The Complete Guide to Leather, What Is it and How to Choose Your Next Leather Item

What is Leather?

Leather is a sort of animal skin made into a garment or accessory. It can be used for clothing, shoes, furniture, and accessories, among other things. Leather is created from the hide of an animal that has been tanned using vegetable tannins and other substances such as wood ash or bone char. 

The word "leather" derives from the Latin word "later", which means "to lie down". Or "lie skin".Leather is the standard material used to construct shoes, clothing, furniture and other items. In ancient times, leather was made using tanned animal skins. In modern times most leather is produced by tanning with tannins and then a fining process that uses an alum in solution or with an air-drying process.

Where does leather come from?

Leather is a natural material that comes from the hides of animals. The most common type of leather comes from cows, but it can also be made from other animals, including pigs, sheep and goats. Leather is created by removing the hair and treating the skin with chemicals to preserve it. Consequently, it is one of the most durable materials in the world and can be used for various products. Leather is often used for clothing, shoes, furniture, and other items. The process of making leather begins with the skinning of an animal. The skin is then scrubbed and treated to remove any hair or fat. It is then trimmed into thin strips and stacked together to create a large piece of leather.

How is leather made?

Leather is an enduring and flexible material that tanning animal hides and skins create. The tanning process converts the skin into the leather using tannin, a natural astringent chemical compound in certain plants. Tannin binds to the skin's proteins, making it water-resistant and preventing it from rotting.

The type of animal skin or hide used will determine the characteristics of the leather. For example, deerskin will produce soft and supple leather, while cowhide will be thicker and more durable.

The first step in making leather is removing hair or flesh from the animal skin. This is usually done by soaking the skin in a vat of lime solution, which loosens the hair follicles and dissolves the flesh. Next, the skin is treated with enzymes that break down the remaining tissue. Then, the skin is soaked in a water-based dye to colour and finish the leather. After applying the dyes, the pelt is washed with cold water before being placed in a steam chamber. This room contains hot steam dries out any remaining moisture on the hide. After this step, it is ready for tanning.

What is the Process for leather tanning?

Tanning a hide is a process that can be done at home with the right supplies. The first step is to extract the hair from the hide. This can be done with a hair removal agent or simply scraping it off. The next step is to damp the hide in a solution to help loosen the skin. After soaking, the skin can be removed by gently rubbing it off. The final step is to tan the hide using a tanning solution.

To tan a hide, you will need the following supplies:





-Smokehouse or Tanning Rack

-Lye (optional)

First, you will need to salt the hide. You can do this by rubbing it with coarse salt until it is covered. Then, soak the hide in alum water for 24 hours. This will help preserve the hide and give it a nice colour. Next, smoke the hide over low heat for about 12 hours. You can do this by using a smokehouse or hanging the hide over a fire. Finally, you can soak the hide in lye water to soften it.

Types of tanning

Vegetable-tanned leather

Vegetable tanning is an ancient leather technique that uses tannins extracted from vegetable matter to convert animal hides into leather. The tannins respond with the proteins in the hide to form a stable collagen matrix. Vegetable-tanned leather is recognised for its natural colour and odour, as well as its unique flexibility and durability. It is the ancient form of leather tanning and remains popular among luxury brands because of its unique characteristics.

Chrome-tanned leather

Chrome-tanned leather is created using chromium sulphate and other chemicals. First, the animal's rawhide is soaked in a solution of chromium sulphate and water for about 24 hours. The solution is then drawn off, leaving behind the chrome-tanned leather. The resulting leather is soft, flexible, and easy to dye. It also has a high antagonism to wear and tear, making it ideal for use in clothing, shoes, furniture, and other items. However, chrome-tanned leather is not as durable as other types of tanned leather and can be more susceptible to water damage.

Aldehyde-tanned leather

Leather tanning turns animal hides into a more durable material and less susceptible to decomposition. Tanning leather can be done through various methods, but aldehyde tanning is one of the most popular.

