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What is Split Grain Leather

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Buying something made from leather can sometimes be confusing because of the different kinds of leather. Add that two kinds of fabric described as leather really aren’t, and you can understand why the whole thing is difficult to penetrate.

We decided to help and cut through the noise and provide you with reliable information on one kind of leather, split leather. We’ll go through what it is and what it’s normally used for. We’ll also talk a bit about how it stacks up to the kinds of leather products people normally associated with it.

What is Split Grain Leather?

Hides processed for leather goods are first cut horizontally, leaving two layers. The top layer, the highest-quality leather, is called full grain. The bottom layer is split grain.

Full grain leather looks, feels, and smells just like skin. It even has its imperfections. If those imperfections are further sanded down, it’s called top grain leather. It’s generally considered the highest quality leather because it’s softer and more supple.

Split grain leather is less durable, and is often coated and painted to look like full grain leather. It can also be buffed to make suede. It is also sometimes used in furniture on the back where it rarely comes into contact with people.

What is the Difference Between Split Leather and Top Grain Leather?

different kinds of leather like split grain and top grain layed out

The big difference comes with one of the first steps in processing a hide into different kinds of leather. The hide is cut horizontally into two layers.

Split grain leather is the bottom layer. It’s sometimes called scrap leather because it’s not of very high quality. It is often used to supplement top-and-full grain leathers in leather products. It’s also sometimes pressed together and painted to look like proper leather.

One advantage that split grade leather has is that it can be processed into suede, which has a sort of fuzzy appearance to it. At times in recent history, it’s been used to make fashionable clothing.

The top layer is the highest quality leather called full grain. It can be processed further into top grain. Full grain is generally considered the most desirable, highest quality leather because it most looks, smells, and feels like animal skin. It can also develop a deep, rich look.

Full grain leather that is further sanded is called top grain leather. It is durable and strong but starts to fade in appearance quickly. It is of higher quality than split grain leather, but also more expensive.

Is Split Grain Leather Durable and of Good Quality?

It’s important to remember that leather is ultimately the skin of an animal, and skin exists primarily to protect an animal from injury or infection. The strongest part of animal skin is what is most exposed, the outer layers.

Full grain and top grain leather are stronger and more durable than split grain leather as a result. Naturally, they are also the most expensive kinds of leather.

Split grain leather is the next tier down in terms of quality. For leather, it is not particularly durable or of good quality. Strips of it are often pressed together to mimic the strength of better grades of leather.

But it’s also a lot stronger than two other kinds of leather, bonded and polyurethane leather.

It is stronger primarily because it is the only one that is actually leather. Bonded leather is to leather what particle board is to wood, leftovers from other uses bonded together and painted so it looks like leather. It might look like leather, but it is often comprised of only 20 percent leather bits and pieces.

Polyurethane leather isn’t leather at all. It’s entirely synthetic. One thing split grain leather has going for it is that it still has a single sheet of densely-connected fibers. It might be inferior to top-and-full grain leathers, but it’s stronger and more durable than polyurethane.

Split Grain Leather VS Bonded and Polyurethane Leather

Different types of leathers laid out

Split grain leather is among the bottom tiers of leather when it comes to quality. Other bottom-tier leather products included bonded leather and polyurethane leather. Of the three of those, only split grain is actual leather. It’s just made with what is the scrap from crafting full grain and top grain leathers. The other two are synthesized.

Of the three, it is the most durable and resistant to damage because it’s comprised of densely-packed fibers in a single sheet of fabric. You can find it used in some upholstery on the back, where it won’t come into much contact with people.

It is also frequently treated so it looks like top grain or full grain leather. Most leather products available in big box retailers are made from this material.

Bonded leather is scraps and dust particles of leather leftover from making other leather goods cemented together with a kind of glue. That’s why it’s called bonded leather. In reality, it maybe consists of 20 percent leather. The surface is then treated with a finish intended to make it look like leather.

Just as particle board is the weakest kind of wood you can buy, bonded leather is the weakest kind of leather available.

Polyurethane leather has no leather components. It consists of synthetic components painted to look like leather. It is an attractive alternative to people who are concerned about animal rights because it isn’t made from animal hide. It’s often called vegan leather.


Hopefully, you now have a pretty good idea about how to approach split leather products. They’re the lowest tier of the real leathers, but better than the two grades often lumped in with leather but aren’t.

Split-leather is most often used to make things that don’t require much softness, like wallets, jackets, and purses. If you want those and don’t want to pay a lot of money, split leather is a good choice. If you want leather furniture, you’ll want something better.

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