• Leather
  • Leather
  • Leather

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS


It's important to know that every leather skin is unique! The leather is tanned to preserve all the natural characteristics that show signs of the animal's life (insect bites, wrinkles, scars, differences in the color of the grain). That is why at the end of the operational process, each skin shows its own unique characteristics, guaranteeing its authenticity. The differences in the skins and the structure of their fibers create variations of shades and tones. This phenomenon is completely normal. Only vinyl offers a consistent color, but it will never offer the beauty and comfort of natural leather.

The reason consumers love leather lies partly in its ease of maintenance. However, it is not indestructible. In general, the denser the skin, the more resistant it will be to splashes and stains. Untreated leather is more easily soiled by oils, such as natural skin and hair oils since it absorbs them. It can also be stained by abrasive cleansers, powdered products and organic solvents.

A cloth with water and soap is enough for routine cleaning of the leather. Simply wipe the leather down with a soft, damp cloth, but never wet. This will allow you to remove dust and dirt outside. The operation should be repeated every three months, or more if necessary. Several leather cleaners are also available on the market; these often contain lubricating components, made to keep the leather smooth. To maintain its flexibility, you can apply a leather care product every year, available in our stores.

If your leather is really dirty, it may require the use of a mild detergent solution, although professional cleaning is always recommended. If you decide to clean it yourself, you should know that some detergent solutions may not have a balanced pH or may contain ingredients that could damage the leather. It is recommended that you follow the cleaning instructions of the manufacturer, and that you test all cleaning products on an inconspicuous surface of the furniture.

Some pets like to chew or scratch the leather. Although leather is more resistant than any textile material, it is still vulnerable to contact with pets (claws, saliva). Unfortunately, there is no solution to this. It is also important not to place the leather directly in the sunlight or near radiators that could dry it.

People who anticipate that their sofa will be heavily used and who fear that dirt and stains will become imbued, should consider buying a model with a leather that is preferably darker in color and has a denser finish (called pigmented leather). This type of leather will maintain its original appearance longer and will leave fewer natural features due to the pigmented topcoats.

Natural leather is a good investment especially when it is well maintained!

A leather sofa will outlast most fabric sofas four to one, meaning four times as long as fabric. Leather, especially once it is tanned, can easily last 20 years with normal residential use, and maintain most aspects of its original appearance as long as it has not been exposed to direct sunlight. Regular yearly cleaning and moisturizing will also enable you to extend the natural life of your sofa. It would also be considered normal to replace the foam cushion cores after approximately 10 years of use to continue to enjoy the same quality of seating.

Leather that is dyed through and through is called aniline dyed leather. This type of dying process means that the hide has been submerged in a vat of colour and that the colour has penetrated through to the hide. The advantage to this type of tanning is that if the leather is scratched the colour will not be the white of the skin but the actual colour of the dyed piece. Therefore, scratches show a little less. Also, aniline dying is usually applied to higher qualities of leather hide. To verify if leather is aniline dyed, do this simple test: turn over the piece of leather and see if the underside has the same colour as the top.

Bicast is the reverse side of the skin that has been slit and coated with polyurethane. In general, it gives it a slightly shiny appearance. The real difference lies in its durability. Natural leather is a soft material that changes and then returns to its original shape so leather ages very well. Bicast is covered with a layer of polyurethane so it isn't as soft, nor as resistant and particularly not as noble as real leather.

Leather vinyl combinations on upholstery mean that the seating is made of leather and will wear the same as an all leather sofa, while the outside perimeter of the sofa is made of vinyl. This leather vinyl combination will show differences in colour, as vinyl will never be the same colour nor have the same consistency as leather. Also, the seams on leather and vinyl are areas of stress, as vinyl, a man made material, is more prone to ripping than real leather. Mobilia has chosen not to offer any leather/vinyl products in its collections.

Recycled (composite) leather is made from scrap leather and skins that come directly from shoe or upholstered furniture factories. These surpluses are crushed and then mixed with latex binders. The resulting product (synderme or regenerated hide) offers good resistance and will generally have the same appearance as pure leather. This manufacturing can be considered as the last stage of recycling. Recycled leather is therefore ideal for dining room chairs because it offers great resistance (unexpected: food, wine...).

For pigmented leathers, today’s modern tanning technologies have advanced to the point where the choice of leather colour does not need to be guided by the use you will make of your leather. Therefore, a family may opt for a very light colour since pigmented leather will be as resistant as a darker one. The only caveat, applicable to all leathers, is that leather cannot be put in direct sunlight, and continued abrasive use might break down the surface coating over several years.

