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Advantages and disadvantages of leather furniture
Print 2008-10-18 16:30  

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A favorite sofa or armchair is often a little bit more than just a simple element of interior as it emphasizes the coziness of the house centre and warmth. In order to have the same aspects for a long time, the furniture should meet at least three main criteria as follows: it should be soft, easy to clean and fade-free.

But that's were an issue comes: how to purchase a piece of furniture that not only meets all of the above criteria but also has no side effects for our health and living space? It is well known that furniture coating remains dirt free and fade free only when it is being processed with special chemical materials. So can we consider such furniture coatings natural even when they are being made of authentic wool or cotton without any synthetic additives? Are leather sofas and armchairs really safe ones?

There is no doubt that from its origin, leather is known as a natural material, but that's where the natural feature ends. Before leather is processed into a furniture coating, leather is to be intensively processed - most of all with chemical materials. This process is called leather tanning without which leather would not have long-term characteristics - the leather decay would simply get started.

The main leather tanning materials are various chrome components. They deeply work in to the leather and stay there for all the time; however they don't get through to the atmosphere - which means that it makes no harm for the human health, at least till a certain time. Ecologic features of each product should be considered from different points of view - it is important that the furniture would have not only harm-free pest maintenance but also production and utilization. When it comes to chromium plated leather not everything is perfectly fine. That's why more and more of major leather manufacturers come back to an old fashioned leather processing method - tanning in vegetative extracts.

There is even less manufacturers who use solutions only from tree leaves of fruits gathered without making harm for the plant itself and used for the leather tanning. According to professionals, leather processed in such solution is toxic free and harmless for environment. Quality of ecologic leather furniture almost equals the chromium-plated ones - just perhaps a little bit less serviceable.

Another problematic aspect is the leather painting. It makes not difference whether it's being processed ecologically or not, synthetic aniline paints are normally to be used. This is due to the fact that the gamma of aniline paints is quite limited - only three choices are available - sand, brown and black colour. What is more, such paint does not have sun resistance characteristics, therefore, furniture gets faded quickly.

It should be noted that the term "aniline" is nowadays used just because of the habit. Quite toxic aniline, used for synthetic paint production has been replaced with less harmful substances long time ago.

The leather is painted with a use of a special technology - this technology does not cover the leather surface with a solid impermeable layer, but works well in to the leather without making damage for the substance itself, i.e. preserving the natural leather pattern. Leather painted in this method is considered of the best quality - if you run through a piece of furniture covered with leather using your hand, you will get pleasant warmth of a surface which is not totally smooth.

Finally, the last criteria which make us think before purchasing leather furniture is its maintenance.

Some leather manufacturing companies use untraditional technologies, e.g. soak the leather in special chemical solutions to get a smaller coloring. We can only guess, how much harm, this type of solution actually makes. So, if you prefer the risk free option, it is recommended to purchase only the type of furniture from the companies that guarantee ecologic and chemical free leather processing. Just bear in mind that you will have to keep your favorite leather sofa with red wine, coffee and fruit juice marks as it is really hard to clean its marks from leather processed with ecologic materials. Though, if such unpleasant thing actually happens, i.e. you split your furniture item with juice or coffee you should not wait a minute. It is possible that you might even succeed in cleaning the mark.

If the furniture is covered with alkantara (substitute of turned leather), it should be noted that it is easier to clean - a special cleaner for leather normally leaves no marks, cleans all the dirt. In special circumstances such coatings can be even washed in a washing machine. From the outside alkantara reminds of velour; however its maintenance is simpler. Except one that ecologists are quite often negative about alkantara and more often make no recommendations for its use. Perhaps it is due the fact, that this material contains 100 percent synthetic. Various types of plastic are used for its production, which has to be followed through a long chemical and mechanic processing till it becomes a micro fibre.

Of course, there is and there still be people who deliberately do not go for leather furniture due to moral reasons as just a small two-seated sofa requires leather of even four animals. Thus, these type of people have more to choose from.

Amongst a wide range of furniture coatings, currently in market, it is possible to find the ones that meet the taste and needs of even the most sophisticated client. Specialists recommend giving priority for natural, not synthetic fabrics. Wool, cotton, flax and silk have more advantages as they get less electrified, which means they attract less dust. Though, even such natural substances can be only conditionally called natural as even sheep are no longer cut with scissors - the wool is sprinkled with special chemicals that makes the wool fall by itself. The same happens with cotton: 25 pesticide "showers" are needed and the leaves fall by themselves. Around 8000 different chemical substances are used in textile industry making sure that the fabrics do not get crumpled, stretched, faded, attracting less dirt and with great washing features.

Of course, some European companies have chosen to follow a different path - totally stopped using chemicals in its manufacturing processes. They don't bleach its fabrics at all or bleach it without the use of chlorine, paint them only with natural vegetative paints. For the weaving of actual fabrics they also use just an ecologically grown raw. (Within the last few years, the placing of a special stamping "Green Cotton" on various items has  gone popular which means that the cotton used in product manufacturing has been grown, collected and processed without the use of pesticides, chloride or paints which contain heavy metals.

There are a few companies that currently work on the new soft furniture design - its coating can be simply taken off and washed at home. Such type of furniture would have a lot of advantages. For example, it would be no longer needed to soak the materials used for coatings to make them less coloring. What is more, it would be no longer needed to say goodbye to your favorite furniture even when it gets worn as all you need to do is replace the old coating with a new one.


Categories: Furniture

 


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