Aldehyde tanning uses formaldehyde or glyoxal as the primary tanning agent. These chemicals work by crosslinking the collagen in the hide, which makes it more stable and less likely to decompose. The resulting material is known as "chrome-free" leather because it doesn't use chromium sulphate, a common by-product of other types of tanning.

Aldehyde-tanned leather has several advantages over other types. It's softer and more flexible than traditionally tanned leather, making it a good choice for upholstery and clothing.

Chamois tanned leather

Chamois leather is a type of leather made from a chamois's skin. There are several ways to tan chamois leather, but oil tanning is the most common. First, the skin is soaked in cod oil for several weeks in oil tanning. This softens the skin and makes it more pliable. The skin is then tanned using oak bark or another tannin-rich substance. Finally, it is treated with a finishing agent to give it a smooth finish. Chamois is also used to make various other products, including chamois cloth.

Alum leather tanning

Alum tanning is a less common alternative that uses aluminium salts instead of chromium salts. This process is much more environmentally friendly and produces darker, more durable leather. Alum tanning also doesn't require the use of heavy metals, so it's a safer option for workers. Alum tanning does, however, have drawbacks. It takes a long time to dry the leather, and can't be dyed.

Brain tanned leathers

Brain tanning is a process that uses emulsified oils, often those of animal brains, to tan the hide of an animal. The procedure can take several weeks or months to complete and requires much skill.

The process involves coating the animal's skin with a mixture of fat and water and applying heat to it. The first step is called "laying", where an area of skin is pressed flat so that the thin layer of fat beneath it is visible. leather patina forms on top of the skin, which can be scraped away to expose the brain tissue underneath.

Brain tanning produces the softest and most supple leather that is highly resistant to water and wear. However, brain tanning is becoming increasingly rare due to its labor-intensive nature.

Different grades of leather

Leather is graded according to its thickness, the type of hiding used, and the tanning process. In general, leather is produced in the following grades.

Full-grain leather

Full grain is the highest grade of leather that can be produced. It retains its natural grain, or pattern, better than other types. Full-grain leather is made from the animal hide's thickest and most durable part. It is not processed, so the natural surface remains intact. This results in a robust and enduring material resistant to wear and tear. Full-grain leather is also breathable, which makes it comfortable to wear in warm weather.

Top-grain leather

Leather is often graded by the type of animal skin it came from and the part of the used hide. The highest grade of leather is called "top-grain leather." This is the most durable and expensive type of leather, made from the outer layer of the hide. The bottom layer, or "split," is less durable and is used to make cheaper leather products.

Corrected grain leather

The grade of leather is an important consideration when selecting a piece of furniture. The grade of the leather is determined by the tanning process and the finishing treatment. Corrected grain leather is lower quality than full grain or top grain leather. This is because the surface of corrected grain leather has been sanded down and stamped with a fake grain pattern. This treatment produces a stiffer and less durable surface than full or top grain leather.

Split leather

Split leather is the lowest grade of leather. It is made from the bottom layer of the hide, which is the most heavily scarred and has minor hair. Split leather is fragile and not very durable. It is often used for inexpensive items such as wallets, belts, or shoes.

Bonded leather

Bonded leather is a grade created when smaller pieces of leather are glued together. This is a less expensive and durable product than full-grain or top-grain leather. While bonded leather may not be as strong, it does have a more consistent colour and can be more easily manipulated into various shapes. For this reason, it is often used for upholstery and other applications where appearance is more important than durability.

Genuine leather

"genuine leather" is often used to describe leatherette, an artificial imitation of leather. However, in some countries, when it is the description on a product label, the term means nothing more than "leather-like material." To be considered genuine leather, the hide must come from an animal and be tanned and processed into a finished product.

Types of Leather

Nappa Leather

Nappa leather is a sort of leather that is created from the highest quality hides. The leather is soft and has a luxurious feel. It is often used in high-end garments, shoes, and accessories.

