What Is Napa Leather?

“Napa” may be more associated with wines, but there’s also napa leather. Here, we will look at its natural characteristics, as well as its pros and cons, and most importantly of all for leather enthusiasts, how to properly care for napa leather.

What Is Napa Leather?

Napa leather was conceived in 1875 by Emanuel Manasse while he worked for the Sawyer Tanning Company in Napa, California. It is a leather that is typically dyed and is made from kid, cow, calf, lamb or other skin by a distinctive tanning process.


How Napa Leather Is Made

Napa leather’s distinction from other leather types is rooted mostly in its tanning process. Chromium or aluminum sulfate, salts both noted specifically for softness and durability, is used in tanning the hides of Napa leather. Another distinction of this type of leather is that it is typically dyed in water-soluble colorants so that it is more resistant to fading. This dyeing process also renders napa leather a lot easier to clean.


Napa leather is typically a full-grain, unsplit leather made from lamb, kid, or sheepskin. Full-grain means that the skin surface has not been modified apart from the removal of hair. Full grain leather is often regarded as the most authentic type of leather because it keeps all of the texture from the original hide.

This allows the leather to retain a lot of its original textures and markings. It also goes through a finishing process that enhances its durability.  It’s known for being very soft and pliable.

r Martens Pascal Boots 5


As a chrome-tanned leather, napa leather is particularly soft and smooth. The natural characteristics of the animal skin are visible as they have not been obscured by paints and coatings. napa leather is extremely sensitive to dirt, not to mention bleaching out caused by sunlight. This is because the pores are not sealed. 

There is also slightly-pigmented napa leather which is dyed with water-soluble colorants. This makes the material more invulnerable to light and abrasion. More importantly, the surface of slightly-pigmented Napa leather appears to be more even or smoother.

Aniline leather is a type of napa leather that is treated with aniline colorants.

Products Napa Leather Is Commonly Used For

Because napa leather has a softer and smoother quality, many car owners find this type of leather to be ideal for car seats as it offers a “buttery soft” seating surface. Overall, napa leather car seats are considered to be more durable and easier to maintain. They also give the car a more luxurious, superior styling that a lot of discriminating car owners crave.

Among other uses, this product is very popular for furniture upholstery, clothing like jackets and gloves, wallets, briefcases, handbags or purses, shoes, and heavy-duty leather items such as holsters or utility belts.

Advantages of Napa Leather

Napa leather is very popular in automotive seats and other furniture. It’s stylish and elegant, not to mention durable. That means that only high-grade luxury vehicles offer it.

Seats or furniture in napa leather offer a substantially luxurious look and feel. It’s also easier to clean compared to its fabric counterparts. Dust is easily wiped. Similarly, in cases of spills, napa leather will not absorb water or liquid quickly and this can be cleaned by immediately wiping the surface.

Importantly, it’s also hypoallergenic.


Disadvantages of Napa Leather

Full-grain napa leather is considered top of the class in leather. But this comes at a steep cost. You may pay as much as $1000 more for the same class of vehicle or furniture compared to one with fabric.

Also, like many leathers, napa will characteristically be hot in the summer and cold in the winter. This temperature factor may cause discomfort to passengers or users.

Napa leather is a soft and porous material and this means it is vulnerable to irreversible damage due to discolorations and permanent stains. Damage due to rips or tears is likewise very difficult and costly to repair. Proper care and cleaning should be taken to prolong its life.

How To Care For Napa Leather

To clean napa leather, you need several supplies, a lot of which you can already find in your household. Use a lint-free cloth, a cotton washcloth, a mild dishwashing soap, a spray leather protectant. Cleaning supplies include a water and stain protectant, leather conditioner, lukewarm water.

Caring for your napa leather begins right after purchasing it, even before putting it to use. You will want to spray your napa with a water and stain protectant before using it for the first time. This is to avoid liquid damage.

Regular application of leather conditioners is essential for keeping a “like-new” look. If you are using colored leather polish (especially for bags or purses and shoes), make sure that the color of the polish and the color of the leather match.

luxury auto seats from Napa leather
Image from Karlsson Luxury Seating

Avoid using wax-based cleaners or polishes as this may damage your napa. Lanolin-based leather conditioners are good for locking in the color. Spray conditioners need to be applied evenly on the surface. And finally, if you are using cream leather treatment solutions, remember to use a dampened washcloth to apply the cream evenly, and do not use your fingers.

To remove dirt on napa leather, simply wipe the surface with a dry lint-free cloth. For stains, gently wipe the mark with a cotton washcloth and lukewarm water. Simply dab at the stain carefully and allow the leather to dry. Remember to never soak the leather.

Store your napa leather in cool, dry places, keeping it away from direct sunlight or moisture. Whenever possible, store your bags or shoes in their original boxes. Jackets are best hung on wooden hangers with a cotton garment bag over it. Clean the leather and apply a spray-on leather protectant before putting your napa leather away in prolonged storage.


Corrected leather is considered a step down from napa leather as it possesses more natural flaws, but nevertheless remains quite popular. This is because corrected leather retains its leather appearance and feel, but at a lower cost. Remember that napa leather is typically a full-grain, unsplit leather.


Napa leather is truly an elegant and luxurious material whether for apparel or upholstery. Luxury does come with a steep price tag. But it’s worth it for the fine look and feel of this great material!

Other Similar Leathers.