What’s Real Leather Made Of? – All You Need to Know

I once bought a leather jacket with “real leather” boldly written on its label, and it got me thinking as I asked, “what’s real leather made of”? Leather items have a class of their own when you compare them with other products, so it would be great to know what real leather is about.

Most leather items, such as leather purses, bags, boots, and the rest, have various tags to show that they’re real leather. But before you buy your next leather belt or any other item, it is essential to get all the knowledge we can about this leather.

is genuine leather durable

What’s Real Leather Made Of?

Real leather is beautiful, skin-friendly, and versatile. It is used in various leather crafts to make items for people’s daily use. Have you ever thought about the source of real leather? What is real leather called? Please, read on, as this piece will answer those burning questions.

Real leather comes from animal hide. Whereas the most common source is cowhide, other animals for real leather include goats, pigs, crocodiles, and sheep. Animal hide is a by-product of the meat and dairy trades, which means that making real leather involves using hides that would have been a waste.

So, this by-product becomes something valuable, beautiful, and durable. The hide’s yield and quality usually depend on the animal’s feeding and how much exposure it had during its rearing.

For instance, the ones exposed to strict weather conditions and insect bites will have a lower yield than the ones with less exposure. The animals that feed mainly on grains and growth hormones may also give hide of low quality.

The processes involved in making the leather that you and I buy include soaking, tanning, re-tanning, dyeing, and finishing.


Soaking involves applying salt generously on the hide after removing and cleaning it. Then, it is put in a salt brine to prevent spoilage. It will remain there until the processing time. In its processing, the hide is put into clean water to wash off dirt and residue.

The hide soaks in a lime bath to easily remove its hair instead of using the hectic manual method. It will likely swell up and become thicker, making it easy to slice into two for making various leather items.

After slicing, the top layer, which has a tight fiber structure, is reserved for making the best quality leather items. The second layer of its hide is best for making leather items of lower quality and cost.


After soaking, cleaning, and preparing the leather, the next step is tanning. This process involves mixing a unique tanning solution, such as, chromium salt or other vegetable-tanning agents in a tanning drum and then loading the hides into it.

Hides tanned with chromium salt usually yield a leather that is more stretchable than the one tanned with vegetable agents. Those ones yields hides used in making items such as leather furniture, luggage, etc. Vegetable-tanned leather is more expensive most times.

I also found out that both chromium salt and vegetable agents are combined in some cases to get a fuller, soft, and supple leather that is more versatile and can be used to produce a wide range of leather stuff.

The finishing part of this process is liquoring. It is the introduction of special fats to make the leather softer and sturdier. The hide goes through drying with rollers, shaved, and arranged based on their quality to determine the types that’ll be best for various leather items.


Re-tanning is like a repeat of the tanning process to ensure that the leather is fully ready for use. It still involves mixing the tanning agents in a tanning drum and soaking the hide there. The hides pass through pressure rollers to remove excess moisture, then are dried using a vacuum dryer or left to air-dry.


This stage is where the various colors of leather we see come in. The colors such as black, brown, gray, and brighter colors are used to soak the hide in a long but rewarding process.

The hides are soaked in the colors for several hours to ensure proper saturation and avoid a patchy, uneven appearance. After dyeing, next is rinsing and drying to complete this stage.


The finishing stage involves working on the leather to make it supple and easy to use. A staker machine is employed to make the leather flexible with the help of natural oils as lubricants. A finishing spray is applied at this stage for various leather types except for full-grain leather.

The leather goes through a review to determine its quality and to ensure that there are no tears. It is then packed, preserved, and made ready for use. From this stage, it gets to leather artisans who create beautiful leatherwork that you and I admire.

genuine leather material

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

Q: Is 100% leather real leather?

100% leather is real leather because it comes from real animal hide. It could also be referred to as top-grain or full-grain. This leather has the usual leather aroma, is scratch-resistant, and last for a long time. Also, look better with time because of the patina that develops over the years.

Q: What is 100% pure leather?

100% pure leather comes from the hides of animals such as cows, sheep, goats, etc. It is durable leather made by the process of tanning raw animal hide or skin. It is used to make most of the high-quality, expensive goods seen in leather shops.

Q: What is the highest quality leather?

Full grain leather is the highest quality leather grade you can find. It is made with real animal hides that go through cleaning and tanning. It comes from the hide’s topmost layer and retains the marks and pattern on the animal’s skin.

This leather type is stronger and more durable than other types. Its surface isn’t buff or scraped because it is left to give a natural look and feel. It is also more expensive than most grades of leather.

Q: What is the cheapest real leather?

Bonded leather is the lowest quality grade of real leather. It is more of what remains after the full-grain, top-grain, and genuine leather have been taken. The shavings and leftovers are bonded with latex and used to make different items.

That brings me to ask ‘is genuine leather made from animals? Yes, genuine leather is made from animal hide, but its quality is far lower than full-grain and top-grain leather. So, it’s relatively cheap too.

Q: Is real leather expensive?

Yes, real leather is expensive because already mentioned above, its manufacturing and tanning process is long and hard. However, the consolation when parting with that huge amount is that the item will last you a lifetime if you care for it properly. That’s why it’s essential to know how to clean leather car seats, jackets, and other items.

Q: Which leather is original?

From what we know and have seen here, real leather from animal hide is the original leather. It could be full-grain leather or top-grain leather. These leather types are expensive as they go through a long tanning process and are used to make high-quality leather goods.

Q: Which skin leather is best?

Leather made from cowskin is one of the best you can find, and its full-grain, is leather at its excellence. It has the best quality because it hasn’t gone through buffing and other processes to cover imperfections. The rigorous production process makes them costly but much more durable if you apply proper care and maintenance.

Final Words

I love real leather products because they are stylish and make an excellent investment. They’re the type that keeps giving you value for every amount spent on them. This piece answers the question, “what’s real leather made of?” and shows its production process.

Roseline Okereke

Chinonso Roseline Okereke is a biochemist and an enthusiastic content writer. She enjoys talking and writing about fashion and leather-related crafts. She has written various leather articles that give readers an indepth knowledge of leather while taking by the hand and guiding them into discovering many leather crafts and getting the best of them. When Roseline is not writing, she's busy teaching people how to live a good life. So, come along as she takes you through an exciting journey of leather and it's craft.

Recent Posts