Nubuck Leather

Nubuck leather is a type of suede leather. It is made from the top layer of the skin, which is buffed to create a soft, velvety surface. Nubuck is similar to suede but is slightly thicker and more durable. In addition, it can be treated with a water- and stain-resistant finish to help protect it from wear and tear. Nubuck is available in various colours and textures, making it a popular choice for upholstery, furniture, clothing, and accessories.

Suede Leather

Suede leather is often used in jackets, boots, and other clothing items. It is a soft, smooth type of leather made from the underside of the animal's hide. Suede is durable and can be easily cleaned and maintained.

Aniline Leather

Aniline leather is a type of leather that has been dyed with aniline dyes. This dyeing allows the natural beauty of the leather to show through, making it a popular choice for high-end furniture and other items. Aniline leather is also available in a variety of colours, which makes it a versatile choice for many different applications.

One downside to aniline leather is that it is susceptible to staining and other damage. It also tends to be more costly than other types of leather. However, many consider the natural beauty and versatility of aniline leather to be worth the extra cost.

Polyurethane Leather (PU Leather)

Polyurethane leather is a type of synthetic leather. It is made from polyurethane, which is an artificial material. Polyurethane leather is durable and can be used for different purposes, such as upholstery and furniture. It is also resistant to water and scratches, making it a popular choice for furniture and other regularly used items.

Faux Leather

Faux leather is a popular synthetic alternative. It can be made from different materials, such as plastics, polyurethanes, and types of vinyl. Faux leather is often cheaper and easier to care for than natural leather and comes in various colours and textures. While it's not always as durable as the real thing, faux leather is still a popular choice for furniture, upholstery, clothing, and other accessories.

Vegan Leather

Vegan leather is not made of animal skin but different materials like cotton, polyester, and other synthetic materials. There are many different types of vegan leather.

One type is pleather which is made from plastic. It can be used to make bags, wallets, and other accessories. Another type of vegan leather is Ultrasuede which is made from microfiber. It's often used to make shoes, clothing, and upholstery.


  1. How to get a pen off leather?

    The best way to remove a pen from leather is by using acetone. Acetone can be found at most drugstores and can be used to remove ink from various surfaces, including leather. To remove the pen mark using acetone, simply spread a small amount of acetone on cotton or cloth and dab at the mark until it disappears.

  2. How to clean mould off leather?

    Mould can be a big problem for leather items. It can cause the material to rot, and it's not always easy to remove.

    The first stage is to identify the type of mould on the leather. There are many different types, and some are more harmful than others. If you're not sure what type of mould it is, take it to a professional for identification.

    Once you know what mould it is, you can begin treatment. If the mould is minor, you may be able to treat it at home using a mixture of vinegar and water. Soak a cloth in the mixture and wipe down the leather item. Be sure to rinse it off afterwards with clean water.

  3. How to soften leather?

    Leather is a stunning and luxurious material, but it can be challenging to care for. To keep leather looking its best, it's essential to regularly clean and conditions it. Here are a few recommendations on how to soften leather:

    1. Use a leather cleaner to remove any dirt or dust from the surface of the leather. Be sure to follow the instructions on the cleaning product carefully, as some cleaners can be harmful if misused.

    2. Apply a leather conditioner to the surface of the leather. A good conditioner will help keep the leather soft and supple. Be sure to read the instructions on the conditioner carefully, as some products should not be used on certain types of leather.

    3. Let the cleaner and conditioner dry completely before using or storing your leather item.

  4. How to repair leather scratches?

    Leather is a sturdy and long-lasting material but is not immune to damage. One of the most common problems with leather is scratches. These can be unsightly and make your furniture or accessories look old and worn. However, there are ways to repair leather scratches.

    The first action is to clean the scratch. Use a soft cloth to apply a small amount of leather cleaner to the area. Gently massage the cleaner into the scratch until it is completely absorbed. Wipe away any excess cleaner with a clean cloth.

