Breathability is one of the best selling points of leather and it’s hard to find any other material that is both as durable and breathable as leather. If you want to improve the breathability of your leather jacket or leather boots, check our tips and tricks below.
Does leather breathe?
Technically, what leather does is absorb moisture from the air around it and absorb this moisture into its fibers. This leather breathing process also draws out oil natural oils from the leather and releases them back up to the surface. This inhalation and exhalation process of the leather is what makes it breathe.
How can I tell if a leather item is breathable?
You can tell if a leather item is breathable based on what type of leather it is. Porous aniline leather is one of the most breathable types of leather out there. Velvety and rich textures of leather such as suede and nubuck are also very breathable.
The rule of thumb is that the less a leather material is treated, the more breathable it is. You can usually expect leather items that haven’t undergone tanning to be more breathable compared to leather items that already have a colored layer.
What makes leather breathable?
Pores are what make the leather material naturally breathable. Air passes through thousands of tiny pores on the leather surface and this is what gives it the ability to absorb sweat and humidity before releasing it to the surface. You can commonly observe these on authentic leather sofas and leather car seats.
As long as the surface is not heavily pigmented, the pores should be able to make the item breathable. This is especially helpful for maintaining the item’s quality, firmness, and overall longevity.
Are some types of leather more breathable than others?
All real leather materials are made from animal hide and naturally, they all have pores. As we mentioned above, pores are what make leather products breathable. As they are gathered as animal by-products, the animal skin is then treated and processed to create various leather goods. That’s why different types of leather are more breathable than others.
Top-grain and full-grain leathers are breathable since they are the outermost layer of the animal hide which acted as a temperature regulation for the animal. As they are gathered as animal by-products, the animal hide is then treated and processed to create durable leather items.
Sometimes, the breathability of these types of leather is affected because they come with an added layer of protection to prevent stains and fading. Although it increases the product’s durability and long-term appearance, it will negatively impact the leather’s breathability.
Suede and nubuck
Suede and nubuck are also naturally porous leather making them very breathable, that’s why you can see a lot of suede boots and suede shoes. This type of leather material is considered to be even more breathable compared to full-grain leather. It’s also very soft, lightweight, and doesn’t have a layer of coating compared to other leather materials that affect its breathability.
Bonded leather is made up of scrap pieces of genuine leather and faux leather. It’s also mixed with a polyurethane binder which makes this type of leather not breathable. The adhesives that bind it together block the pores of the leather, but this is what creates the texture that mimics real leather so a lot of people still consider this material for production.
Faux leather, also called polyurethane leather is made from synthetic materials hence, making it the least breathable leather type. Most artificial leather goods are not breathable at all because of their protective layer on the surface and their PU material alone. However, there are some faux leather items that have artificial pores to mimic real leather and those are a little bit breathable such as leatheraire or microfiber leather.
How to make leather more breathable
If you feel like your leather couch or leather jacket is absorbing too much moisture and trapping them underneath, it might be because its leather material is not that breathable. Here are some ways to remedy that problem:
- Avoid using too much leather conditioner or leather wax on the surface. This can clog up the pores and cause moisture buildup underneath.
- Only use good quality leather conditioners that are designed specifically for leather and won’t clog its pores.
- Clean your leather goods when necessary. Sometimes dust and dirt can also clog the leather pores.
- Consider how it’s made. Sometimes the excessive stitching or the leather material used is not that porous and these can affect the overall product’s breathability.
- Proper storage plays an important role in maintaining the breathability of the leather. If you live in warmer climates, it’s important to keep the humidity at bay in your storage space.
- Consider not wearing them too often. Wearing your leather clothes can sometimes reduce the airflow in the material making it less breathable the more often you use them without breaks.
Aside from the leather pores, the condition of your leather item alone can determine its breathability. That’s why it’s important not only to keep it clean and store it properly, but also to use it with care. Conditioning leather on a regular basis will greatly benefit them in the long run as long as you don’t use the conditioner excessively.
Is faux leather breathable?
No, faux leather is not breathable because it is made up of polyurethane which is a type of plastic. Only real leather has pores that allow air to pass through it making it breathable. Sometimes, faux leather will have artificial pores to mimic the texture of real leather, but it still won’t be breathable.
Is suede more breathable than leather?
Suede is considered to be more breathable compared to all the other types of leather. This is because suede requires minimal treatment and other processes that can reduce its breathability. The downside of this is that suede is more vulnerable to stains and dirt compared to smooth leather.
Does shoe polish hurt the breathability of the leather?
It depends. There are shoe polishes that are leather-friendly and won’t clog the pores. However, regular shoe polish can hurt the breathability of leather because it’s not formulated to be safe on materials that have pores. It’s best to read the care label and instructions first on the shoe polish bottle before applying it to your leather shoes.
Are leather shoes more breathable?
Leather shoes are more breathable compared to other shoes that are made of plastic materials. Most commercial shoes you can buy in retail stores are made from plastics or synthetic leather which are not very breathable. If you want comfortable but durable boots, consider investing in real leather shoes.
Does leather breathe better than cloth?
Even though leather is considered a pretty breathable material, it can’t beat cloth when it comes to allowing air to pass through and wicking moisture away. Leather is considerably thicker than cloth, making it less breathable. However, when it comes to durability, leather still beats cloth any time of the day.