Full Grain Leather Sofa: What Does It Mean?


Before I started Best Leather Couches, I was like everyone else: a confused consumer, baffled with all the different terminology for leather furniture. Even more confusing is that not all leather brands use the same definitions for different types of leather. 

So if your head is spinning in regards to what 'Full Grain Leather Sofa' means, I've got you covered. Trust me, I was there once, and I know how annoyingly confusing it can be. 

Simply put, a Full Grain Leather Sofa is made from the highest quality leather, known as 'Full Grain'. Full-grain leathers are known for having imperfections, as the leather is un-doctored, meaning that its original colors and any scratches or hide marks are all intact. 

Full Grain differs from what is known as a Top Grain leather, which has been buffed, sanded or colored to make the leather more smooth and consistent. Many consumers love Full Grain leather sofas, as the leather will become softer and the patinas enriched as the sofa ages. Note that Full Grain leather sofas are also the most expensive leathers among any leather furniture. 

Top Grain vs. Full Grain Leather Sofas

Many consumers ask me - which leather sofa is better: Top Grain or Full Grain?

Well, it depends on what you want! (and what your budget looks like).

What makes full grain leather so great is this: it has not been buffed or sanded down like top grain leather and retains all of its original characteristics, such as natural markings (e.g., scars, insect bites) and irregularities in color. This makes each piece unique and identifiable by their qualities.

Top grain leather has a thinner and more uniform surface than full grain leather, which means the furniture may be easier to clean and wear less over time.

However, because of this uniformity in texture, top grain can't recreate the beautiful natural markings that make up a piece of full-grain leather.

Full-grain's irregular textured surface makes for more personality and charm, with each scratch or stain adding character. It also feels softer to some people because of its higher collagen content (which is why we recommend using a protective coating).

I should also note that some manufacturers may use the term 'Full Top Grain' to represent full grain leather.

So What Is Full Grain Aniline Leather?

When animal hides are processed to create leather, they are dyed with a liquid called aniline, which helps provide an added softness, enhancing the look and feel of the leather. A full grain leather with aniline dye is among the best leather money can buy.

Notably, according to research, only 6% of leathers are good enough to become full grain aniline leathers. If you come across a leather that is  'semi-aniline', it means that a protectant has been added to the dye and the leather.

What Is The Cost Difference Between A Top Grain And Full Grain Leather Sofa?

In the United States, an average top grain protected imported (China or Southeast Asia) leather sofa from any online retailer with modern design typically starts at around $2000 retail, moving higher based on the brand name and the size, quality construction, and leather sourced.

A US-built leather sofa will typically run higher; a top grain leather sofa will normally start in the $3000 price range and move higher.

A Full Grain Aniline leather will be more expensive and depends on the store purchased from, but I've seen some higher quality full-grain leather sofas sell for upwards of $10,000.

I encourage you to check out our leather store and look at some of our recommended leather furniture brands and other online leather sofa store reviews.

Are Full Grain Leather Sofas More Durable?

Overall, yes, since Full Grain leathers utilize the outermost portion of an animal's hide. A Top Grain leather uses hides that have been sanded down to remove any imperfections, thus losing some of the structure of the leather/hide in the process. Ultimately, however, with the proper care, the difference in durability between a Full Grain and a Top Grain leather should be somewhat negligible.


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