    Allow the area to dry thoroughly before moving on to the next step. If the scratch is very deep, you may need to apply a few coats of leather sealant to help shield it from further damage.

    Once the sealant has dried, use a fine-pointed brush or stylus to fill in the scratch.

  5. How to care for nubuck leather?

    Nubuck leather is a type of suede leather. It is made from the top layer of the skin, which has been buffed to create a soft, velvety surface. Nubuck leather is very soft and delicate and needs to be treated with special care. Here are a few tips on how to care for nubuck leather:

    1. Always clean nubuck leather with saddle soap and water. Please do not use intense chemicals or solvents, as they can damage the surface of the leather.

    2. Be careful when you're cleaning nubuck leather - always use a light touch and avoid scrubbing or rubbing the surface of the leather.

    3. Use a soft cloth to dry nubuck leather after cleaning - do not use forceful movements, as this can damage the material's surface.

  6. How to waterproof leather?

    Leather is a beautiful and luxurious material, but it can be challenging to keep it looking its best. To waterproof leather, you will need to clean it first. Make sure to remove all of the dirt and dust from the surface. You can use a damp cloth or a special leather cleaner. Once the leather is clean, apply a coat of waterproofing sealant. Let the sealant dry thoroughly before using the leather.

  7. What is distressed leather?

    Distressed leather is a type of leather that has been artificially aged and roughened up to give it a weathered look. This type of leather is often used for furniture, accessories, and clothing. Distressed leather is available in various colours and can be either smooth or textured. It is also essential to note that not all distressed leather is the same - some products are made from genuine leather while others are made from synthetic materials.

  8. What is suede made from?

    Suede is a type of leather that is made from the underside of the skin of a cow or other animal. The skin is split into two layers, and the layer that contains the hair is used to make suede. Suede is softer and more flexible than other types of leather, and it is often used for clothing, shoes, and bags.

  9. Nubuck vs suede which one is better?

    Nubuck and suede are both types of leather, but they have different textures. Suede is made from the underpart of the animal hide, which is softer than the top layer, making it more delicate. Nubuck is made from the top layer of the hide, which is rougher and more durable than suede.

    Suede can be stained more easily than nubuck, so it's essential to be careful. Nubuck is a better choice if you're looking for something that will last longer.

  10. How to make homemade leather conditioners?

    To make the conditioner, you'll need some linseed oil, vinegar, and beeswax. Start by heating the oil and vinegar in a pot on the stove. Once it's hot, add the beeswax and stir until it melts. Remove from heat and let cool. Once it's cooled, put it in a bottle or container and use it as needed.

  11. How to fix leather peeling?

    There are a few ways to fix it. If the leather is only starting to peel, you can try using Leather Balm. This can buy at most hardware stores. Apply it with a cloth, then rub in until the leather is saturated. Let it dry for 24 hours, then spread another coat. You can try mixing Leather Balm and water if the leather is still peeling. Mix one part balm with three parts water, then apply with a cloth.

  12. How to oil on leather?

    There are various ways to oil leather, but a neatsfoot oil product is the most common. Neatsfoot oil is made from cattle's hooves, horns, and ligaments. It is a natural product with moisturisers and other beneficial ingredients that help nourish and protect the leather.

    To oil leather using neat's-foot oil, start by cleaning the surface with a damp cloth. Spread a small amount of neatsfoot oil to a clean cloth and rub it into the leather in a circular motion.

  13. How to wax leather?

    Many diverse types of waxes are available, so choosing one made explicitly for leather is essential. You can find this kind of wax at most shoe stores or online. Apply the wax in a thin layer with a soft cloth, then buff it until it's dry and shiny. Waxing your leather will help keep it soft and protected from scratches and fading.


** Note: The cleaning and leather care tips provided here are general suggestions. It's crucial to consider the specific type of leather and the individual item. For personalised guidance and to address specific concerns, always consult with a professional or refer to manufacturer recommendations. The information offered here is for informational purposes only and may not be suitable for all situations.