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Napa Leather | What is Nappa Leather - Complete Guide

Napa Leather | What is Nappa Leather - Complete Guide

When you hear of "Napa" a different kind of thing might come into your mind. Maybe you picture the hot sun. Or maybe some vineyards. And maybe even different kinds of wine. You may be picturing the famous Napa Valley. However, there is also a different kind of napa. That is napa leather. If you are not familiar with it then this article might interest you. What are its natural characteristics and what are the pros and cons to owning one. We will also discuss how to properly take care of the leather.

leather duffel bag
The Endre Weekender

What Is Napa Leather?

This might be your first time hearing about Nappa leather. To be honest, there is no firm meaning of what actually is "napa". Napa leather is basically a term that people use to describe leather. It describes leather that is incredibly soft, smooth, and strong. However, since there is no clear definition of the term the other descriptions of the leather are broad. Napa leather can therefore range in thickness, finish, grain pattern, and color. Moreover, the animal where the leather comes from may also vary. Unlike, cowhide leather which comes from cow skin, or the Berkshire which comes from pigskin.

Furthermore, napa leather has different colors. Or more accurately, it is dyed in different colors. A variety of colors makes napa leather desirable and suitable for different uses. Napa leather also has various finishes. Finishing adds different characteristics to leather such as water and abrasion resistance.

It Is High-Quality Leather

Given that it is high-quality leather, napa leather usually comes from full-grain leather. Full-grain leather is the best of the best among all leather types. Unlike most leather types it still has its outer layer intact. This outer layer usually sanded or buffed to remove any imperfections. This outer layer is what we call "natural grain". The natural grain contains tightly packed fibers. This keeps the leather very strong and durable. Since napa leather is usually from full-grain leather, then it is likewise as strong and as durable.

Napa Leather or Nappa Leather - Which is it?

Technically the correct way to spell it is with one "p" or napa. However, the double "pp" or Nappa has become a popular way of spelling it over the years. Nonetheless, whether you spell it as napa or Nappa, people will understand what you are talking about either way. After all, it is just a term to describe leather. It not the strict meaning of the leather itself.

leather duffel bag
The Dagny Weekender

History of Napa/Nappa

In order for us to understand more about the napa name, let us understand its history.

Its history starts with the native American tribes. They roamed and lived prior to settlers moving in from Europe. During those times there were two tribes. The Wappo tribe and the Wapin tribe. When the nonnatives came and mixed with the locals they tried to pronounce local words. Napa is accordingly an English way of saying a native American local word. This local word inspired the name of a city. As such the city's name is the city of Napa. It was founded in 1847 and became Napa, California, after 1849.

However, prior to California's statehood, city-related documents have seemed to spell the location as Nappa, with two p's. However, after California's statehood, its spelling was Napa, with only one p. Conclusively, it would remain that way even during our modern times.

Who Invented Napa Leather?

He goes by the name of Emanuel Manasse. Manase was born in Germany in 1842 however he moved to the United States around 1984. He would first move to New Jersey then to Napa, California in 1871. Manasse was a son of a leather tanner in Germany. It was likely that he learned from his father about leather carrying on the family trade.

He was working as a leather tanner while in New Jersey. He was a leather tanner for the Swayer Tanning Company, founded in 1869. When he moved to Napa, California where he continued to be a leather tanner. It was around 1975, while at Napa when Manasse develops the Napa leather. The leather was soft, flexible, and very well suited for glove making. Since the leather was developed in Napa, many went on to call it Napa leather.

The soft and flexible high-quality leather became popular even outside Napa. Because of its success, Manasse would, later on, become a partner at the Swayer Tanning Company in 1880. He would lead a very rich and successful life because of the invention. The Napa leather would go on as a very well-known term in the leather world. Many people relate to it and refer to it as soft and flexible leather. It is also great for fine leather goods. Maybe the next time you think about Napa, it will not just be about wine.

How Is Napa Leather Made?

There are three main steps in turning animal skin into leather. They are preparing the animal hide, tanning the leather, and finishing the leather. In the first step, creating Nappa leather is no different from creating full grain and top grain leather. However, for top grain leather, the natural grain is sanded or buffed to remove any imperfection. The difference in creating napa leather in comparison to another leather type is because of the next step.

