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Aniline Leather (What It Is & Different Types)

Find out all about aniline leather including what it is, the different types, its uses, tips for caring for aniline leather and comparison to other types of leather.
Different grains of leatherIf you’ve been looking for the best leather on the market, you’ve probably realized that there is a lot to know more than just the color and feel of leather. Surprisingly, the leather industry is a complex trade, and it helps to understand the basic terms when shopping for leather textiles for your home or fashion. 

Aniline leather and semi-aniline are the terms worth knowing in the leather lingo. Understand that there are three key types of leather finishes. Aniline leather, semi-aniline leather, and pigmented leather. Each has its desirable features that give an advantage over the other. 

When deciding which type of leather to use for a particular application, it is essential to know the types of leather available in the market. Or, if you are trying to restore your leather furniture, you should also identify the correct way to treat your furniture, as using the wrong method can permanently damage your leather’s surface. 

If you are in need of restoration, there are such services available. A simple google search can reveal those services near you.

What Is Aniline Leather? 

Room with leather sofa and round center table Aniline leather is a soft and smooth leather from different animal hides made from the highest quality raw animal skin. It is considered the most natural or “untouched leather” because no corrections or protective treatments were made to the raw animal skin. This retains the soft and supple feel of the natural material. 

Aniline dye does not contain any pigment or coloring; instead, it is a dyeing process that enhances the existing color of the hide and allows the natural graining and marking to show. The soluble dye thus preserves the natural grain, wrinkles, and scars. 

Moreover, since the dye is absorbed at varying levels by the material, you won’t have a uniform coloring. Though no pigment is present in the dye, there will still be a slight change in color due to the oils present in the soluble dye. 

Aniline colors have more depth in color and will change over time, usually darkening in color while natural elements such as scars or marks are visible. The natural patina or heritage look and the natural softness are significant reasons why it is considered more expensive than other types of leather. 

Keeping the hide’s surface is crucial; keeping it from becoming a uniform surface is critical to having a high-quality product. The way to produce this type of leather is with the use of soluble dyes. The hide absorbs the dye all the way through, resulting in a look and feel like full-grain leather. To the touch, you will feel the natural texture of leather. 

Full Aniline Type Leather

Full aniline type leatherFull aniline leather is a type of leather that has undergone aniline dying. Moreover, full aniline also requires the use of exceptionally high-quality hide. It is made from the topmost part of the hide that has been dyed using only water-based soluble dyes, which means it does not use pigment, retaining the natural color of the Napa hide. 

With its excellent quality, high-end furniture and fashion brands primarily use full aniline leather. Aside from the natural color, the translucent soluble enhances the organic coloring while the imperfections such as fat wrinkles and scars remain visible. Though after the aniline dying process, there’s a slight change in color on the leather. The deepening of color is due to the enhancing effect of the oils. 

One of the noticeable differences of full aniline from other types of natural leather is the undertones it retains, which means it does not have a uniform coloring. In addition, the color will have a natural patina which will eventually darken over time. The quality hide is immersed in a large drum with the soluble dye to produce a full aniline leather. The rotating or tumbling motion allows the dye to penetrate through the hide. 

When inspecting a full aniline leather, you’ll notice that the color is similar to the back side, which means the soluble dye is treated through and through the leather. Drum dyeing is the process of immersing the leather in the dye and tumbling it in a rotating drum to ensure maximum dye penetration throughout the hide. 

Top Grain Napa Type Leather

Top grain leatherTop grain aniline leather basically is made out of the outer layer of the hide that has undergone the process of aniline dying. The top grain is a leather grade that has been buffed out or sanded to lessen the natural imperfections.

Leather grade does not pertain to the material’s quality but is classified depending on the scars, cuts, blemishes, and other natural imperfections of the hide. 

Top grain leather, as the term implies, is sourced from the uppermost layer but split from the highest level and is considered the second-highest quality in the leather grade. Since the top grain is sanded down, it removes the strong fibers of the hide but is still regarded as durable leather.

Top grain should not be confused with full-grain, which is stronger and more durable compared to the latter since the grains are still intact and not sanded down. 

