A good leather sofa can be difficult to find, but there are several methods of making sure your investment will last for years to come. Leather used to make sofas is usually either aniline, semi-aniline, nubuck or split leather. Aniline leather, a full-grain hide, is considered to be the highest quality and most expensive. Semi-aniline is also a full grain hide, but it is dyed and coated with a protective sealant, allowing for easy clean up. Nubuck is a top grain leather that is buffed, making it soft. Split leather is made from the lower bottom layer of animal hide. It is the most economical, but is also easily damaged.
Contact a local furniture store and ask if sofas are manufactured on site. If they are, ask to view samples of the types of materials used to make their sofas. View the selection of leather sofas at the furniture store.
Rub and pinch the leather to feel the thickness and texture of it. Quality leather will feel thick with creases and a grainy surface. If possible, unzip a sofa seat cover and inspect the inner part of it. Faux leather sofas will have fabric inside. Split leather and nubuk may also contain fabric, making it more resistant to tearing. Quality leather will be rough to the touch and possibly untreated.
Lean in and smell the sofa. Quality leather has a natural hide scent and shouldn't smell mouldy or old. Faux leather has more of a vinyl or plastic scent. Also, inspect the stitching on the largest parts of the sofa, such the back piece and front bottom piece. There should be more than one piece of leather, stitched together, to make up such a large section. Look closely at the at the seam, where the pieces are stitched together. There shouldn't be any white strings peeking out. If so, this is an indication that the sofa may be faux leather.
Sit on the sofa and feel it on your skin. A leather sofa should feel cool, but not cold. Quality leather sofas will conform to your body temperature and should never stick to your skin in hot climates. Some leather sofas are coated to protect from spills and marking, making them easy to clean. However, the leather should still not stick to your skin like plastic would.
Check the sofa for any tags, indicating the origin and materials used to make the sofa.