The tanning process is different in making Nappa leather. Making Nappa leather uses the chromium tanning process. It is faster than the natural method of tanning. The process involves using chemicals that breakdown the animal skin and turns it into the leather. Leather manufacturers use chromium or aluminum sulfate to tan the leather. These chemicals give the leather its softness. It also increases the leather's life span. This also makes the leather easier to clean since napa leather is dyed in water-soluble colorants. It is also easy to dust and it resists liquid spill better than other types of leather.

Napa leather is likewise beautiful and very appealing. Moreover, unlike other leather types, Nappa leather comes in different colors. Napa leather is therefore not only flexible and soft, but it is also beautiful as well. Because it is a beautiful and soft leather, napa leather is a popular choice for a car interior. More specifically it is a popular choice for luxury vehicles interiors because of its refined look and feel. Other than being soft, beautiful, and easy to clean, nappa leather interior also has an added benefit. If you struggle with upper respiratory conditions, Nappa leather is known for being hypoallergenic. This is highly beneficial especially inside closed spaces, like car seats or leather seats.

Leather backpack
The Asmund Backpack

Is Napa Leather Real Leather

The answer is yes. Napa leather is real leather. To be more specific it comes from either full grain or top grain leather. They differ only during the tanning process. Napa leather may therefore be as strong as full grain leather if it uses the same layer of animal skin as full grain. Regardless, it is real leather. But if it is real leather what animal does it come from? Napa leather typically comes from the skin of different animals such as calves, lambs, and kid goats. These animals usually have a more soft and flexible hide. Likewise, so does its finish product.

For additional information, Nappa leather is not "genuine leather" even if genuine leather is real leather. By definition, genuine leather comes from any layer of animal skin. The animal skin goes through treatment on its surface. The treatment will provide a more uniform and "corrected" appearance for the leather. The treatment usually involves sanding or buffing to remove any imperfections on its surface. Thereby giving the uniform look. The process also involves either dyeing, spray painting, stamping, or embossing to give the leather its final appearance.

Napa leather however often comes from full-grain leather. Being full grain leather it very high-quality premium leather. Sometimes you might find something like "Genuine Nappa Leather", which may be a little confusing. They are however merely marketing statements that refer to the leather as being Nappa leather. Which, if you remember is just a term to describe leather that is smooth, soft, and flexible.

What Is The Difference Between Leather and Nappa Leather?

There is barely a difference between the two. Leather is a general term. It refers to the material or fabric that comes from animal skin through the process of tanning. It may refer to the variety of types of leather and the different qualities of the material as well. On the other hand, Nappa leather is more of a specific term that describes a specific group of leather. Typically it describes a quality of leather that is very smooth, soft, and flexible.

Moreover, leather, in general, can have different treatments. Some may have gone through sanding or buffing. Or some may have gone through natural or chromium tanning. While Nappa leather usually has a natural, high-quality, incorrect grain surface. It also likewise only goes through chromium tanning and not natural tanning.

In conclusion, there is barely a difference between the two. Leather is a general term that may refer to a variety of types and qualities. Napa leather on the other hand is a specific term that describes a particular quality of leather.

What is Napa Leather Used For?

Known for its soft, flexible, and smooth qualities, what are the many uses of napa leather? It is popular for many car owners and car upholstery businesses. They say that it is the ideal type of leather for car interiors, especially for the seat. They describe napa leather as being "buttery soft", a perfect seating surface. Moreover, other than being comfortable to sit in, napa leather is durable and easy to maintain. Something that is very convenient for car owners. It is also easier to clean liquid spills, especially for cars without cup holders. Napa leather also has a very luxurious look. That is the reason why it can be found on most expensive cars. It is superior in quality and style in comparison to other leather types.

Its other uses include furniture upholstery (such as in a sofa), clothing, wallets, gloves, handbag, and shoes. Napa leather is also popular for heavy-duty items such as holsters or utility belts.

Leather Briefcase

Leather Working with Napa Leather

Leatherworking or the process of making leather is slightly different from one leather to another. For example, we have full-grain leather. Full-grain leather is high-quality leather however it is tough therefore hard to work with. Manufacturing costs also add to its price that is why it is expensive. Napa leather on the other hand is a very desirable leather to work with. It is easy to work and style because it is soft and flexible. Many also appreciate its uncorrected imperfect surface.

Napa leather is great for handcraft leatherworking. Because of its softness, the material feels very good in the hand. This makes the leather nice to work with. Furthermore, napa leather is generally easy to cut and sew. Making the leatherworking process smoother and less of a burden for the artisan. It is also easier to shape and form because it is flexible. Napa is likewise easy to work in smaller applications such as shoe accents, cardholders, and small wallets.

