Nappa Leather vs. Leather: What’s The Difference? (2023)

Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

Nappa leather is a high-quality leather that is softer and more supple than other skins due to a special tanning process. It was named for California’s Napa Valley, where the original creating company was located. While it’s most often found in higher-end or luxury vehicles, you may see it used to signify softness on lower-grade leather items and even fake materials. While many may not know the difference, when looking at Nappa leather vs. leather, there are a few things to consider.

Nappa leather vs. leather: the main types

According toGold Eagle, there are 4 major types of leather, with a few variations and subtypes. Aniline, Semi-Aniline, Full-Grain, and Corrected Grain Leather are the most common leather types used in vehicle seats. Knowing what kind of leather your vehicle seats are made of is essential for cleaning, maintaining, and knowing the quality of the vehicle and design. Aniline leather is no longer widely used and has dropped dramatically in the recent two decades.

The majority of automotive leather seats aren’t made of genuine leather. Because they are made of a faux leather combination, they are easy to maintain and keep up better in the sun. The majority of them are virtually indistinguishable from the actual thing. Nappa leather will be significantly more expensive, but it is the real deal.


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Nappa leather

The genuine thing is full-grain, which means it hasn’t been altered other than to remove hair, so it preserves its natural texture and marks, giving it a more unique look. Nappa leather is softer and smoother than other types of leather and provides drivers with the best overall experience. The way Nappa leather is tanned accounts for this noticeable variation since it’s made from skins tanned with chromium or aluminum sulfate, and salts known for their suppleness and resilience.

Top Grain

In terms of quality, this is the next best thing and is sometimes labeled as ‘corrected’ leather. The surface of top grain leather is sanded or rubbed away so that the remaining layer seems homogeneous in its appearance. Because the top layer of tightly packed fibers is sheared off, the increased appearance comes at the sacrifice of durability.

Aniline or semi-aniline leather is a term used to describe top grain leather. The former is colored leather that has not been processed in any way. Semi-aniline leather is referred to as finished, whereas aniline leather is referred to as unfinished.

Split grain

It is less expensive and more brittle than the top and full-grain alternatives. This leather will be treated to give it a consistent appearance, but it will not have the same feel as the more expensive choices. Lesser grades of leather-like top grain are frequently sanded or polished to smooth off the surface, and they are generally less supple and durable.


In Bicast leather, the layers of hide are separated from one another during initial manufacturing. Manufacturers will recycle a layer that is too thin or defective for normal usage as bi-cast leather. Bicast leather is a good alternative for individuals who want the look of leather but have economic constraints or a family with children and pets because it’s much easier to clean because it’s completely covered and less expensive. Bicast leather has a short lifespan, with cracking and flaking being the first signs of degradation.


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This product costs manufacturers around 5% less than full-grain leather, making it an appealing cost-cutting choice. Unfortunately, it is sometimes sold as “real leather” or “made entirely of leather,” and many buyers are unaware of the difference. Bonded leather is brittle and will fracture and fade in a matter of years.

Nappa leather vs. leather: differences

The main trait that distinguishes Nappa leather from regular leather is that it has been colored with water-soluble colorants to make it fade-resistant. You may enjoy your seats in excellent condition for longer when you choose Nappa leather. Nappa leather seats are also easy to clean due to the dying process.

Not all automakers will have Nappa leather available, but most exotic and luxury brands will offer premium interior packages that allow customers more customization with their seats. A rising number of luxury automakers, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and Tesla, are now offering synthetic leathers as an alternative to provide more alterations.

Although the United States may make excellent leather - especially from Napa, much of it falls well short of the quality and craftsmanship found in other countries of the globe, such as Italy. Imported leather for automobile seats is frequently manually sewn, cut, and dyed, so if you want to buy American, Nappa leather is the way to go.


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Nappa leather vs. leather: how to clean them

A protective coating is applied to finished leather known as treated leather, whereas suede and unfinished leather (also known as untreated leather) are not. On most materials using soap is OK, but even mild soap might be too abrasive for the most delicate leathers. Here are some procedures to take before applying a leather conditioner:

  1. Before conditioning the leather, make sure it’s completely dry
  2. Don’t be afraid to use too much conditioner, but make sure to remove any excess with a microfiber cloth
  3. Allow 20-30 minutes for the conditioner to work
  4. Use the greatest stuff you can afford, and don’t get something inexpensive unless you’re positive it’ll last
  5. If you want to avoid cracks in the leather, you should condition your seat every 3-5 weeks to preserve your seats in good condition

Cleaning Nappa leather is as simple as cleaning it with a damp, lint-free cloth. It’s a fine line to walk between getting the cloth too wet and staining the leather (if it’s unfinished) and getting it too dry and not penetrating and removing dirt, dust, and grime. Leather that has been colored is less likely to discolor.

