I’m looking at different types of faux leather. 52% polyurethane 48% polyester, 100% polyester, and 95% polyester 5% PU.
What’s the difference and which will last longer? I had a faux leather sofa that started flaking off after 4 years. I’m not sure what the makeup of it was, but I don’t want this to happen again.
If your faux leather started flaking off, it was bonded leather.
Hundreds of thousands of complaints about peeling or flaking bonded leather have been registered since the material was first introduced in 2010.
Many of these complaints came from shoppers who thought they had purchased genuine leather furniture.
Lots of other shoppers are afraid that all faux leathers are subject to peeling and flaking. That is not the case.
100% synthetic faux leathers, including those made with vinyl, polyurethane, polyester, silicon, and blends of these materials, are extremely durable and completely stable. They do not peel or flake!
Retailers are finally waking up to the fact that many of their customers now actively avoid furniture made with bonded leather.
Over the past few years, low cost composite faux leathers, made with combinations of polyester and polyurethane, have been introduced as a substitute for bonded leather.
These polyester/polyurethane composite materials look and feel very similar to bonded leathers.
Although the composites have not been around long enough for long-term testing, so far they appear to be just as stable as vinyls, polyurethanes, and other 100% synthetic faux leathers that have been available for decades.
Bonded leathers were introduced 12 years ago because of a huge demand for cheaper leather furniture.
The problem for furniture retailers at that time was that shoppers overwhelmingly refused to accept existing 100% synthetic faux leathers as a lower cost substitute for genuine leather.
Bonded leather worked because salespeople could promote it as “partially real leather.” They strongly implied that this made it almost as good as genuine leather from hides, and superior to 100% synthetic faux leathers.
Because of bonded leather’s well-publicized problems, combined with advances in synthetic faux leather technology, shoppers are finally accepting 100% synthetic faux leathers and recycled leathers as acceptable low-cost leather substitutes.
This is a major change in public perception since 2010 when bonded leather was first introduced.
The new composite faux leathers combine polyester and polyurethane in various combinations.
Polyurethane is more expensive than polyester.
The higher the percentage of polyurethane, the better the fabric will look and feel. (This statement is a vast oversimplification of the possible variations, but is generally correct.)
Material costs are reduced by using composites with higher percentages of polyester and lower percentages of polyurethane.
Until the past few years, it was difficult to find polyester faux leathers that were anywhere close to looking or feeling like real leather.
Combining polyester with other synthetic materials results in a much better simulation of genuine leather’s look and feel.
In your question, the 52% polyurethane/ 48% polyester blend has a higher level of polyurethane than most of the new composites.
This is an indication that it should look and feel very close to real leather and be highly durable.
The 95% polyester/5% polyurethane blend and 100% polyester faux leathers should be less expensive.
If this technology was simple and logical, they should be less similar to real leather than the composite with the higher percentage of polyurethane.
But I have seen composite faux leathers with 98% polyester and 2% polyurethane that were indistinguishable from bonded leathers.
So far I have not seen 100% polyester faux leathers that were good simulations of genuine leather, but it may be possible.
Composite faux leathers have been in the marketplace for only a few years.
There is no long-term history that shows how durable they will be over 10 years or longer.
My guess is that they will be very durable and problem-free, but that is what “experts” said about bonded leather when it was first introduced.
100% polyurethane faux leathers have been proven to be highly durable (and comfortable) materials that should last 10 – 20 years with occasional cleaning and conditioning.
100% polyester tightly woven fabrics have proven to be highly durable for non-leather-like upholstery fabrics. There is no reason to think that a polyester faux leather will be any less durable.
Vinyls are another type of faux leather that are still used in residential furniture. Mostly it is found in leather-match, where a genuine top grain leather is used on the seats, backs, and inside arms of the sofa, with a matching vinyl used for the outside backs, arms and bases.
Heavy duty vinyls are extensively used in commercial, healthcare and institutional seating. Heavy duty commercial grade vinyls (and heavy duty polyurethanes) cost far more than the faux leathers used for residential seating.
Recycled leather is another recent technology that shows great promise for providing low cost leather alternatives with environmental benefits.
For more information about Recycled leather, check out Recycled leather.
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