What is Split Leather? - Definition, Types and Facts

What is Split Leather? - Definition, Types, Facts



    Delving into the complex realm of split leather empowers consumers to make informed decisions when choosing leather products. This comprehensive guide illuminates the world of split leather, demystifying its definition, types, production methods, and sustainable alternatives.

    Difference Between "Split Leather" and Leather Splitting

    To grasp the concept of "split leather" one must first distinguish it from "leather splitting" as these closely related terms bear unique meanings within the leather industry. Delineating the differences requires investigating the definitions and procedures associated with each term:

    What is Split Leather? - The Definition

    Split leather is a type of leather derived from the corium, the lower layer of the animal hide that remains once the top grain layer, which encompasses the outermost grain, has been separated. This type of leather is generally more affordable than top grain leather and possesses distinct characteristics, such as a fibrous texture and reduced durability.

    Frequently used in an array of products like budget-friendly furniture, shoes, and accessories, split leather can undergo further processing to create different forms, including suede and bicast leather, each exhibiting their own unique properties and applications.

    What is split leather?

    What is Leather Splitting? - The Definition

    Leather splitting refers to the act of dividing an animal hide into distinct layers, resulting in various leather grades and leather types such as top grain and split leather. During this process, the hide is fed through a device called a splitter, which employs a sizeable, sharp-edged blade to slice the hide into two or more layers. The uppermost layer, or top grain, typically represents the most valuable and highest quality segment of the hide, while the remaining corium is utilized to produce split leather.

    The leather splitting process allows manufacturers to create a variety of leather types with different characteristics, textures, and qualities. It also helps to maximize the use of the animal hide and minimize waste in the leather industry.

    What is Leather Splitting?

    In Summary

    Though "split leather" and "leather splitting" share a connection in the leather industry, their meanings diverge. Split leather is a subtype of leather originating from the corium stratum of the animal hide, while splitting leather denotes the method of dividing the hide into multiple layers, yielding different leather types such as top grain and split leather. Recognizing the distinction between these terms enhances one's understanding of the various leather forms available and the intricate processes underpinning their creation.

    What is Split Leather Made From?

    Split leather is made from the fibrous, lower layers of an animal hide after the top layer has been separated. This process yields a thinner, less durable material that often undergoes further treatment to create a more appealing surface texture, such as embossing or coating with a synthetic layer.

    Is Split Leather Real Leather?

    Yes, split leather is a type of real or genuine leather. However, it is derived from the lower layers of the animal hide, making it less durable and lower in quality compared to top grain or full grain leather.

    Types of Split Leather

    Split leather emerges from the corium, the animal hide's lower stratum that remains once the top grain has been detached. This category of leather boasts a myriad of types, each displaying distinct attributes and applications. Here are some common types of split leather:

    Bicast Leather

    Bicast leather is made from split leather that has been pressed with a wet layer of polyurethane or vinyl on embossed release paper and then cured. This process gives the leather the appearance of a grain. Bicast leather is slightly stiffer than top grain leather but has a more consistent texture.


    Suede is created from the underside of the split grain, resulting in a soft, napped finish. It is often made from younger or smaller animals, as the skin of more mature animals can produce a coarse, shaggy nap. Suede is popular for its softness and unique texture, making it suitable for clothing, shoes, and accessories.

    Genuine Leather

    Genuine leather is a term that encompasses many definitions and can refer to various types of split leather. In some countries, the term "genuine leather" merely means the product contains leather. However, it often indicates that the leather has been extensively processed and may not be of the highest quality. Genuine leather may include bicast leather, multiple splits glued together and painted, or even bonded leather.

    Bonded Leather

    Also known as reconstituted leather, bonded leather is a concoction of leather scraps that have been shredded and fused with polyurethane or latex on a fiber mesh. The proportion of leather fibers in the blend ranges from 10% to 90%, influencing the properties and caliber of the end product. Owing to its affordability, bonded leather frequently appears in low-cost furniture and accessories.

    Diverse types of split leather grace various products, spanning furniture, apparel, footwear, and accessories. Discerning the distinctions among these leather types empowers you to make informed choices when acquiring leather goods.

    Split Leather vs “Genuine” Leather

    Genuine leather is an overarching term encapsulating all real leather varieties, such as top grain, full grain, and split leather. Specifically, split leather originates from the animal hide's lower strata after the top grain or full grain layer is extracted. While genuine leather can vary in quality and durability, split leather is generally considered a more affordable, lower-quality option compared to top grain or other grain leather.

    Is split leather genuine leather?

    Indeed, split leather is a form of genuine leather, originating from the lower layers of the animal hide, specifically the corium. While it lacks the durability and luxuriousness of higher-quality leather types, it still constitutes real leather.