Avoid cleaning products that are made at home. When it comes to leather, you’re better off utilizing either water or leather-specific cleaning chemicals. Baking soda, white vinegar, cream of tartar, and lemon juice are common home treatments that can be harsh on sensitive leathers and exacerbate the problem.

When it comes to weighing the options of Nappa leather vs. leather, there are some things to consider like: budget, lifestyle, the type of passenger (think kids or animals), and your own personal preference. Leather seats offer a touch of class to any vehicle. They have a nice appearance and feel to them and if treated properly can last through the whole life of the vehicle. When it comes to vehicle seats, the softer the leather, the more comfortable the ride. The softer the leather, the more it will conform to the person who is sitting in the seat.

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What is difference between regular leather and Nappa leather? ›

Nappa leather provides a higher degree of luxury and is a higher grade of leather than standard leather. A type of soft, full-grain leather, Nappa leather interior exhibits a natural look and feel that is preserved with a specialized finish.

What is Nappa leather is it real leather? ›

Nappa leather is a full-grain, unsplit leather made from lamb, kid, or sheep. In this case, full-grain means that the skin surface has not been altered apart from hair removal. Such leather is regarded as the most authentic as it keeps all the texture from the hide.

What are the benefits of Nappa leather? ›

What all nappa leather has in common is that it is a particularly breathable and open-pored material. It is a fine smooth leather, which is usually the highest quality variant in products compared to other types of leather.

How can you tell leather from Napa? ›

Nappa Leather: “Nappa” is a generic name for soft, dyed leather usually used in advertising. There is no distinct test to characterize nappa leather. Nubuck Leather: Aniline dyed leather is typically used to produce nubuck leather, which comes from the top grain of the hide.

Which is the best quality leather? ›

Full-Grain Leather Is the Best Quality

It is the most popular type of leather. It has not been snuffed, sanded, or buffed to remove any natural marks or imperfections from its surface. Its fibers are stable and durable because the grain has not been removed.

What is the best leather for car? ›

The best leather for car upholstery

The most used leathers for car upholstery are chrome-tanned whole cowhides with a pigmented finish (corrected grain). This type of leather represents the best compromise between look, cost and durability over time.

Can Nappa leather get wet? ›

Nappa leather (also known as full-grain leather) is the most durable type of leather available, which lends itself to being more water-resistant than others.

Why is Nappa so expensive? ›

Similar to beef tenderloin in the meat world, Nappa is a prime cut of animal hide, so it is more expensive than most types of leather. Most of it comes from cows, but it also can come from calves, lambs or goats, and it is the top layer of hide that is softer than other layers and more durable.

What is the softest leather in the world? ›

Lambskin is the softest sort of leather available since it originates from an animal that has not fully matured, unlike other types of hide. Its delicate, airy layered structure gives it an incredibly smooth, velvet-like touch.

What are the disadvantages of Napa leather? ›

Disadvantages of Napa Leather

Since it comes from full-grain leather it can be expensive. It is also extremely sensitive to dirt. Likewise, it is sensitive to sunlight. Bleaching will likely occur if you expose the leather to the sun for too long.

Is Napa leather worth the money? ›

Yes, genuine Nappa leather car seats will last for years. The better you look after them, the longer they will last. Properly cared-forlLeather seats will make your great for years, and even make it look younger than its real age.

How do you clean Nappa leather? ›

Tips for Cleaning Nappa Leather Seats

Use a vacuum cleaner to remove dirt from the seats. Be sure to get in the crevices. Using a soft cloth and a suitable cleaner, wipe down the seats. Be sure to only use cleaning products designed for your leather seats.

What are the 4 grades of leather? ›

There are generally considered four types of leather quality grades, listed from best to worst: full grain leather, top grain leather, genuine leather, and bonded leather.

What is most durable leather? ›

Full-grain leather is the strongest and most durable leather. Additionally, since the grain is so tight, it resists moisture very well. Over time, full-grain leather will look nicer and nicer and develop a patina from being handled. The next best—and second strongest—leather is called "top-grain" leather.

What kind of leather does not peel? ›

Durability – Faux leather is very durable and will last a long time. It can withstand scratches and scrapes that would mar genuine leather. It is not prone to crack or peel like leather.

What is the most expensive leather? ›

This arduous process contributes to why shell cordovan is so prized and so expensive. Ages very well: Finally, shell cordovan ages extremely well compared to other leathers. It develops a natural patina over time, regardless of the color you've chosen.

