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Which of the Faux Leathers, 52% Polyurethane, 48% Polyester, and 100% Polyester Will Last Longer?

By Jeff Frank


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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8 thoughts on “Which of the Faux Leathers, 52% Polyurethane, 48% Polyester, and 100% Polyester Will Last Longer?”

  1. How will the polyester/polyurethane fabric on a reclining sofa hold up to dog (25 pounds) claws, or potential stains such as red wine?

    • Polyester/polyurethane faux leather fabrics are highly durable and easy to clean (for most types of stains), but can be scratched or damaged by pet claws or other sharp items.

      Composite faux leathers, made from a combination of polyester and polyurethane, are only a couple of years old, but are rapidly replacing bonded leathers as the most popular fabric sold with reclining furniture.

      Bonded leather had been, by far, the single most popular fabric ordered with low and mid-range quality reclining furniture since its introduction in 2010.

      Prior to 2010, the vast majority of reclining furniture was sold in genuine leather.
      Most of that was reclining chairs. Leather reclining sofas and sectionals were too expensive for most furniture shoppers, so very few existed.

      When bonded leathers were first introduced in 2010, the vast majority of reclining furniture was sold in genuine leather.
      Very durable 100% polyurethane and 100% polyvinylchloride (vinyl) synthetic faux leathers were available prior to that time, but there was a very strong consumer sentiment against buying furniture with 100% synthetic faux leathers.

      Bonded leathers were a big break-through. Salespeople sold this material as “partially real leather,” implying that this made it better than 100% synthetic faux leathers.

      The fact that the only “real leather” in the material was crushed scraps used as the backing was never mentioned. Often, customers purchased bonded leather seating thinking that they were buying a cheaper type of genuine leather.

      Bonded leathers were instantly accepted by the furniture buying public. For the first time “leather” reclining furniture, including sofas and sectionals were available at prices most people could afford.

      Reclining furniture quickly became the fastest growing segment of the furniture industry.
      By the time it became obvious that there were major quality problems with bonded leathers, it was too late. Bonded leather was too popular to discontinue.

      Over the next 10 years, despite hundreds of thousands of complaints about “peeling” leather (often within 1 – 3 years of purchase), bonded leather continued to be sold.

      Manufacturers and retailers protected themselves against the costs of repairing or replacing defective bonded leather furniture by adding restrictive clauses to their warranties. These clauses specifically excluded liability for fabric defects, including “peeling” fabrics and leathers.

      Furniture shoppers started becoming aware of the huge number of bonded leather complaints about 5 years ago, with public awareness growing each year as there are more and more negative reviews and warning articles.

      By 2020, the number of shoppers who were specifically asking about bonded leather before purchasing, or complaining after purchasing, had grown to the point where major retailers began examining alternative faux leather fabrics.

      One factor that helped furniture retailers to stop selling bonded leather, was the introduction of low-cost polyester/polyurethane composite faux leathers. These are virtually indistinguishable from bonded leathers and also cost less. (This is the type of fabric you are asking about.)

      The other important factor is that furniture shoppers no longer have a universally negative view of 100% synthetic faux leathers like they did in 2010 when bonded leather was first introduced.

      Although the composite polyester/polyurethane faux leathers have only been sold for a couple of years, there are no indications of any problems. There is no reason to think the composite faux leathers won’t last 10+ years.

  2. Bailey collection from Macy. Recliner sofa. 95 %. polyester 5 % PU. I have leather now which is 17 yo and still looks great. No one has Manuel leather. Do not want power seats. Is this a decent material? Thanks.

    • This composite faux leather is the furniture industry’s replacement for bonded leather.
      It has only been around for a couple of years, but I haven’t seen any complaints so far.

      There is no track record on long term durability.
      But there is also no reason to think it won’t last at least 10 years and possibly much longer, without the “peeling” problem that caused hundreds of thousands of complaints about bonded leather.

    • This is one of the new composite faux leathers.
      These are replacing the old bonded leathers that have created hundreds of thousands of complaints since being introduced in 2010.

      These composites combine polyester with polyurethane.
      In general, polyurethane is more expensive than polyester.
      45% is a higher percentage of polyurethane than most of the new composites.

      I have no way of knowing whether this makes the fabric more durable or more “leather-like” than a faux leather with a higher percentage of polyester.
      So far I have not heard of any complaints about the new composite faux leathers, including a 2% polyurethane/98% polyester blend.

      These new composite faux leathers have only been around for a couple of years.
      So far, there doesn’t seem to be any problems or complaints.
      There is no reason to suspect that the composite fabrics won’t last 10+ years like the 100% polyesters and 100% polyurethanes.

    • Wayfair is a huge online retailer featuring millions of furniture items from thousands of furniture manufacturers.
      Among these you will find every type of faux leather currently being made.
      Do not buy bonded leather.
      All other faux leathers should last at least 10 years under normal conditions.


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