glossy finish on your leather. There are a couple things to be wary of when purchasing a polishing agent. Some products contain coloring factors that will brush off on things you come in contact with. Some products also have a tendency to clog the pores in leather or dry leather out. Just as with cleaning, be sure to test out the product on a small area and when ready, buff to a shine.
Moisture barriers are extremely crucial in preventing rain or other liquid hazards from damaging leather. Stiffness and spouting will happen if leather isn't protected beforehand. There is a drawback in protecting leather with a moisture barrier product. They tend to fill in the pores with a greasiness that makes cleaning, conditioning, and polishing difficult, but it's a necessary process to ensure leather isn't destroyed. Periodically apply a moisture barrier and allow it time to penetrate and dry before using your leather item.
To remove mildew from leather, create a mixture of one-cup rubbing alcohol per one-cup of water. Wipe the mildew area with a cloth dipped in the diluted alcohol, then allow it to dry. If the mildew persists, use mild soap and water that contains a germicide, then remove with a clean dampened cloth and allow to dry.
An important key to keeping leather in top-notch condition is to treat wet leather before it has a chance to dry. Remove any dirt, mud, or other stains with a cleaning agent, then condition while the pores are still fully responsive. It is critical to remember that leather should be dried away from heat. If the leather in question is a garment, it's a good idea to stuff the garment to retain shape.
Remember that leather is a natural material and should never be stored in plastic because it encourages the growth of mildew and bacteria and will ruin the leather. Always store leather in a cool, dry place away from heat. If the leather item is a garment, store in a breathable bag.
Fresh stains from things such as blood and food can be cleaned up quickly with a damp cloth. Stains from oil or grease can be lifted by grinding ordinary blackboard chalk, sprinkling the area, and leaving the powder on for a twenty-four hour period. Resist the urge to rub the powder in. After a sufficient time has past, simply use a leather care brush to remove the powder. While fresh stains can be treated and cleaned at home, ground-in stains should be attended to by a professional cleaner who deals in leather.
Common Leather Definitions:
Cowhide is the most common leather used in the making of leather garments, furniture and leather goods. Cowhide as a category covers a wide spectrum of textures and quality, but generally, it is quite durable, easy to care for and resistant to water and dirt. Cowhide leather will maintain its integrity, taking on the shape of the wearer, making it more comfortable with everyday use. This affordable, functional leather offers fashion, value and endless colors and style.
A dyeing process in which leather is immersed in dye and tumbled in a rotating drum, allowing maximum dye penetration.
A luster that develops with time and use.
A colorless, oily, benzene derivative, Aniline leather is tumbled in vats so the dye is completely absorbed by the skin. There is no other colouring agents or process, thus the finished leather tends to look and feel more "natural" - the unique markings and character of each skin are apparent. By way of analogy, this treatment is akin to the "staining" of wood. Usually, the best qualityhides are reserved for this process, as aniline leather is valued high by consumers.
(being without addition, concealment, disguise, or embellishment)
A leather with no surface, impregnated treatment of finish (other than dye) which might mask or alter the natural state of the leather.
Naked leathers are valued highest by consumers. Soft from day one, does not require a break-in period! Hides up to/usually 2.0mm thick, dyed but not finished, so some tiny imperfections (like barbed-wire marks) are still present. This is desirable to most people. Comfortable when brand new! They are more expensive because the hides must be hand selected for uniformity.
Full Grain or Premium Cowhide
A term describing hides with a minimal amount of scars or blemishes, usually less than 5% of all hides. Hides are between 1.3mm to 2.0mm
During the tanning process, the hides go through an extra step to soften and condition them WITHOUT losing any strength. Does not require a break-in period. Also more expensive because of the longer tanning process. Rarely used by "discount leather" manufacturers.
TOP GRAIN LEATHER
The most confusing term used in the leather industry is the term "top grain". It can be a contradiction because it often implies what it is not, the side of a hide or piece of leather from which the hair or fur has been removed. "Top grain", is the definition that is generally used when the grain is not genuine: when the real grain is sanded away and an imitation grain is stamped into the leather. When the genuine grain remains, the leather is called, "full grain", or "full top grain", or Premium grain not simply "top grain." Top grain is a generally regarded an economy leather. For sake of clarity, we will use the term in this article donoting from the top of the hide to the bottom of the hide.
Special Cowhide Leather
Hides between 1.3mm and 1.5mm thick, also referred to as a "tough hide" Originally used in traditional motorcycle apparel because of it's strength, stiff initially, but has a break-in period, usually a riding season will do it. A term seldom used of late.
Finished Split Leather
The middle or lower section of a hide with a polymer coating applied and embossed to mimic a grain leather. Finished splits should only be used in low stress applications because they are weaker than grain leather. If the polymer coating is left out it is often used to make suede.
Suede is the underneath portion of a hide after the splitting process. Compared to the durable top grain, this layer of the hide is much thinner and most commonly used for garments and small leather goods.