When properly cared for, leather furniture can last up to five years longer than most fabric upholstered furniture. Two of the most important things to know: the grade of leather, and the finish applied to the hide.

The two most popular grades of leather used for furniture are top-grain leather and split leather. Made from the top layer of the hide, top grain leather is the premium grade. Leather, which is not buffed or sanded to correct markings with a smooth appearance, is corrected leather. Split leather, from the lower layer of the hide, is stiffer and less durable than the top grain, with suede and coated split-level leather used on areas of furniture not seen.

Four different finishes of leather are aniline, semi-aniline, Nubuck, and pigment-dyed. Aniline is a dye used to give the hide color without covering over the natural markings, while semi-aniline has the same amount of dye, and has a small amount of surface coating. Nubuck has a slight nap, creating a suede look (but more durable), but is treated with chemicals to resist stains and water. Pigment-dyed refers to leather with a coated surface, much like painting. Scratches are more likely to show on this type of finish.

Check the tag(s) on your furniture for the leather’s grade and finish, as they will note the different cleaning agents and conditioners required. Before the use of cleaning or conditioning products, test a small inconspicuous area, and if in doubt about a spill, stain, or mark, contact a professional cleaning company.

To further help maintain your leather furniture follow these upholstery cleaning tips:

  • Keep the furniture at least two feet away from heating vents, and radiators.
  • Protect the furniture from the sun, keeping it from windows and direct sunlight.
  • Dust or vacuum the furniture weekly.
  • Turn and fluff the cushions weekly to prevent wrinkling.
  • Blot spills immediately with a dry, white cloth.
  • Do not place newspapers, or magazines on the furniture due to ink bleed through.
  • Clean and condition the leather twice a year.