    Is split leather better than genuine leather?

    As mentioned, the term "genuine leather" encompasses everything from top grain to split leather, making it an overarching category. Therefore, split leather is a type of genuine leather, and comparing the two would be comparing a specific product to its broader classification.

    Is Split Leather Durable?

    Split leather is less durable than top grain or full grain leather due to its thinner, fibrous structure. However, it can still provide a reasonable level of durability for various applications, particularly when treated with coatings or other enhancements to improve its strength and appearance.

    Split Leather vs Cow Leather

    Cow leather refers to leather derived from cowhides, further classified into types such as full grain, top grain, and split leather. Although split leather sourced from cowhides belongs to the cow leather family, it is distinguished from other cow leather types by its origin from the hide's lower layers.

    Split Leather vs PU Leather

    Split leather is a genuine leather type derived from the lower layers of an animal hide, whereas PU (polyurethane) leather is a synthetic material made by coating a fabric base with a layer of polyurethane. While split leather offers the natural characteristics of genuine leather, PU leather provides a more consistent, uniform appearance and is typically more resistant to water and stains. However, PU leather lacks the breathability, durability, and natural feel of genuine leather.

    Is Split Leather Waterproof?

    Split leather is not naturally waterproof, as it is a porous material that can absorb water. However, it can be treated with waterproofing agents or coatings to enhance its water resistance. Keep in mind that such treatments may impact the leather's breathability and natural feel.

    Understanding Split Leather: Properties and Comparisons

    Having delved into the core facets of split leather, we can now appreciate its distinct qualities and contrast it with alternative leather types. By weighing elements such as durability, aesthetics, expense, and ecological implications, consumers can make well-informed choices when opting for leather goods crafted from split leather or other leather varieties.

    How Split Leather is Made: Production Process Explained

    1. Hides Selection: The process of creating split leather begins with selecting high-quality animal hides, usually from cows, as they provide larger surface areas and are more widely available.
    2. Hides Preparation: The hides are cleaned and soaked to remove dirt, hair, and other impurities. This step may involve chemical and mechanical processes to ensure the hide is clean and ready for further processing.
    3. Splitting: In this crucial step, the hide is split into two or more layers using a splitting machine. The top layer, known as top grain or full grain leather, is removed, and the lower layer(s) are used to produce split leather - therefore split leather is produced from a top grain part of the hide.
    4. Tanning: The split leather is then tanned to prevent decomposition and to stabilize its structure. Various tanning methods, such as vegetable or chrome tanning, can be employed, each bestowing distinct characteristics upon the leather.
    5. Dyeing and Finishing: The split leather undergoes dyeing to achieve the desired hue, and any surface imperfections are rectified. The leather may be embossed with a pattern to mimic the grain of higher-quality leather or coated with a synthetic layer to improve its appearance and durability.

    How to Identify Split Leather Amongst Other Leather Types

    Here are some tips to help you identify split leather when comparing it to other leather types:

    • Price: Split leather is usually more affordable than top grain or full-grain leather due to its lower quality.
    • Texture: Split leather often has a smoother, less pronounced grain pattern compared to higher-quality leather types. If the leather has been embossed or coated, it may exude a more artificial feel. 
    • Thickness: Split leather is generally thinner than top grain or full-grain leather, as it comes from the lower layers of the animal hide.
    • Durability: Products made from split leather are less durable and wear out more quickly compared to those made from higher-quality leather types.

    Quality of Split Leather Explained

    Quality of split leather can vary depending on several factors:

    • Source of the hide: High-quality hides from well-raised animals generally result in better split leather.
    • Tanning process: The choice of tanning method, chemicals used, and the overall tanning process can significantly impact the quality of the split leather.
    • Finishing techniques: The quality of the dyeing, embossing, and coating applied to the split leather can also affect its overall quality and appearance.
    • Manufacturing practices: The craftsmanship and production techniques employed in making split leather products play a crucial role in determining their quality and durability.

    Is split leather good quality?

    Split leather, derived from split cowhide, is generally more affordable and possesses distinct characteristics, such as a fibrous texture and reduced durability compared to top and full grain leather. While not the highest quality, it is suitable for an array of budget-friendly products.

    Is split leather any good?

    Split leather's value largely depends on its intended use and the individual's preferences. For those seeking a cost-effective alternative to premium leather, split leather can be a viable option, particularly for products like leather furniture, leather recliners, leather sofas, dining room chair seats, and anywhere where top-tier durability may not be a priority.