What is top grade leather? ›

Top-grain leather is a high-quality product. It is produced from the hide but the outermost layer is sanded off so that any imperfection or irregularities are removed. It's a durable product although not quite as tough as full-grain leather. However, it compares favorably to other types of leather.

What kind of leather does Toyota use? ›

Only Answer. SofTex® is a synthetic leather seat material designed for wear, easy cleaning and resisting spills. Soft to the touch, SofTex weighs about half as much as genuine leather.

What car brands still use real leather? ›

Here's a list of the brands that Cartelligent clients most often equip with leather or partial leather seats.
  • Subaru (68% leather) ...
  • Jeep (69% leather) ...
  • Chevrolet (70% leather) ...
  • Ford (71% leather) ...
  • Lexus (78% leather) ...
  • BMW (79% leather) ...
  • Volvo (98% leather) ...
  • Porsche (100% leather)
Nov 3, 2017

What type of leather is used in luxury cars? ›

Nappa leather is used as a premium material for car interiors because it promotes and accentuates a luxurious ambiance in vehicles. While Nappa leather is often used by luxury automakers such as Porsche and Bentley, it is also used by others like Hyundai and Toyota that offer more economical vehicles.

Does Nappa leather wrinkle? ›

✔ Nappa leather is a very soft and extremely supple leather unlike some "hard" leathers. ✔ Nappa leather retains its integrity and reacts well to tension/torsions, so it does not wrinkle.

Does Nappa leather scratch easily? ›

Does Nappa Leather Scratch Easily? Nappa leather might be soft and smooth but there is no question about its durability. It goes through a delicate yet detailed tanning process that makes it water & heat resistant to some extent and it does not scratch easily.

Is Nappa leather pig skin? ›

Napa leather (often called Nappa leather) is a leather noted for its soft feel, derived as it is from calves, lambs, and kid goats, which have soft hides.

Is Nappa leather shiny? ›

Italian leather, Marlboro red nappa, quite shiny, medium softness, classic look.

How thick is Nappa leather? ›

2. Milling Nappa is softer and has natural texture from milling break. Its thickness is 1.2 – 1.4 mm.

Is Nappa leather a calfskin? ›

Napa leather was conceived in 1875 by Emanuel Manasse while he worked for the Sawyer Tanning Company in Napa, California. It is a leather that is typically dyed and is made from kid, cow, calf, lamb or other skin by a distinctive tanning process.

What type of leather is most scratch resistant? ›

Pigmented leathers typically have the strongest performance characteristics of all leathers, proving resistance to scratching, fading, staining and abrasion.

Why is Italian leather so soft? ›

One of the hallmarks of good quality Italian leather is that they use full grain hides and process them in a way that produces a softer, more pliable leather than other methods of vegetable tanning. This is great for products that you want to be made of soft leather.

What is really soft leather called? ›

Lambskin leather provides a luxurious feel. It is the softest and thinnest leather available, and its suppleness and smoothness is appreciated in the creation of gloves for competition.

Which is better Nappa leather or leatherette? ›

The Differences between Leather and Leatherette. The main difference between leather and leatherette is the price, with leather being significantly more expensive than leatherette. Leather is also more durable, but higher maintenance than leatherette.

What is the most durable type of leather for furniture? ›

Pigmented leather is the most durable type and is used in the majority of furniture upholstery. The durability is provided by a polymer surface coating, which contains pigments.

Does Mercedes use Nappa leather? ›

Every Mercedes-Benz design incorporates a wide range of materials. From steel and carbon fiber to supple Nappa leather, creating a diverse palette of materials is what makes our vehicles so inviting.

Which leather is used in Rolls Royce? ›

-Rolls-Royce leather comes from beef cattle, so animals aren't killed merely for their hides. However, only bull hides are used; cows have stretch marks. Between 15 and 18 hides are used in each car.

Where is the best quality leather made? ›

The short answer is that the Italians, quite frankly, are the best and the most skilled leather craftsmen. There is no other country in the world that can match the quality, and this is largely due to the very skilled artisans, the quality hides used in their products and their dye making process.

Why is Italian leather so good? ›

The premium leather that Italy is renowned for is the full-grain, vegetable-tanned kind. Removed from the outermost layer of the animal's skin — the most durable part of the hide — full-grain leather has an unaltered grain structure and is subsequently extremely robust.

Does Nappa leather need conditioner? ›

Conditioning your Nappa leather is essential to maintain its vibrant finish.