Top grain aniline is an ideal type of leather that goes beyond its aesthetic value. Leather couches and furniture made from top grain is durable, soft, and breathable. 

Full Aniline Dyed Leather

The uniqueness of each dyed piece during production cannot be stressed enough. No repairs are made to damaged areas of the hide. Any such attempts for such a repair will leave unnatural markings on the surface. In fact, Napa leather, a type of aniline leather, goes through this exact process. 

Instead of hiding visual artifacts, the dyeing process aims to emphasize them. Like varnishing the wood to bring out its wooden texture, the same is done here, but the dye goes down through all the layers while being soaked in at different degrees. Some areas of the leather will look more dyed than others.

What Is Semi-Aniline Leather? 

Semi-aniline leather is made differently. The process starts by taking the hide and giving it its surface polish, and then a pressure roller applies the texture. Instead of using a translucent dye, opaque pigment is used. Visual artifacts are hidden, but people want the natural leather to show more, so an additional step of adding another layer of colors.

For applications that require some durability and resistance to scratching, semi-aniline is the best choice. The final product is ironically cheaper, considering the additional steps in production involved.

Semi-Aniline Top Grained Leather

Semi-aniline top grain leather is a type of leather that has been dyed and has a protective finish applied to the surface. It is sourced from the upper part of the hide, which has undergone the drying process, which means it has slightly been colored but still shows a degree of the natural grain and hair pores, which are slightly protected. 

The semi-aniline top grain is an excellent choice if you’re looking for leather with an almost uniform coloring and a degree of natural imperfections. You’ll have the natural look, durability, and feel but not as soft and supple as your full aniline leather. 

Aniline Dyed Leather

Loveseat sofa in leatherThe aniline-dyed leather is considered the highest quality of leather, which has undergone the process of submerging the material in soluble dyes with no pigment. The semi-translucent oil enhances the natural color and will show the natural imperfections of the hide.

Since a translucent soluble is used, most hide parts chosen for this process are of the highest quality. This ensures durability and the natural look of your leather. 

When looking at aniline-dyed, you’ll notice that the color will vary under different light degrees. This is due to the dye treatment. The dye also enhances the natural color.

The soluble protection which has penetrated through the material will not cover the pores, allowing the material to breathe and remain temperate when rubbed against the skin. This makes the aniline-dyed leather a comfortable leather material for clothing as well as furniture. 

Over time, leather that has undergone the aniline dying will develop a natural patina and its usage, giving its vintage and authentic look. 

Is Leather Dyed with Aniline Good Quality

Yes. Aniline leather is the top choice if the application requires softness and natural comfort. Of course, these benefits come with a cost, literally. The hide used isn’t just any hide. It comes from parts of the hide that are considered the toughest, tougher than top grain. So, you end up with a soft yet durable piece of leather.

The fibers also have a tighter structure, making the leather resistant to moisture. The leather also offers better heat dissipation. For these reasons, it is best used for applications that require it, such as different types of leather used for furniture.

Uses for Leather Treated with Aniline

Upholstered leather stool cushionAniline leather has a unique aesthetic appeal; however, due to its porous nature is used more on luxury goods such as bags, wallets, upholstery, and other types of clothing. Durability-wise, it is very durable, making it also great for suitcases, car seats, bicycle saddles, and jackets. 

Aniline Napa Leather Care

Caring for leather takes more effort and caution than other leather types due to the exposed pores. The porous nature makes it more challenging to apply cleaning agents as it can absorb the solution causing more damage such as staining of your leather material. 

Leather conditioners, cleaners, and advanced stain protection systems are formulated to help protect and clean your leather. These cleaning solutions will retain the pores, color, and feel of your aniline leather. For your leather care, avoid using homemade cleaning agents as they may have chemicals that can damage your natural leather. 


Prevention is best. Use leather protection creams to add a certain barrier to your leather. This prevents staining and reduces liquids from being absorbed into the leather material. The extra protective surface will also make cleaning easier than bare leather. 

Turn the cleaning agent into foam. As mentioned, leather will absorb liquid solutions easily. Don’t spray the leather cleaner directly on your material; instead, turn your cleaner into a foam, making it easier to spread the solution without damaging the surface. 

