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What is split leather?

Sunday, 31 January 2016 16:01:46 Europe/London

A hide can be divided into three distinct layers. This is often done with thicker hides, especially from cattle. Technically each layer is known as a split.  

The 3 different layers are:

  • Top grain, or grain split - this is the outer layer with the hair
  • Drop split,or flesh split - this is the inner layer of the hide
  • An additional layer can be created if the hide is thick enough

After leaving the tannery, the term grain split is no longer used. It is referred to as aniline, Nappa, etc, depending on the type of leather. The lower layers are no longer referred to as flesh split, but simply as split leather, split velour or suede. Top grain splits are the most valuable. The fibre structure is much denser in the upper layers and thus more resistant to tearing.

            Cowhide split leather   Cowhide split leather hair   Split leather flesh

Different types of split leather

  • Processed split leather

Split leather is ideal for many applications, including shoes, clothing and some high-quality furniture.

                                   Pig Suede     Goat Suede

  • Coated split leather

Split leather is sometimes coated to make it easier to look after by gluing a plastic film over the split leather. Customers will often think it is high quality grain leather when in fact it is cheap split leather with a film coating. Can also be called PU Leather which is termed PU as the coating is a polyurethane coating.

By law, it should be declared as ‘coated leather’ when the thickness of the coating is greater than 0.15 millimetres.

There are some cases when split leather is stabilised with a textile backing. This material is known as Rodeo (image 1), pilot leather (image 2) or Tasan (image 3). This material should not be sold as genuine leather.

Split leather Rodeo   Split leather pilot   Split leather tasan

  • Embossed split leather 

This is when the split leather has been coated with a binder and then the grain embossed. Although it looks like genuine grain leather, the fibre structure is not as good as that of grain leathers and it can tear more easily. 

                                                 Embossed split leather

What is split leather used for?

  • Split leather clothing 

Suede from pig or goat skins are the most typical splits used for garments. Pigskin is cheaper than goatskin as it is stiffer and has less tensile strength.

  • Split leather shoes

Split leather is often used for shoes, especially for sports shoes because of its breathability.

  • Split leather upholstery

In low price furniture, contact surfaces like the back, seat and armrests are made with grain leather, but the rest is made from cheaper split leather or imitation leather.

  • Split leather car interior

Vehicle manufacturers don’t usually declare the use of split leather in their interiors. However, many steering wheels, door panels, parts of the seat and other areas in the vehicle are trimmed with embossed split leathers. Split leather does not have the strength of top-grain leather.

Split leather is fine when properly produced and used. Many customers are under the impression that their leather steering wheel or side panels have the grain side of the leather, when it is really coated or embossed split leather.

                                Suede shoe     Split leather wheel

Split leather damages 

As we have already mentioned, split leather is more susceptible to damage than grain leather. Due to its weaker fibre structure it can tear more easily and the top coating can dissolve when in contact with skin and hair. Damages on split leather are not easily repaired. Minor rips and tears can be repaired if dealt with at early stages.

    Split leather peeling damage   Split leather peeling PU   Split leather tear damage

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Top tips!

  • Make sure you know what leather you are really getting. Ask the staff. Read the fine print. A lot of times split leather is sold as 'genuine leather' - don't assume this means you are getting the higher quality top grain!
  • Remember, split leather is not a bad leather, but it is important to know what you are paying for.
Posted in Info Articles By Ram Iyer

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Fat marks on leather

Sunday, 24 January 2016 18:25:35 Europe/London

If your leather has developed a whitish coating, you might be forgiven for assuming that it’s mould. In fact, it could well be a fat mark. 

This is caused when residual fat from the leather rises to the surface, usually as a result of fluctuations in temperature and humidity. At first glance it looks like white mould.

The causes of fat or grease marks on the leather surface are different and affect several steps in the tanning process. Inadequate degreasing of natural fats in the skin, as well as the oils and fats used for rehydration can promote fat rashes.

These grease marks are no real cause for concern. They emerge almost exclusively in leather clothing and leather bags. Car interiors, shoes and upholstery leathers are rarely affected.

Unfortunately for the tanner, this phenomenon does not arise immediately after the production of the leather, but weeks later. Most of it happens whilst still inside the transporting container or when the leather items are packed in plastic. But changes in humidity play a big role, especially once the fat has emerged, and it will reoccur after cleaning.

Unlike with mould, heating can make fat temporarily invisible as shown on the image below.

Melted fat on leather surface

Where fat marks can occur

Firstly, fat marks are common in new material, which was manufactured in Asia and packed into transport containers. Goods packaged in plastics in very humid places cause the tanning to sweat out during delivery. 

Fat marks can also appear on old leathers treated with waxy care products. Excess sweating can occur when temperatures or humidity rise. As mentioned, fatty stains can be mistaken for mould. To check, simply run a hair dryer over the affected area. Wax or grease will temporarily melt and disappear, whereas mould will stay the same. 

You can keep light fat marks under control with the hairdryer method. Fat reacts to heat so, after just one application, the marks will be gone.

                           Michael Kors leather belt with fat marks     Michael Kors leather belt cleaned

For medium fat stains on water-resistant leathers, the following procedure is recommended: clean the leather with a mixture 1:10 of Colourlock Leather & Fur Wash Concentrate and water. Apply thin layers of the solution using a wet cloth and let dry on its own or use a hair dryer to speed up the process. Protect the surface with the Colourlock Leder Fein Care & Waterproofing Oil. Although this cannot guarantee that the problem will not re-occur, this method is much faster than the constant blow drying and wiping. More solid fat or wax which causes the stain is diluted gradually and loses its effect.