The main factor determining the grade of leather is the origin of the raw hide. Hides come from all over the world and are sorted by the amount of natural characteristics that are present on them. Since hides with fewer characteristics are rarer, they usually are more expensive, and require less processing to be turned into leather suitable for upholstery. Hides from the Southern Hemisphere are more abundant and tend to show more of the natural characteristics of leather. They are less supple than hides from the Northern Hemisphere. Hides from the Southern Hemisphere usually represent the majority of the pigmented leathers that we carry. Generally speaking, the higher grades of leather come from hides raised in the Northern Hemisphere. However, we do use some higher-grade hides from the Southern Hemisphere in our selection. Natural hides, by their nature, have some natural characteristics and will show some variation in color. This is no flaw.

The thickness of leather does not influence its longevity. All hides must be split in order to be used as upholstery leather. Most hides are split to a standard thickness of approximately 1.2 mm. However, to sometimes achieve an “effect” or a certain “look”, leather is cut thicker, to 1.6 mm for example. This is a question of aesthetics and does not influence the longevity of the hide at all.

The tannery's work is divided into four main phases: soaking, tanning, dressing and finishing. It is very common today for tanneries to specialize in soaking (the skins will come out at the wet blue phase) leaving the next 3 phases to other tanneries.

Soaking

This craft is one of the oldest, but methods have evolved considerably since the creation of the first processes for transforming leather skins. Soaking now involves a single operation performed in huge drums, a kind of large barrel. This process will remove the preservatives, hair, flesh and remaining fat from the skins, preparing them for the tanning process.

Tanning

Cette étape intervient après celle de rivière, elle vise à transformer une peau qui a été très hydratée en une peau résistante et peu hydratée donc imputrescible. Lors du tannage, on utilise des tanins qui vont permettre de rendre les peaux résistantes à la décomposition organique. Ces tanins peuvent être de différentes origines, des sels de chrome dans le cas du tannage au chrome qui représente plus de 80% du tannage mondial, d’origine végétale (écorces, bois, pépins, …) dans environ 10% des cas, ou encore au sel d’aluminium et de zirconium.

This step comes after soaking. It aims at transforming the extremely hydrated leather into resistant and dehydrated leather and therefore making it rot proof. During the tanning process, tannins are used to make the leather resistant to organic decomposition. These tannins come from different sources; chromium salts in the case of chromium tanning, which represents more than 80% of the world's tanning process, plant-based (bark, wood, seeds, etc.) in about 10% of cases, or aluminum and zirconium salts. The tanning process can be pretty slow: less than 24 hours for leather that is quickly tanned by chrome, up to 18 months for extra gentle vegetable tanning. Mixed or combined tanning consists in quickly tanning vegetable-tanned leather with chromium or vice versa, to make them more stable and to benefit from the advantages of both processes.

Dressing

At the end of the tanning process, we obtain raw hide. This is the key step before the finishing. The leathers are first wrung out and then sorted, in a more or less rigorous way, according to the quality of the tannery. It is indeed after the tanning process that the natural characteristics stand out the most. The hides are then sorted according to quality level. During this stage, the leather is then split to separate the grain from the hide, and then tanned again to homogenize leathers of the same class and to better prepare them for dyeing.

Finishing

The finishing step consists of several processes that will give the leather a visual and aesthetic appearance. It is through this step that there will be a drastic difference between a good quality leather and a lower quality leather.

All leather hides are split, as the thickness of a full hide would make it incompatible with sofa upholstery. Most hides are split into three pieces. The top piece, called top grain, carries the natural markings of the skin of the animal and is used primarily in sofa upholstery. The middle split is used in the shoe and handbag industry. Finally the lower layer, called split, is also used in the upholstery of sofas. Split leather is recommended for the outside layer of the sofa, the sides and the back, because of its relative strength. Mobilia uses split leather on the outside of some of their less expensive sofas. All leather upholstery hides are split. All hides have inconsistencies in thickness and must be split in order to achieve a uniform thickness. If hides were not split they would sit very hard, like a saddle, and they would not make very comfortable furniture. The top layer of the hides is called top grain and the portion underneath is called split leather.

All leathers go through a dying process that includes washing, drying, sorting and finally applying colour with various methods. There are several interesting aspects of higher leather grades:

  • Higher grades of leather usually come from cows from the Northern Hemisphere and therefore will have fewer markings such as barbed wire and insect bites.
  • Higher grades of leather will be suppler because they often have less finish coating applied to the top of the hide.
  • Higher grades of leather will show more colour variation but this is because the colour is not “corrected” and the hide shows the natural absorption of the colour.

Mobilia is proud to offer a comprehensive protection plan against stains and accidental damage. The cost of the protection plan depends on the retail value of the purchase and is available starting at $ 99.99. The following products are covered: upholstered furniture (fabric, full grain leather, imitation leather, polyurethane leather, laminated leather or vinyl), wooden furniture, upholstered furniture with electric component or movement mechanism, carpet. For more details, see our Protection Plan section.




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