Upholstery Leathers - Problems with Head Grease

Upholstery Leathers - Problems with Head Grease

Leather remains a popular choice for furniture today regarded as stylish, with a sense of luxury. The increasingly wide range of qualities, colours and finishes being used, mean that problems can often occur.

Issues can occur for several reasons including; the customer having unrealistic expectations of performance of the leather and occasional misuse. In other cases, the problems may be due to material defects or manufacturing faults.

These problems can be costly for your business and it is important that they are investigated and either remedied or learned from to avoid the same issue recurring in the future.


The Head Grease Problem


A common problem with upholstery leather is linked to head grease. Deterioration of the leather or finish may originate from extended use, and therefore contact with organic micro-dirt such as sebum.

The sebaceous glands are microscopic exocrine glands in the skin that secrete an oily or waxy matter called sebum, to lubricate and waterproof the skin and hair of mammals. In humans, they are mainly found on the face and scalp.

Although the upholstery leather may comply with current standards (EN 13336 for example), head grease exposure can in many cases cause a deterioration of the finish. This commonly materialises as either a loss in colour, fading, discolouration, flaking, peeling, change in handle/feel, a general loss in finish adhesion or a combination of these factors.

Although well-finished leathers will be able to withstand this type of soiling, some that are less robust may see a weakening of the finish after just a few months of use. This results in a very negative experience for the customer especially if they have paid a premium for their furniture and can ultimately impact on brand reputation.


Leather Head Grease Testing 


Eurofins | BLC have developed a routine analysis which assesses the susceptibility of leather to problems caused by head grease.

In this analysis, the leather is aged and treated with an artificial solution that replicates the effect of sebum. The testing can take up to 10 working days, depending on complexity, and on completion assessment of any visual changes such as breakdown of the finish are evaluated against a control leather piece, using grey scale analysis and microscopy.

Eurofins | BLC also have the capability of including different hair product types – such as hairspray, wax or gel – into the sebum solution. To discuss your testing or problem-solving needs contact one of our leather experts by emailing [email protected]

1 September 2021

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