Hydrate aniline leather to prevent damage. Over time, leather can dry out, which can cause cracks and other issues on your leather material. Seek an expert to hydrate your leather to prevent further damage. 

The type of aniline leather determines the best cleaning agent. Cleaning and protective solutions for your material will depend on the type of leather you have. There are leather cleaning lines that are targeted to a specific type of aniline leather, so it’s better to check the manufacturer’s instructions before applying them to your leather product. 

Ask expert help from damaged caused by improper cleaning. To prevent further damage to your leather material, especially for leather upholstery, ask a specialist to avoid significant damage to your furniture. 

Visible marks from repair. Minor damages on your leather can be repaired. However, expect to have visible marks and slight pigmenting to the area. 

Safe Cleaning Agents for Leather

Only use cleaning agents that are formulated for leather materials. If you plan to use regular soap and water mixture for everyday cleaning of your leather, you can take a small amount of your homemade cleaning solution and try it on a small, obscure section of your leather product. 

Applying a protective cream or wax on your leather while brand new to prevent stains is advisable. In addition, the extra layer of protection on your material makes cleaning and wiping dirt easier since most commercial leather cleaners have a waxy sheen. 

Naturally, body oils and grease from your hands and other body parts can get into contact with your  leather, especially for clothing and furniture products. You’ll notice a dark stain patch on these greased areas. To remove the oily area, look for cleaning agents made explicitly for removing grease on leather. 

How to Restore Aniline Cowhide Leather

Restoring aniline leather is a must. Over time, the leather will accumulate dust, stains, and scratches. The simplest way to restore it is with a damp cloth and soapy water. Spraying wax is also one of the ways to give it some level of water resistance, but this can also be risky as it can modify the natural color.

Some methods also involve a bit of sanding before applying a new layer of coloring dye. There are leather cleaning kits available online for convenience. Dried-out leather is restored by hydrating the leather, which can restore the soft feel and look of the leather. 

Top Grain Versus Aniline Grade Leather

Top grain leather is created using cowhide’s outermost or topmost layer. Top grain leather can be buffed out to remove imperfections and the top layer sanded. Due to this process the top layer of top grain does not show its natural features.

For the top layer an imitation grain is stamped onto the leather. The leather imparts a uniform look, but the genuine grain is absent. This technique makes top grain leather generally feel harder than aniline leather surfaces.

Semi-Aniline Finish Leather vs. Top Grain Leather

To further understand the difference between the two types of leather, it is essential to know that semi-aniline leather is concerned with dyeing or finishing. In contrast, top grain leather is leather grade. This means top grain leather can either be aniline or semi-aniline leather. 

The leather grade is determined according to the amount of damage and defects, not the quality. Top grain leather is considered the second-highest grade as the outermost layer of the hide is removed.

Semi-aniline, in the meantime, is the dying process of your leather where a semi-opaque protective layer slightly covers the pores. This protective layer will slightly cover some imperfections of your leather, and the graining will still be visible. 

Semi-Aniline vs. Full Grain Leather

Rustic leather sectional sofaThe main distinction between semi-aniline is the dying process while the full-grain leather is the grade or the number of imperfections. The full-grain leather grade is typically finished with the semi-aniline dye to increase durability and hide some stains or blemishes. 

Semi-aniline is the process of dying the hide. It’s the finishing process of leather. Leather undergoing the semi-aniline process will have visible pores, but these pores are slightly filled with a protective layer of pigment. The grain is exposed, but a thin layer protects the material. 

If one needs leather with slight blemishes, the semi-aniline will be able to rectify a few of the imperfections of the hide, such as scratches or wear with the opaque protection. This light coat will still vary the natural grain and color. 

Since the pores are slightly covered and have a slightly opaque finish, the full-grain with semi-aniline is more water-resistant and won’t fade quickly. Semi-aniline is also easier to maintain due to the slightly covered pores, decreasing stains or dirt absorption. 

Full-grain leather, as mentioned, is the leather grade that refers to the strongest and most durable part of the hide. The leather material has not received any buffering, sanding, or other altercation on its surface, which means you’ll see more graining and natural imperfections. 

Visit our guide about nubuck leather for more related content.