Similar to aniline leather, semi-aniline leather is top quality leather. The best quality pieces use full-grain leather where the surface hasn’t been sanded or buffed. Most often though, the leather is top- grain, not full-grain which means that some of it or just the rough and scarred areas have been very finely sanded and buffed. So, usually, the perfect leather hides are left aniline and the next grade, that with slight imperfections, is reserved for semi-aniline finish. Semi aniline leather is leather that has been dyed through, has a layer of pigment on top and a clear final coat.
The pigment layer is very thin and the pores and creases of the hide show through but because it sits on top of the leather, brighter, more intense colour can be achieved. The clear layer on top also called varnish or lacquer can have a different degree of shine and is acrylic based to remain flexible and move with the leather. This final layer is most important. It determines the long term appearance of semi-aniline leather items. Poorly done or inferior quality, the clear coat will rub off quickly and/or start cracking. Next, the layer of pigment will start rubbing off. Think about a much loved sofa or chair. You are likely to have a favourite side and rest your arm on the same armrest day after day. You move to pick up things or change position and, over time, that is a lot of rubbing. If you feel that the clear coating is wearing thin you could consider spraying with clear acrylic varnish. There are a number of brands available and you can choose matte, satin or varnish to match your item. If you opt for this treatment, make sure that the leather is clean and dry and spray in well ventilated area. Varnishes contain solvents you wouldn’t want to breathe in. I suggest that you test the varnish first to make sure that it dries completely. I have come across varnishes that remain slightly sticky or take forever to be dry to touch. Just spray a non-porous surface and check if after an hour or two. Also, it is very important to test on the actual leather. Chose a hidden area like the underside or side of a cushion if it is a sofa you are renewing.
If the colour has already started rubbing off, you would need to purchase a matching leather pigment, re-colour the patch, spray varnish and condition the leather.
Reputable retailers require that leather items, furniture in particular, have passed wet and dry rub tests set up by testing companies such as Intertek in the UK. This is to ensure that the finish will last. To pass this test manufacturers use wax or silicone based treatments to give the leather more slip and reduce friction. Semi-aniline leather furniture owners should do exactly the same. This leather should be regularly treated with a wax based leather conditioner such as our Chambers leather balsam. The wax in this leather conditioner will seal minute cracks and will leave a very thin protective layer giving a light sheen and extra slip.
Cleaning semi-aniline leather
The clear top coat or lacquer of semi-aniline leather means that you can be a little braver cleaning this type of leather than when cleaning aniline leather. You can use a water based leather cleaner like our Chambers leather cleaner straight out of the bottle. Well, we recommend that you spray it on a sponge and work up some lather first. The leather can absorb the liquid fairly quickly whereas using the cleaner foam will give you more time for cleaning. After cleaning, wipe with a damp cloth and leave to dry naturally. Do not use heat as that can damage the clearer coating and the leather itself. Condition with a leather condition like our leather balsam. Repeat as necessary and at least every six months to a year to enjoy your leather item for as long as possible.
Watch this informative short video on the different types of leather by Dutch company Sorensen Leather.