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What Kinds of Materials are Used to Make Faux Leather Furniture?

By Jeff Frank

Understanding the different types and variations of faux leather furniture can be very confusing.
Polyurethane and Polyvinyl chloride (Vinyl) are the two most common types of faux leather furniture materials.
  • Polyurethane is softer and more pliable. As a result it is more commonly used for clothing and residential furniture.
  • Vinyl is primarily used for heavier commercial and institutional applications.
There are thinner, less expensive, vinyls available, but they do not mimic real leather as well as similarly priced polyurethanes.
  • Polyester based faux leathers are a third category. These are often less expensive than the polyurethanes. Often they are used as facing materials for bonded leathers.
  • (Polyurethanes and vinyls can also be found as facing materials for bonded leathers.)
Bonded leather is a combination of a faux leather facing material glued (bonded) to a backing made of of crushed leather hide scraps.
  • Bonded leather is a flawed product that often begins “peeling” after a relatively short period of time.
  • Bonded leather is most often found in reclining furniture, office seating and small accessory items such as purses and belts. 
Bonded leather is significantly less expensive than leather made from actual animal hides. It is approximately the same cost as polyurethane and vinyl faux leathers.
The term “bonded leather” is rarely used by accessory makers. Instead, they use the description “genuine leather.” This is extremely deceptive!
  • When “leather” accessories are made from actual animal hides, they are described as “top grain leather” or “full grain leather.” Sometimes the term “all leather” is used.
  • Most shoppers don’t realize that “genuine leather” accessories are actually made with cheap bonded leathers.
  • This is particularly confusing since, in furniture industry terminology, “genuine leather” refers only to leather made from hides and not to bonded leathers.
Good quality 100% synthetic faux leathers are superior to bonded leathers.
  • 100% polyurethane, vinyl and polyester faux leathers will not peel. Real leather, also, does not peel.
Do not buy bonded leather from any furniture company! It is a flawed product that generates thousands of complaints each year.
  • Peeling bonded leather is not repairable.
  • Furniture salespeople often claim that bonded leather is superior to 100% synthetic faux leathers. That is untrue.
  • Crushed leather is a terrible backing material. Its only advantage is that it is easier to sell.
A fabric that can be described by a salesperson as “partially real leather” sounds better to most people than a material that is completely synthetic.
  • Residential furniture labels and descriptions rarely disclose that bonded leather is used in their products.
  • Lax regulations for residential furniture often allow companies to hide the use of bonded leather.
  • Other descriptions are substituted such as a Nuvo leather” or “Leathersoft” among many different brand names.
  • PU leather is also commonly used by salespeople as a substitute term for bonded leather, although it is not often found on printed labels.
Office furniture is sold under stricter regulations that often require disclosure of the use of bonded leathers.
  • It is far more common to see office furniture labeled or described as being made with bonded leather.
  • Frequently a leather like material will have no description at all. In most cases these will be bonded leathers.
Bonded leather is more difficult to avoid for smaller accessories.
  • Accessory items described as “genuine leather” are not made from animal hides. They are made with bonded leather!
  • “Genuine leather” accessory items peel after relatively short time periods.
Few consumers are aware that “genuine leather” accessories are not real leather. This is extremely deceptive.
  • Use of the term “genuine leather” to mean “bonded leather” is beginning to show up on office furniture products.
  • The residential furniture industry is just beginning to move away from bonded leathers. Hopefully, they will soon be replaced by new synthetic composite faux leathers.
  • There are dozens of articles warning about the deficiencies of bonded leathers.
A note regarding the term PU Leather:
  • Many articles refer to PU leather as being synonymous with Polyurethane synthetic faux leather. That was the original meaning.
  • Over time, the term “PU leather” has become even more widely used with a different definition. It is now synonymous with “bonded leather.” for both furniture and accessories.
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