Can I use Windex on my car leather? ›

When cleaning your leather seats, don't use objects that could scratch or cut them. A soft-bristled brush or toothbrush is recommended. Save your Windex for your car windows. It is not suitable for your leather seats, as its ingredients could dry out the leather and cause discoloration.

What is the best protection for Nappa leather? ›

We recommend protecting Nappa leather with Dermo Protect. This water-based spray, protects finished and unfinished leathers including Nappa, from day to day staining, liquids, dye transfer, ink, oil, sunlight damage and more.

How do I know what leather to buy? ›

How to choose the leather material? The factors that influence the choice
  1. Type of tanning.
  2. Animal kind and breed.
  3. Size of the skin.
  4. Thickness of leather.
  5. Finishing of the surface.
Apr 21, 2022

What is the most common type of leather? ›

Top Grain leather is the most commonly used leather for the production of quality goods because it is thinner, more pliable and less expensive than Full Grain. A variant of Top Grain leather is 'Corrected' leather.

What is the weakness of leather? ›

Leather is more sensitive to fluctuations in temperature, where it can feel warmer in summer and rather chilly in winter. Wear and tear on leather is very consistent. Initially, leather can be stiff when it is first purchased, but with time, the material becomes more flexible and relaxed.

Can leather last 100 years? ›

When properly cared for, genuine leather can last for years. Many premium leather crafters even guarantee their work to last for decades, even up to 100 years. This is because genuine leather is simply built to last thanks to natural durability.

What leather does Louis Vuitton use? ›

Extra Details. Almost all Louis Vuitton bags are trimmed with Vachetta leather. This type of cowhide leather can be difficult to maintain but it does develop a gorgeous patina over time that makes the bag unique just to you.

What keeps leather from peeling? ›

Many oils can be used for this purpose but Strange as it may sound but baby oil creates a protective coating that prevents the leather from peeling and flakes. Keep PU leather product or furniture dry at all times by using an air conditioner and dehumidifier if necessary.

What type of leather is 100% leather? ›

Genuine leather is indeed real leather. This means that the material comes from real animal skin or that there is some kind of leather in the material. While its quality comes nowhere near full-grain leather or top-grain leather, it is still from real animal skin.

What type of leather is easiest to clean? ›

Semi-aniline leathers receive a protective finish on the surface, so these types of leathers are the easiest to clean and maintain.

Is Nappa leather better? ›

Nappa leather is top-quality leather that undergoes a unique tanning process and is softer and more pliable than most hides. It was named for the Napa Valley in California, where the tanning company that developed it was located. Nappa leather is often used in upscale vehicles.

Is Nappa leather worth it? ›

Nappa leather gives cars a premium, even luxurious feel and is prized by many manufacturers for the brand image it helps project. Many drivers report feeling more comfortable Nappa leather seats. This is more pronounced on long journeys and in very hot – or very cold – weather.

Is Nappa leather worth the money? ›

Nappa leather is a great choice for a leather jacket. It is very enjoyable to wear because of its softness and flexibility. It is also very comfortable to wear, especially when you have uncorrected, full-grain napa leather. This is because they are generally a more breathable fabric.

What are the different levels of leather? ›

Grades of Leather

There are generally considered four types of leather quality grades, listed from best to worst: full grain leather, top grain leather, genuine leather, and bonded leather.

Which leather is most durable? ›

Full-grain leather is the strongest and most durable leather. Additionally, since the grain is so tight, it resists moisture very well. Over time, full-grain leather will look nicer and nicer and develop a patina from being handled. The next best—and second strongest—leather is called "top-grain" leather.

What is the hardest wearing leather? ›

Pigmented leather is the most durable with a consistent surface appearance, while aniline leather is more natural looking, but less resistant to soiling. The third type, semi-aniline leather, is somewhere between on both counts.

Can you wash Nappa leather? ›

Washing your nappa leather jacket is easier than you think and is best done at home instead of at a dry-cleaners. Only clean your nappa leather jacket once or twice a year at most. Use warm water and a drop or two of a mild dish soap such as Lux. Dip a soft, clean cloth into the warm water.

What type of leather does Rolls Royce use? ›

-Rolls-Royce leather comes from beef cattle, so animals aren't killed merely for their hides. However, only bull hides are used; cows have stretch marks. Between 15 and 18 hides are used in each car.

How can you tell if something is 100% leather? ›

You may be able to tell just by touching the piece whether the leather is real or fake. Fake leather feels smooth, almost like plastic. Real leather will feel soft and flexible, but it will also have a grainy feel. You also won't be able to stretch faux leather, but real leather can be stretched.


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