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Which Is Better: Full Grain or Top Grain Leather?

Castlery   |   Feb 17, 2023

When it comes to choosing a leather sofa, the type of leather used is one of the most important factors to consider. Full grain and top grain leather are two of the most commonly used materials when making sofas. While both are known for their durability and quality, they have distinct differences that make them suitable for different purposes.

Whether you're looking for a classic, timeless piece that will last for years, or a more practical and easy-to-maintain sofa, understanding the differences between full grain leather and top grain leather is crucial.

In this article, we dive deeper into these two types of leather, their properties, and the benefits and drawbacks of each, to help you make an informed decision when choosing a leather sofa.

What is full grain leather?

Full grain leather is the highest quality of leather you can find. It is the outer layer of the hide that has not been sanded or buffed to remove imperfections. Full grain leather is prized for its natural grain and texture, which gives it a distinctive look and patina that develops over time.

What is top grain leather?

Top grain leather is a type of leather that has been sanded and buffed to remove imperfections, making it smoother and more uniform in texture. This process also removes the natural grain and patina of the leather, making it less distinct than full grain leather.

Woman reading on a sofa made with top grain leather. @laurenashleyhansen lounging on the Jonathan Leather Sofa that is made from top grain leather.

What’s the difference between full grain and top grain leather?

Appearance

The appearance of full grain leather and top grain leather is one of the key differences between the two materials.

Close up of top grain and full grain leather. Natural leather is unique and ages well over time with proper care.

Full grain leather is known for its natural beauty and distinct grain pattern. The natural grain and patina of full grain leather are preserved, giving each piece of leather a unique, one-of-a-kind look. Over time, the leather will darken and the texture will become softer and more supple, creating a timeless and vintage look.

Top grain leather, on the other hand, is known for its uniform texture and appearance. The sanding and buffing process removes the natural grain and patina of the leather, creating a smoother and more consistent surface. This uniform texture makes top grain leather a popular choice for those who want a more modern, sleek look.

However, do note that the uniform texture of top grain leather can also make it look less authentic and natural when compared to full grain leather.

Durability

One of the main benefits of full grain leather is its durability. Since it is the top layer of the hide, it is more resistant to scratches and tears. Furthermore, it is thicker compared to top grain leather, which means it’ll puddle less. This makes it ideal for use in high-traffic areas, where the leather will be exposed to more use.

On the other hand, top grain leather is not as durable as full grain leather. The sanding and buffing process removes some of the natural strength and durability of the leather, making it more susceptible to scratches and puddling.

Cleaning and maintenance

Both full grain and top grain leather are easy to clean and maintain. Simply wiping the leather down with a damp cloth is usually enough sufficient. Of course, some other ways to protect your leather sofa and keep it looking new for years to come would be to use a leather conditioner and keep it away from direct sunlight.

However, do take note that the ease of cleaning and maintenance of the leather sofa also depends on the type of leather finish used.

Cost

It's important to note that full grain leather can be more expensive, but it is worth the investment in the long run. The natural beauty and durability of full grain leather make it a timeless piece that will last for many years.

Top grain leather is less expensive than full grain leather, making it a more budget-friendly option yet not compromising much on the quality.

Aging

Both full grain leather and top grain leather age differently over time, due to the unique properties and characteristics of each.

Close up of full leather sofa’s back and arms. Each piece of leather furniture here is unique and different due to the wide variety of natural tones and grains of leather.

Full grain leather is known for its natural beauty and patina, which only gets better with age. Over time, the natural oils and waxes in the leather will darken and the texture will become softer, creating a unique look.

While top grain leather will not develop the same natural patina as full grain leather, it will still age well over time. Top grain leather may become slightly softer and more flexible, but it will not change significantly in appearance.

Comfort

The comfort level of full grain and top grain leather can vary depending on a number of factors.

Full grain leather is known for its natural and rougher texture. Some people find this texture to be more comfortable to sit on as it provides a certain level of grip and support.

Due to the sanding and buffing process, top grain leather can feel softer and more supple, which can be more comfortable for lounging or relaxation.

Which is better?

It’s a common misconception that full grain leather is inherently better than top grain leather. But, choosing the ‘best’ material boils down to what’s important to you.

Full grain leather would be a good choice as its premium material offers a classic look and is more durable. However, it is more expensive than top grain leather.

Top grain leather is a good choice if you want a high-quality leather sofa that is low maintenance and budget-friendly. However, it is less durable than full grain leather and has a less distinctive look and feel.

The bottom line is that no matter which material you decide to choose in the end, it’s important to protect and care for your leather sofa if you want it to last!

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