If you have been shopping for leather furniture lately, you probably have heard the term “bonded leather”. So you may have wondered, What exactly is bonded leather? Is it real leather?
Well, yes and no!
While bonded leather has been around for a long time for making things like bible covers, belts, shoes, leather binder covers, etc., bonded leather is a relatively new product for the furniture industry. And it’s not without its controversy!
How is Bonded Leather made:
Bonded leather is made by taking leftover leather scraps (which would otherwise be discarded) and further shredding them into fibers, and then mixing them with adhesives and latex binders, thus creating a leather ‘pulp’. This leather pulp is then deposited onto a cheesecloth fabric, creating a strong yet flexible backing material which “contains” leather.
Yes, I said “backing” material! A layer of polyurethane (vinyl) is then deposited onto this leather-scrap backing material, and finally a grain is stamped into the surface to give it the appearance of leather.
Bonded leather is a low cost leather alternative. Bonded leather is designed to mimic the look and feel of genuine leather, but it is not as strong or as durable as genuine leather. It is not usually possible to repair bonded leather
So, on a Bonded Leather furniture item, there is no actual leather on any outside surface. It is in reality, a vinyl outer layer with a stamped on leather-like grain, with a backing consisting of leather scraps bonded together. The finished Bonded Leather product contains only 10% to 17% actual leather.
The controversy surrounding bonded leather is the fact that the name “Bonded Leather” tends to confuse and mislead customers into thinking it is genuine leather, when in fact, it’s not. Many retailers go to great lengths to either educate their customers as to exactly what Bonded Leather is, or, alternatively, they simply rename it to avoid any confusion. For example, some major manufacturers call Bonded Leather things like DuraHide Plus, Nupelle, UltraHide or polyvinyl PVC composite.
Just because it’s not genuine leather doesn’t mean it’s bad – It’s just different. The biggest advantage is price. The product does look and feel very much like leather, at about 1/3 to 2/3 the cost. It is also very easily cleaned, and can stand up to normal use fairly well. Also, it is eco-friendly as it uses leather scraps that would otherwise be discarded.
As mentioned, this is a relatively new product. It started showing up on furniture in about 2007. So there is no conclusive data as to how well it will stand up over 7 to 10 years of normal use. However, there is no question among the experts that it definitely will not last and wear like genuine leather. And if Bonded Leather gets scratched, it is likely that it will look much worse than a scratch on leather, as the entirely different color backing material will show through.
For furniture buyers who want the look and feel of leather, but cannot afford genuine leather, this may be just the ticket…but only if you don’t intend to keep the furniture more than 5 to 7 years or so. There is no question that genuine leather is the most durable and long lasting furniture upholstery, which gets even more comfortable after time. So think about the use of the furniture and how long you want to keep it around, and then make your choice.
But the most important thing to take away from this lesson is that Bonded Leather is not the same thing as genuine leather. Think of it more as just another type of upholstery.
As always, we hope that you enjoy this post and find it helpful in restyling the place you live into the place you love!