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What is the Difference Between Semi Aniline and Pigmented Leathers?

By Jeff Frank


What is the difference, if any, between semi aniline and pigmented leathers? Should I avoid pigmented?

Is  a Flexsteel Southhaven sofa good quality?

Sept. 12, 2020


Pigmented (also known as “corrected” or “protected”) leathers start with lower quality hides that have lots of scratches, imperfections and blemishes.

The hides are sanded down to remove these imperfections and then covered with a thick opaque dye.

The dyed hide then gets an artificially embossed grain and is then covered with a clear polyurethane coating that protects the leather from minor scratches and stains.

The advantage of pigmented leather is that it costs less and does not require as much cleaning and maintenance as natural (aniline) leathers.

The disadvantages are that pigmented leather is usually stiffer.

It has less of the “real leather” smell and feel and it does not improve with age like the natural leathers.

The term “aniline” is also used to refer to the type of dye used on natural hides.

It is transparent and does not hide the natural grain.

Natural leathers are sometimes referred to as “aniline” even when a different type of dyeing process is used.)

Pigmented leathers are often used in combination with matching vinyls.

This is called “leather match.”

The pigmented leather is used only on the parts of the sofa that are less likely to be seen and touched (outside arms, backs, bases.)

The remaining parts of the sofa (outside arms & back and the base are a matching vinyl (or other synthetic faux leather.)

This “leather match” reduces prices by several hundred dollars compared with a sofa made with 100% pigmented leather.

Sofas with 100% pigmented leather are hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars less expensive than sofas made with 100% natural leathers.

Frequently, salespeople sell leather-match without emphasizing the fact that more than half the sofa is not real leather.

They allow their customers to think they just purchased “real leather” furniture at a low price.

Semi-aniline leathers are mostly natural leathers with some minor “correction” where small flaws have been sanded out and pigmented.

But most of the hide surface is natural and has not been sanded off.

The finished leather may have a thin layer of clear polyurethane protective coating (which provides less protection than the “pigmented” or “corrected” hides.)

In theory, semi-aniline hides are less expensive (and more resistant to scratches) than full aniline hides.

The problem is that it is extremely difficult to tell aniline from semi-aniline hides just by looking at them or even touching them.

As a result, leather suppliers sometimes just call the most expensive natural leathers “full aniline” and less expensive natural leathers “semi-aniline” regardless of the actual way the hide was finished.

Pigmented hides are less expensive than semi-aniline.

The difference in cost between pigmented and natural leathers can be hundreds or thousands of dollars for a single sofa.

The list below gives a (very) general idea of how much manufacturers pay for leather.

By the time a leather sofa has been sold to a retailer and then resold to their customer, the leather cost can be tripled.

An average 80″ sofa requires about 250 sq. ft. of real leather or 15 yds. of synthetic faux leather.

Synthetic leathers can be purchased by manufacturers for $0.20- $0.50 per sq. ft.

Pigmented leathers can be purchased for $1.00 – 1.50 per square ft.

Semi-aniline and aniline natural leathers can cost anywhere from $2.50 – $10 per sq. ft.

The best full grain natural leathers (and exotic leathers) can cost far more.

Southhaven is the brand Flexsteel gives to its furniture made in Mexico.

Flexsteel’s Chinese made Latitudes brand furniture is made in China.

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