How to Properly Care for Your Top Grain Leather Sofa

Sep 20, 2018
How to Properly Care for Your Top Grain Leather Sofa

Leather is by far one of the most durable and longest lasting upholstery materials available. It’s perfect for any room, and in addition to withstanding all the rigors of daily life, it is a timeless material that never goes out of style. Investing in a high-quality top grain leather sofa provides exceptional long-term value. In fact, with proper care, your new sofa should last the rest of your life.

Caring for a top grain leather sofa or other furniture isn’t difficult, but it’s a bit different from caring for other upholstery materials, such as vinyl or microfiber. By taking the steps to properly clean and protect your new furniture, you can ensure that it will provide you with years of beauty and comfort. If you are not quite sure how to properly care for your top grain leather sofa, keep reading to find out.

What Is Top Grain Leather?

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When shopping for furniture, you will likely encounter a few different types of leather. Top grain leather comes from the outermost layer of cowhide that is largely considered the highest quality part of the hide. It does not contain the fibrous second layer, known as the split, which makes it softer,  more pliable, and tends to soften over the years. Top grain leather is an exceptional choice for sofas because it is easy to wipe clean and is resistant to staining.

what is top grain leather

Full Grain, Split and Bonded Leather Furniture

Full grain leather also comes from the outermost layer of a cow’s hide; however, it includes the splint, the fibrous second layer.  It is extremely stiff and durable, yet still breathable. It undergoes minimal processing before being used to upholster furniture, and it still has visible grain markings and variations in coloring.

Split leather and bonded leather are also frequent choices. Split leather is made from the layer that remains after the top grain leather is removed. It is naturally soft, and it is also used to make suede. While sometimes used on furniture, it is not utilized often on sofas and other large pieces.  The last common option, bonded leather, is made from scraps that are blended with an adhesive to form large sheets. Because of how it is made, it is thinner than other types of leather and less durable.

While top grain leather is more costly than split or bonded leather, it offers exceptional comfort and durability. Its smooth surface is also easier to clean and care for top grain leather than other leather types. When shopping for leather furniture, you may see other options as well. Those listed above, however, are the most used.


Why Choose Top Grain Leather Furniture

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While full grain leather is the highest quality of leather you can get, top grain leather is generally a better choice for large pieces of furniture. It is created using a tanning process during which the top grain layer is buffed and sanded. This process makes it exceptionally durable and more resistant to stains than full grain leather. The stain resistance is even greater when a pigment is added to the leather.

For parents (of both two-legged and four-legged “kids”) the stain resistance of top grain leather means it is less susceptible to accidental damage. Top grain leather is available in two grades: semi-aniline and aniline. Semi-aniline leather has a protective topcoat to make it even more impervious to stains. Aniline top grain leather lacks the protective coating and is the more natural option. While the lack of a protective coating makes it extremely soft, it also makes it more susceptible to stains. For this reason, most people choose semi-aniline leather for their sofas.

Also, worth noting, top grain leather is made of approximately 12 to 14 percent water. This enables the material to easily acclimate to the temperature of your body and allow your skin to breathe. For those who have ever experienced the unpleasantness of sitting on faux or low-quality leather on a hot summer day, you already understand the importance of quality leather that acclimates to your body temperature and lets your skin breathe.

How to Care for Top Grain Sofas

How to Care for Top Grain Leather Furniture 

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Supplies Needed to Clean Top Grain Leather Furniture

If you own a top grain leather sofa, you will need to invest in a quality cleaning product. We highly recommend using Leather CPR, a cleaner and conditioner made specifically for leather. Leather cleaning products should be used roughly once a year to maintain the quality of your sofa.

When you are shopping for cleaning and conditioning products, make sure they are made specifically for leather furniture. Avoid oils, saddle soaps, furniture polish, varnish, oils and any products containing ammonia. Because the leather has already been preserved during the tanning process, there is no need for such products. Plus, they can damage your furniture.

Monthly Cleaning for Top Grain Leather Sofas

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It’s a good idea to take a bit of time every month to clean out the coins, small objects and other debris that have settled between your couch cushions. Once you’ve removed the larger objects, use a handheld vacuum with a soft brush attachment to pick up crumbs, dust, etc. Vacuum carefully and only do so if you have a soft brush attachment to avoid scratching your furniture. After vacuuming, wipe your leather furniture down using a warm, damp cloth.

Cleaning Leather Sofa

If your sofa is relatively unsoiled, there is no need to do any additional cleaning. If, however, there are more heavily soiled or grimy areas, use a small amount of leather soap. Apply to a damp rag, then gently clean away the grime. Don’t scrub too hard to avoid damaging the leather.

When using a new leather cleaning product, test it on an inconspicuous area first to ensure that it doesn’t damage the leather. Never use regular soap or solvents, and don’t soak your leather couch with a lot of water. Most often, there is no need to use anything other than a clean, damp cloth. When that doesn’t do the job well enough, only use products that are specifically made for use on leather furniture.

Condition your Leather Furniture Annually

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Once a year, it is important to condition the leather. This keeps it from drying out and prevents cracking. A product like Leather CPR restores shine, luster and suppleness to dehydrated leather and helps protect it from future damage. Whatever product you choose, look for a high-quality conditioner that is designed specifically for use on leather.

conditioning leather annually

Apply the conditioner to your sofa using a soft, lint-free cloth. Allow the leather to absorb the conditioner until it takes on a cloudy appearance. Next, use a flannel cloth or horsehair brush to buff the surface of your sofa. This makes the leather shine like new while creating a natural sealant that helps the material retain moisture. There are several different leather conditioners on the market, and while most work roughly the same way, different products may have alternate usage instructions. Before using any product, read the instructions carefully and perform a spot test on an inconspicuous area.

Cleaning Spills, Spots and Stains from Leather Furniture 

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No matter how careful you are, spills, spots and stains on your leather couch are almost inevitable — especially if you have pets or kids. The good news? They are usually pretty easy to deal with. When minor spills happen, blot up the excess liquid immediately using a clean, absorbent sponge or cloth. Avoid rubbing the spilled substance, as this can force it deeper into the surface and actually worsen the stain. If the spill is sticky or leaves a residue or a spot, use a soft cloth that has been lightly moistened with lukewarm water. Gently clean the entire area where the spill occurred, and let it dry naturally.

For grease, oil or butter stains, wipe up the excess with a clean, dry cloth, and then leave it alone. After a short period of time, the spot should dissipate into the leather. Don’t use any type of degreaser or soap, as it will likely do more harm than good. If you have a persistent spot or stain that won’t go away using the techniques outlined above, talk to a professional leather specialist. Getting help from an expert is generally much more affordable than paying to replace your sofa if you permanently damage the leather with a do-it-yourself cleaning technique.


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When it comes to high-quality furniture, top grain leather is the way to go. It is soft and breathable, yet extremely durable and, with the proper top coating, incredibly resistant to stains. Because it is a natural material, it does require a bit more care than synthetic upholstery materials like microfiber or vinyl. The necessary upkeep, though, it much less than many people realize.

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To ensure the longest life possible for your top grain leather sofa, clean up spills right away and wipe up dust monthly. Apply a high-quality leather conditioner once a year, and your furniture should last a lifetime. While top grain leather furniture comes at a higher price than pieces upholstered using lower-quality fabrics, they are designed to withstand the test of time, and they offer exceptional value due to how long they last. If you are looking for beautiful and durable furniture that is perfect for families, you can’t go wrong with a top grain leather sofa.

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