Napa leather not only feels good during leatherworking, but you can appreciate its qualities through its finish product. You can experience its softness with everyday use like when you are grabbing a wallet or putting on Napa gloves. You can recognize the quality and benefits of the material more every time you use it.

Quality of Napa Leather

The quality of napa leather is very high. It typically comes from full grain leather. It is uncorrected and/or non split leather, and therefore contains strong fibers. This type of leather usually comes from lamb, goat kid, or sheepskin. The skins coming from these animals are already typically soft. The animal skins have not been modified apart from removing all their hair or wool. This gives the leather an authentic look because it keeps the texture and markings of the original animal skin. Other than being soft and flexible this leather is also strong and durable since it comes from full-grain leather.

Leather backpack
The Raoul Backpack

The Appearance of Napa Leather

Napa leather is beautiful, like most real leather. And since it usually comes from full-grain leather it also has the natural characteristics of the animal skin visible. Most leather that comes from full-grain or the outermost layer has many imperfections. Scars and blemishes are often visible on the leather even after processing the skin. Napa leather is however sensitive to dirt and sunlight because its pores are not sealed. Excessive sunlight might cause the leather to bleach.

Napa leather may also look slightly pigmented because it is dyed with water-soluble colorants. This makes the leather more vulnerable to light and abrasion. Slightly pigmented leather however appears to be more even and smoother. Not all Nappa leathers are slightly pigmented. Only those that are dyed with water-soluble colorants.

Advantages of Napa Leather

There are quite a few advantages that napa leather can give. The first is that it is strong yet soft and flexible. It is also very stylish and elegant making it popular for automotive seats and other furniture. Napa leather is likewise durable like most high-quality leather.

Advantages of Napa LeatherLr to clean in comparison to other fabrics. Dust can easily be wiped off the leather. Similarly, napa leather does not absorb water or any other liquid quickly. You can therefore clean the spill just by immediately wiping the surface. And lastly, Nappa leather is also hypoallergenic. Perfect for those who have respiratory system problems.

Disadvantages of Napa Leather

No leather is perfect, even Nappa 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. Nappa leather is a soft and porous material, it is vulnerable to irreversible damages. Without proper care, the leather might experience discolorations and permanent stains. This leather is also hard to repair. Any rips or tears will be costly.

How To Care For Napa Leather

All types of leather need some TLC or tender loving care. So how do we take care of Nappa leather? It will depend on its use. Like for example, if you have Nappa leather on your vehicle you may want to spray the leather with a water and stain protectant. It is important to do this before you use the leather. This will help repel any liquid on the leather that may cause damage. It would also help if you park your vehicle in a cool, dry area out of direct sunlight.

When trying to remove dirt or dust, use a dry lint-free cloth to wipe the surface. Make sure to be gentle when wiping. For stains, you might want to use a cotton washcloth that is slightly dampened with lukewarm water. It is important to properly clean and maintain your leather. This will not only make them look clean but keep them stay strong and looking great as well.

The Gyda Backpack (iPad not included)

How to Clean Nappa Leather

Cleaning Nappa leather is no different from cleaning other leather. Leather is delicate to clean and you should be aware of the dos and don't.

Before you clean the whole leather it is important to do a spot test first. Generally, test on a small area to ensure the leather cleaner you are applying will not damage the leather. After testing that it is safe, you can clean the rest of the leather.

Clean the leather with a slightly dampened lint-free cloth. Be careful about how damp the cloth is. If it is too wet you might stain the leather. If it is too dry then it won't remove the dirt, dust, or grime at all. Although you this is likely to happen if the leather is dyed with a water-soluble colorant. Rub it gently across the surface and take it easy. Some of the moisture might air-dry from the surface however you should wipe it dry to be safe.

If the dirt, grime, or stain is difficult to clean with just water, you may use a leather cleaner. You can check for cleaners and soaps that are meant to clean leather such as Nappa.

How to Condition Napa Leather

You should condition all your leather, including Nappa leather. Conditioning napa leather is no different from condition other leather types. However, it is important to frequently condition unfinished Nappa leather. This is because it has leather fibers that dry out more quickly than other types of leather.

Typically we use leather conditioners to conditioner our leather. These leather conditioners are usually either wax, oil. or cream. You apply them onto the surface and let the leather absorb. This will nourish and revitalize the fibers that make up the leather. The result would be a more soft and flexible leather. It also protects the leather from scratches.