Professional cleaning with solvents will be required in order to completely degrease the leather to make the fat rashes disappear permanently. The same applies to porous leather and water-sensitive smooth leathers. Professional cleaning is often a good idea for large quantities (like container goods).

                            Leather car seats with fat marks     Leather sofa with fat marks

The science bit

This test has been developed by Gerber Anderas Ollert. Even if he was not scientifically verified, his testing work has always been helpful.

Add 50-100 ml of tap water in a 500ml lab beaker with a large opening. Cut a piece of leather to be tested so it fits the beaker. Fix the leather with a rubber band over the opening of the beaker. The leather piece should also fit into the container. Place the leather with the grain side upwards and close the beaker with it. Heat the water and cook for 2 minutes or longer if the leather is thick. Steam should emerge from the visible scars.

This should shrink the leather. Dry the beaker entirely. Place the leather piece inside the container and make it airtight with plastic wrap and a rubber band. Leave for 3-5 days at temperatures from 20-25°C. If the leather hasn’t developed any fat marks during the test, then no fat rash is to be expected by the end customer.

Top Tips!

  • Use a hair dryer to melt the fat and wipe it away

Recommended products

For water resistant leathers :

Posted in Info Articles By Ram Iyer

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Leather sofa or cat scratcher?

Saturday, 16 January 2016 16:28:36 Europe/London

Has your leather sofa become a scratching post for the cat? If so, you are not alone. But, don’t worry, help is at hand. We stock all the products you need to repair the damage and can offer expert advice.  

For furniture leather with a satin or matt finish, usually pigmented (coloured) leather, you should always do a test on a hidden area by rubbing in a drop of water. If the water penetrates the surface and darkens it, then it is porous leather. But, if the water remains on the surface, then it is pigmented leather, which is protected from water penetration by its colour coating. If unsure, always seek advice from a leather specialist first. Send us an email with photos of the issue and we will advise the best solution for your leather furniture.

Scratches on leather are usually visible, as the marks will show lighter for dark coloured leathers, and darker for light coloured leather. When scratched, the leather surface becomes rough to the touch as the fibres are broken.

When the scratches are superficial, then the main issue is the colour difference. In such cases, this can be solved by applying Colourlock Leather Fresh in the same colour – the good news is that we can customise the colour to an exact match if you send us a sample of the leather.  Colourlock Leather Fresh is a special leather dye that doesn’t stain the clothing later so it can be used on all areas of your leather furniture. 

                                           Cat scratches light leather sofa     Cat scratches dark leather sofa

How to repair small scratches on leather

Firstly thoroughly degrease the area with Colourlock Leather Cleaning Spirit and smooth it out with the Colourlock Leather Sanding Pad. You can then apply Colourlock Leather Fresh leather dye in the same colour with a sponge. If the scratches are a bit deeper, you might need to apply several layers of colour. Make sure you dry the area being treated with a hair dryer between layers. Colourlock Leather Fresh has some binding properties that help making damages less visible. Any rough areas can be smoothed down using a Colourlock Leather Sanding Pad. If the damaged area is very small, you can also apply Colourlock Leather Fresh with a thin brush.

How to repair deep scratches on leather

In some cases, the damage to the leather fibres will still be visible after applying the leather dye. There might be some cracks and edges turned up from the surface of the leather furniture. These can be glued back down using a bit of Colourlock Leather Glue. We recommend using a needle to apply the glue very thinly to the loose edges, press the fibres down and let dry or use a hair dryer to speed up the drying process. If there is any excess glue, this can be removed with Colourlock Leather Cleaning Spirit.

If the leather fibres have been pulled out as shown on the image below, you can use nail clippers to cut them down.

For deeper scratches where the leather is torn, you will need to use Colourlock Liquid Leather to fill in the gaps and stabilise the damaged area before applying the leather dye, as explained before. In the case of cat scratches, this is very rarely needed as they are mainly on the surface of the leather and not torn. 

It is important to note that although scratches can be noticeably improved, the leather will not look as good as new, as there will be a scar mark. Also, if your cat has had a real go, it might not be possible to repair effectively,  in which case you may need to replace the leather, as on this photo of a very hyperactive kitten.

Leather sofa cat deep scratches

How to stop cats from scratching leather furniture

Cats have a very sensitive nose, so by simply mixing a small amount of fine milled white pepper or some lemon oil into the leather care product used on your furniture, you can keep your pet away from it. 

Some dogs also like to scratch sofas

Some dogs might dig a ‘hole’ on your leather sofa when they want to lie down,this can leave some light scratch marks on sitting areas of your leather furniture. Luckily, dog claws are not as sharp as those of cats so the scratches will be lighter and can be repaired with a Colourlock Leather Sanding Pad and Colourlock Leather Fresh leather dye as explained above.

                                             Dog scratched light leather sofa     Dog scratched dark leather sofa

…on the other hand, if your dog would rather eat the sofa, well that is another story!

Leather sofa eaten by dog

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Top tips!

  • Use white pepper powder or lemon to keep your pet away
  • Light scratches can be hidden with a touch of colour
  • Use nail clippers to remove standing fibres
  • Love your pet, look after your pet; love your leather sofa, look after your leather sofa 
Posted in Info Articles By Ram Iyer

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