This is one of the most confusing issues in the world of leather furniture and for the most part, no one’s fault. The problem comes from the misperception of the words full and semi. When most of us hear the words full and semi, we think done very well (full) or partially completed (semi).
What makes the issue most confusing is that most furniture stores have sales people who aren’t knowledgeable in how leather is tanned or dyed. And then, kind of like an urban legend, a myth was created and kept going and going and going….
The myth goes as follows: Full aniline dyed leathers are dyed all the way through and semi aniline dyed leathers are only dyed partially through the leather. The myth goes on to say that a full aniline dye is thus better because it will not show scratches to the leather because the dye goes all the way through.
Once you understand what the real difference is, you should appreciate how funny the myth is so…. Here’s the actual difference between the two:
Aniline is a type of dye. The technical definition is:
Aniline: A clear chemical used in tanning a skin to maintain softness.
There are many types of dyes and chemicals but aniline is the most common for natural materials such as animal skin or hides.When only aniline dye is used with a hide, you can see a lot of the variations in the hide which for a lot of styles and consumers is very desirable. It is with a full aniline dye that you get many tones and textures that are very attractive for leather furniture. So, a FULL aniline dye is one where ONLY aniline dyes were used in the hide.
A semi aniline dye means it was partially dyed with aniline and partially dyed with another type of dye. Why was another type used? Well, there are several reasons why a mixture of dyes might be used but the most common is a desire for color uniformity throughout the hide. Sometimes and for some styles of leather furniture, people prefer to have the exact same color through out the entire piece of furniture. Using only an aniline dye will not allow for this and thus other dyes are introduced to the hide to get the desired look and effect.
So, which is better, full aniline or semi aniline dying? You guessed it; neither is better. Another way to look at dyes are to think of them like wood stains. Which is better ; oil wood stains or water based wood stains. Neither is better; it just depends on what look you want in your house. The same is true with full or semi aniline dyes: they are simply ways of staining the hide to get the look you want for your furniture and whichever looks best in your house is what’s best for you.