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

By Jeff Frank

Question:

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. After 4 years the material started flaking off. I have a warranty and it is getting replaced. I’m not sure what the makeup of it was, but I don’t want this to happen again.

Mar. 10, 2021

Answer:

If your faux leather started flaking off, it was bonded leather. It is highly unusual for a retailer to agree to replace it under warranty if the flaking began more than one year after your purchase. Most warranties include specific exclusions for this problem.

Recently, over the past year, composite faux leathers made with polyester and polyurethane, have been introduced as a substitute for bonded leather. Retailers are finally waking up to the fact that the thousands of customer complaints about bonded leathers over the past 10 years may actually be hurting their business, now that so many consumers are aware of the problem.

The reason for introducing bonded leathers 10 years ago was that consumers wanted a cheaper alternative to real leather, but were not ready to accept 100% synthetic faux leathers. Salespeople could sell bonded leather as “partially real leather” and imply that this made it better than 100% synthetic. (It wasn’t!)

As a result of bonded leather’s well publicized problems, and the advance in synthetic faux leather technology, the new 100% synthetics look and feel closer to the real thing and consumers are more willing to buy it than they were 10 years ago.

The new composite faux leathers combine polyurethane and polyester in various combinations. In general, the higher the percentage of polyurethane, the better the fabric will look and feel. Also, polyurethane is more expensive than polyester, so faux leathers with higher percentages of polyurethane tend to cost more.

Until very recently, it was almost impossible to find a 100% polyester faux leather that was anywhere close to looking or feeling like real leather. That is changing.

The 52% polyurethane/ 48% polyester has a higher level of polyurethane than most of the new composites. In general, this is an indication it should look and feel very close to real leather and should be highly durable. The 95/5 blend and 100% polyester faux leathers should be less expensive and probably won’t look or feel as much like real leather.

These composite faux leathers are very new in the marketplace. There is no long-term history that shows how durable they will be over 5 years, 10 years or longer. My guess is that they will be durable and last for at least ten years, 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 (up to 10 years) for normal fabrics. There is no reason at this time to think that a polyester faux leather will be less durable.

Vinyls are another type of faux leather that is still used in residential furniture. Mostly it is found in leather-match, where a genuine top grain leather is used on the seating and inside areas 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.

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8 thoughts on “Which of the Faux Leather, 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
    • 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.

      Reply

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