At some point in your shopping spree, you might have seen the name ‘top-grain leather’ on the label of a leather product, but overlook that piece of information because you have no idea what it means. The quality of leather matters when shopping for leather products.
If the label of the leather product says ‘top-grain leather’, it means you’re getting quality leather. This article would give you a run down detail on what top grain is, how it’s made, the advantages and disadvantages of top-grain leather, and how to care for the leather.
Leather is graded into four types: full-grain leather, top-grain leather, genuine or reconstituted leather and bonded or blended leather. Top-grain leather is the grade just below full-grain leather. Top grain leather refers to the top layer of a hide that has been sanded away to hide the imperfections of the leather.
Top grain leather is the second-highest grade of leather. Top-grain leather is easier to work with unlike full-grain leather and this makes it a common high-end leather used to make leather accessories.
How is Top-grain Leather Made?
Top-grain leather is made by taking off the outmost layer of a hide. This is done by sanding and buffing the hide. This process makes the hide thinner and is easier for manufacturers to work with. The imperfections found on full-grain leather is absent in top grain leather. This is because, in the process of sanding the leather, the scars, wrinkles, and blemishes are removed, giving the leather a smooth, consistent look. After sanding the surface of the leather, top grain leather is tanned, finished, and embossed. Top grain leather can be finished to be pigmented leather, aniline leather, and semi-aniline leather.
Quality of Top-grain Leather
Like full-grain leather, top grain leather is also of high quality though not as durable as the full-grain. This is because the outermost layer of the hide which contains the natural tough fibers is absent.
The smooth even surface of top grain leather, however, gives it a consistent pattern and color. The production process reduces the breathability of top-grain leather. It also prevents the absorption of body oils and other impurities on the leather, thereby lacking the unique patina that comes with aging.
But regardless though, top-grain leather is still very durable and of high quality compared to lower grades of leather.
The smooth, uniform look of top grain leather is achieved by imprinting imitation grains. This consistent and smooth look makes it an ideal choice for leather accessories. So if you’re looking for a product with a consistent look, top-grain leather is the only way to go.
Top-grain leather is coated with a protective coat which acts as a resistance to stains and wear and tears. Since the outermost layer of the hide is sanded off, the breathability of the leather is reduced.
Top-grain leather doesn’t age as beautiful as full-grain leather would. The removal of the outermost layer prevents top grain leather to develop a beautiful patina as it ages.
- Top-grain leathers are easier to work with and so can be produced in a variety of designs.
- Unlike full-grain leather, top-grain leather has a protective coating that protects it from stains that can easily be absorbed by full-grain leather.
- It is not as expensive as full-grain leather and can be patterned and dyed to mimic the appearance of other exotic leathers.
- Compared to lower grades of leather, top-grain leather is durable and strong.
- It has a more consistent look and pattern, making it ideal for designer wear and accessories.
- The durability of top grain leather is reduced because of the absence of strong fibers present in the outermost layer of a hide.
- Top-grain leather is not as breathable as full-grain leather, and so its production is limited to certain types of leather products.
- It does not develop the unique patina that comes with aging, instead, it’s fragile and more prone to cracks if not properly cared for.
Top-grain leather vs Full-grain Leather
Full-grain leather is gotten from the very top of a hide, just below the hair. The grain pattern found in full-grain leather is very tight and this helps it resist moisture very well. It is the stronger and most durable grade of leather. Full-grain leather develops a beautiful patina over time, giving it a more classy and eccentric appearance.
Top-grain is the layer gotten just after full-grain leather. Unlike full-grain leather, the surface has a smooth and consistent pattern. Top-grain leather does not last as much as full-grain leather would. And it does not develop a patina when it ages.
Caring for Top-grain Leather
Proper care and maintenance prolong the life of your leather and so you need to give proper care and attention to your top-grain leather if you want it to last for a very long time. Like full-grain leather, top-grain leather is not so hard to take care of. Below are some tips that can help your leather keep its beautiful look.
- Clean your top-grain leather regularly to remove dirt from the surface of your leather. You do not want your leather product to be stained with dust.
- To remove stains on your top grain leather, use cleaners that are made specifically for leathers. A mixture of vinegar and water would do just fine too. Always spot test any cleaning agent you might decide to use on a discreet part of your leather, as some cleaning products tend to change the color of your leather.
- Do not place your top grain leather in direct sunlight or any source of artificial heat. Heat dries up leather, causing the leather to crack.
- Always store your top grain leather products in a dust-free environment. For products like leather bags, store in a dust bag. A white pillowcase can be a great alternative if a dust bag isn’t available.
- Regularly condition your leather. This would soften the leather and help maintain its luster.
- Avoid possible contact with water. You can consider waterproofing your leather, this would act as a protective layer, preventing the damages caused by water.
Top-grain leather will remain a high-quality material, compared to lower grades of leather. The consistency, durability, and price of top grain leather, makes it a popular choice.
So if you’re opting for a uniform look, that is both stylish and affordable, then top grain leather is what you’re looking for.