    Environmental Impact of Split Leather

    Navigating the ecological consequences of split leather proves intricate due to the multifaceted nature of the issue, which encompasses several factors:

    • Resource consumption: Split leather production necessitates considerable resources, such as water, energy, and chemicals employed in tanning and finishing processes.
    • Waste generation: Leather manufacturing yields waste, including trimmings, shavings, and sludge, posing challenges for responsible disposal.
    • Animal welfare: Ethical concerns arise when sourcing animal hides, particularly when animals are not raised humanely.
    • Chemical pollution: Improper management of chemicals used in tanning and finishing may lead to water and soil contamination.

    To curtail the environmental impact of split leather, consumers can opt for eco-friendly or sustainably-sourced leather products and those crafted through environmentally conscious processes and practices.

    Everything about Care and Proper Use of Split Leather Products

    Proper care and maintenance can extend the life of split leather products and reduce their environmental impact. Follow these guidelines to keep your split leather items in good condition:

    • Clean cautiously: Employ a soft, damp cloth to eliminate dirt and dust. Refrain from using aggressive chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as they may harm the leather's surface. Condition: Utilize a leather conditioner explicitly formulated for split leather to preserve its suppleness and avert drying or cracking.
    • Protect: To prevent water damage, consider applying a waterproofing spray designed for leather products. Bear in mind that waterproofing treatments may impact the leather's breathability and innate feel, so apply them judiciously and only when essential. 
    • Store appropriately: Situate your split leather items in a cool, dry location, shielded from direct sunlight and heat sources. Exposure to extreme temperatures or humidity can provoke the leather to dry out, crack, or become discolored. 
    • Avoid overburdening: Refrain from overstuffing split leather bags or wallets, as this may lead to stretching and loss of shape. Be mindful of the weight you are putting on your leather items, as excessive strain can weaken the seams and cause damage.
    • Rotate usage: To reduce wear and tear on your split leather items, rotate their usage with other products. This will give the leather time to rest and recover from daily wear.
    • Repair when needed: If your split leather item becomes damaged, seek professional help for repairs. Promptly addressing issues like scratches, tears, or worn seams can prevent further damage and extend the life of the product.

    By following these care and maintenance guidelines, you can ensure that your split leather items remain in good condition for as long as possible, reducing the need for frequent replacement and minimizing their environmental impact.

    Sustainable Alternatives to Split Leather

    For those seeking eco-friendly alternatives to split leather, several options exist:

    Vegetable-tanned leather

    This type of leather uses tannins derived from plants and fruits, resulting in a more environmentally friendly tanning process with fewer toxic chemicals.

    Recycled leather

    Made from the waste generated during the leather production process, recycled leather offers a more sustainable option by reusing materials that would otherwise be discarded.

    Vegan leather

    Artificial materials, such as PU or PVC, offer a cruelty-free alternative to authentic leathers. Nonetheless, it is crucial to weigh the environmental repercussions of producing and disposing of these materials, as some may prove less sustainable than others.

    Bio-based leather alternatives

    Innovations in material science have led to the development of bio-based leather alternatives, such as those made from mushrooms, pineapple fibers, or lab-grown collagen. These options aim to provide the look and feel of genuine leather without the environmental and ethical concerns associated with traditional leather production.

    (FAQS) Frequently Asked Questions

    How does grain variation impact split leather products?

    The grain variations in split leather products influence their overall aesthetic and texture, setting them apart from other leather types. Split cowhide, for instance, may exhibit a more fibrous and distinct grain pattern, contributing to the unique appeal of the finished product.

    What are some common uses of split cowhide?

    Split cowhide is employed in a variety of applications, from budget-friendly furniture and footwear to accessories and beyond, showcasing its versatility within the leather industry. Its unique texture and affordability make it a popular choice for manufacturers seeking a cost-effective leather option.

    What else should I know about maintaining split leather items?

    Everything from gentle cleaning with a soft, damp cloth to the application of a specialized split leather conditioner is crucial in preserving the quality and appearance of your split leather possessions. Proper care ensures longevity and prevents drying, cracking, or discoloration of the leather surface.

    How can I assess the quality of a split leather product?

    To evaluate the quality of split leather products, consider factors such as durability, grain consistency, and finishing techniques. While split leather is typically more affordable than top grain or full grain leather, it is essential to assess the craftsmanship and materials used in the manufacturing process to determine its true value.

    Our Opinion on Split Leather

    In conclusion, split leather is an affordable and versatile genuine leather option with a wide range of applications. By understanding its properties, production processes, and how it compares to other leather types, consumers can make informed decisions when selecting to shop for a new collection of leather products to purchase. Additionally, considering factors such as durability, appearance, cost, and environmental impact, as well as exploring sustainable alternatives, can help minimize the ecological footprint of our leather consumption.