There are many aspects that distinguish one leather from the other. For this reason, certain types of leather are more suitable for certain furniture pieces and lifestyles than others. First and foremost, it's important to know the difference between grain and split leather, that is, the top layer and under layer of the leather. Another difference is the thickness of the leather. The leather on the sofas IKEA sells is between 0.9 and 1.6 mm thick. Thinner leather is a little softer and best for plump sofas, while thicker leather is best for more robust and straight sofa models. There are also differences in the surface texture of the leather. Some leather types have a somewhat coarser texture, while others are smooth and soft. There's also a difference in how the leather is treated. All leather is tanned first, which means it is preserved. Then it is through-dyed. After tanning and dyeing there are different methods for finishing the surface of the leather. There are three main types of leather: pigmented leather, which has a protective surface of colour; semianilin, which has a slightly pigmented surface; and anilin leather, which has no pigment on the surface at all. There's also another, special type of leather called bycast leather, which has a surface covered with a thin plastic film.
The hides that the leather industry works with come from animals used by the food industry. For most of our leather furniture we use hides from cows, but we also use goat and buffalo. To ensure the highest quality and best prices, we use leather from different countries around the world.
We test our leather thoroughly. First, the leather is inspected by sight and touch. We measure the thickness of the leather and check its softness and feel. Then we conduct a number of technical tests in which the leather is tested for tear strength, colour fastness to rubbing and light, and fire resistance. Another important test is to the leather's flexing endurance. This involves testing the number of times the leather can be bent without cracks appearing in the pigmented surface. We demand that it be able to withstand bending 20,000 times. In a final test we perform a number of chemical tests on the leather to be sure it doesn't contain any forbidden substances.
All leather is hard-wearing, easy to care for and soft. With a minimum amount of maintenance, leather sofas will remain clean and beautiful year after year. There are a few simple guidelines to follow: vacuum your sofa regularly with the soft brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner. Remove any grease stains you may get from crisps or chips, for example, so the grease doesn't penetrate the leather. If it does, there's a risk it may dissolve the protective finish on the surface. Use our ABSORB leather cleaner for cleaning, then rub in ABSORB leather cream. Repeat the treatment about once a year and the leather will be well protected against dirt and grease. Bycast leather, which is coated with a thin glossy film, should not be treated with ABSORB. Just wipe it with a damp cloth. Never use dissolvent on leather. Heat and sunlight may also have an effect on leather. For this reason, you should keep leather furniture at least 30 cm from heat sources, such as radiators. And try to protect leather from exposure to direct sunlight.
Most animal hides are too thick to be used as furniture leather. the hide must first be divided into two layers. The top layer is called grain leather and the under layer, split leather. Grain leather is softer and stronger and split leather is less expensive. This is why IKEA often uses a combination of both, using grain leather on surfaces that are more exposed to wear, such as seating surfaces and armrests, and split leather on other surfaces. Anilin leather and semianilin leather are always grain leather. Pigmented leather can be either grain or split leather. Bycast leather is always split leather.
Anilin leather is the leather with no pigment on the surface and the most natural look. For example, there can be visible traces from insect bites or scars that the animal received. The leather may also vary in colour and structure. After tanning and through-dyeing, a protective surface, usually of wax, is all that is applied to anilin leather. This makes the leather soft and allows it to breathe, yet also makes it sensitive to light and dirt. This sensitivity, together with the high cost, is the reason IKEA rarely sell seating furniture with anilin leather.
Semianilin leather is treated in the same way as anilin leather, but has a thin layer of pigment and lacquer that protect it against stains and dirt. Some products that IKEA sells have a semianilin leather cover that's called SMIDIG.
Most leather sofas and leather armchairs we sell at IKEA are of pigmented leather. Like anilin and semianilin leather, pigmented leather is tanned and through-dyed. But what differs pigmented leather from the others is the thicker layer of colour that protects against stains and lowers the price, too, because more hides can be used for pigmented leather than anilin leather. The reason is that irregularities in the leather, such as traces of insect bites or scars, can be corrected and hidden by the protective layer of colour on pigmented leather. This makes the leather easy to clean, hard-wearing, smooth - and very practical!
Bycast leather is a special type of leather. The surface is covered with a plastic film that makes it easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth. Bycast leather at IKEA has a shiny surface and is called FRÄSIG.
Leather sofas and armchairs at IKEA come in many different styles and price levels. The leather differs in texture and finish, thickness and colour, and the design on the furniture can be soft and plump or contemporary and elegant. We have a wide variety to be sure you can find something that's just right for you. What all leather sofas have in common is that they're easy to care for and hard-wearing - and therefore also a practical choice for families with children. Leather sofas also have a special feeling. So, don't just gather the facts - listen to your own feelings when you make your choice, too.