Before you condition, you must always clean your leather first. Then you can apply the conditioner by using a soft, lint0free cloth. You apply the conditioners in small portions. Gently apply it in small circles. Leave the conditioner on the leather for a while to allow the leather to absorb. You should also wipe off the excess.

After conditioning your Napa leather, you have the option to apply a protective finish. This extra layer will protect your leather a bit more from water and scratches. It does however hide some of the desired looks and feels that the natural leather offers. Protective finishes are usually natural or synthetic waxes/acrylic. This is reserved as an option because usually, napa leather looks best without a finish.

leather briefcase
The Viggo Briefcase

How to Waterproof Napa Leather

It is possible to waterproof Nappa leather. In order to protect it from the elements, a wax protectant is added to make the leather water-resistant.

To waterproof your leather, you must first clean and condition it. Once that is done, apply the wax protectant thoroughly across the surface. Leave the wax for a few minutes. You may then buff the surface. This will give the leather a smooth and pleasant shine. And more importantly, provide a barrier that helps repel water.

Moreover, acrylics can be applied to the leather surface for a more lasting and durable finish. An example of an acrylic finish is resolene. This finish leaves a thin, transparent plastic coating over the leather. While a strong layer of waterproofing is good for the leather, it has its downside. The stronger the layer the more difficult it is to later reach, clean, and condition the real leather underneath. This however goes down as a matter of preference. You can always choose what you think is best for your leather.

How to Fix a Scratch on Napa Leather

To fix a scratch on leather, first, you have to identify how large and deep the scratch is. There are a few methods to fix and repair depending on how large and deep the scratch is. Since napa leather is full of natural fibers, the simplest way to fix it is to add oils back into the fibers. For small scratches, apply a little bit of oil and rub it with your fingers. For deeper scratches, try applying a leather conditioner to the scratch and surrounding area. Buff it out with a soft lint-free cloth after.

If your leather has a very large or deep scratch, simple methods won't work. You will need a leather filler kit for this job. These kits usually have a substance to fill the cracks or cuts. The kit also has a color matching option, to keep your leather looking uniform as possible. Make sure to follow the instructions on the kit.

How to Fix Tears in Napa Leather

Tears can generally be fixed by sewing the leather together. Although it will never look as smooth as the original fibers. You will need a fine, strong thread to sew it together. Make sure to use a thread with the same color or shade as your leather. However, for smaller tears, it is possible to fix them with leather glue. Simply apply the glue and join the two torn areas. Remember to select a color that is near the original leather color. If no similar color is available, you can pain it with acrylic paint once the glue is dry.

The Calder Backpack
The Calder Backpack

How to Store Napa Leather

Storing your napa leather is similar to most leather. Store it in a cool, dry, dust-free place. We advise that you store your leather in low to average humidity environments. An open environment is also great for leather. Airflow allows the natural fibers to breathe and stay pliable. Some good places to store napa leather are in your dressing rooms and closets.

Some leather products come with storage bags. These bags are usually made of breathable fabric that keeps humidity in check. If you have no place to store your leather, a storage bag can be a great investment for your leather.

Commonly asked questions about Napa Leather

Here are a few questions that people commonly ask around about napa leather. Maybe some questions are similar to yours.

Is Nappa Leather expensive?

It can be quite costly. It is a bit more expensive than vegetable tanned leather despite being chromium tanned. For example, a high-quality vegetable tanned cowhide will cost around $150. Napa leather with the same quantity will likely cost around $200.

Is Nappa Leather good for jackets?

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.

How Can You Tell If Leather is Nappa?

Despite merely being a term to describe leather, there is a way to tell. Although it might not be as accurate. You can tell by touch. Nappa leather has a soft feel to it, and it is also flexible.

What is Nappa Leather in Cars?

Napa leather for cars is an ambiguous term. It generally refers to soft, smooth leather often made from full-grain leather. Other than its feel, it also has a naturally textured surface since it is unaltered. It does however have a soft and luxurious feel and aesthetic to it. Particularly why it is popular inside luxury cars.

Does Napa Leather Peel?

Most if not all leather will peel. Without proper care and maintenance, napa leather will peel. Peeling usually happens when the fibers dry out or when it is exposed to elements. Take care of your leather to keep it from peeling. Remember that Napa leather is difficult to repair and most of its damages are usually irreversible.