Leather identification methods include touching the leather and putting a drop of water on the leather. The three types of leather are aniline, semi-aniline and pigmented, also known as protected leather.
Aniline leather doesn't have any surface coatings, giving it the smoothest and most natural appearance. It retains all the unique characteristics of the animal. The surface may have dye to color it. Since it doesn't have a coating, this leather has the least resistance to stains.
Semi-aniline leather receives a light surface coating. This coating offers some protection from stains and gives the leather a consistent color.
Pigmented leather receives a polymer coating. This pigmented coating gives the leather a consistent color and offers the most protection.
Since it doesn't have a coating, aniline leather feels the smoothest to the touch. Semi-aniline leather also feels smooth, but not to the same extent, due to the coating. Pigmented leather feels similar to plastic. This type of leather is common for leather car seats.
When aniline leather comes into contact with a drop of water, it absorbs the weather immediately. With semi-aniline leather, the surface supports the water before slowly absorbing it. Pigmented leather doesn't absorb water, so any water stays on the surface until it slides off.
Manufacturers often attach "made with leather" labels to products that contain leather, even if the majority of the product isn't leather. For example, a piece of furniture that uses real leather in a couple areas and plastic or vinyl in the rest may still have this type of label.