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Is Bonded Leather Furniture Any Good? Is it As Durable as Genuine Leather?

By Jeff Frank

From 2010 through 2020 almost half of the leather sold in the U.S. was “bonded leather.” American furniture shoppers looking to buy leather furniture had no idea what “bonded leather” was. Or how it differed from genuine leather made from animal hides.

Nobody should buy “leather” furniture unless they understand the difference!

The photo shown here is bonded leather. Real leather made from hides does not peel like this.

“Bonded leather” is an inferior product. The primary purpose of bonded leather is to fool people into believing they are buying genuine leather furniture at a cheap prices.

  • There are many different formulations of “bonded” leathers.
  • Thin polyurethane or vinyl facing materials are “bonded” (glued) to a thick backing.
  • This backing consists of anywhere from 10% to 20% “genuine” leather hide scraps. The leather scraps have been chopped into tiny pieces, mixed with adhesives and other chemicals and rolled flat.

Glued leather particles do not make a good backing material. They can “peel.” after a short time period. Thin synthetic facing materials delaminate from the thick granulated leather backing.

  • This thin facing can rub off with frequent use.
  • Fabrics used on reclining furniture are rubbed frequently when the furniture is being used.

There have been thousands of customer complaints about peeling bonded leather. Often this occurs within the first two years of purchase. The entire furniture industry knows this problem exists. Manufacturer, Retailer and Extended warranties all specifically exclude coverage of the problem.

There are many durable faux leather fabrics that look and feel just as much like “real leather” as bonded leathers. Although prices can be very similar, bonded leather has one major advantage over 100% synthetic faux leather fabrics. It is far easier to sell!

Salespeople use the fact that the product includes some “actual leather” to make the sale easier.

  • The sales pitch for bonded leather furniture often implies that it is just a lower cost version of “real leather.”
  • Another version of the sales pitch acknowledges that bonded leather is “only partly real leather.” But the implication is that adding a little bit of “real leather” is better than 100% synthetic faux leathers. That is not true! 
  • Both sales pitches are designed to take advantage of a strong psychological attraction to real leather while eliminating the aversion many people have to buying “fake leather” furniture.

There are much better “faux leathers” made with 100% synthetic polyurethane, polyester or vinyl fabrics. Synthetic faux leathers can look better, feel better and last far longer.

  • Very expensive synthetic faux leathers are used for commercial or institutional furniture.
  • Lower cost residential grade faux leathers can have all the advantages of bonded leathers without the disadvantages of short lifespan and “peeling.”

Most genuine top grain leathers costs at least 5 times more than “bonded leather.” The best quality leathers can cost 20 times more than bonded leather. Until the past few years, many salespeople in retail stores did not know the difference. Bonded leather was the only type of leather many of them sold and they had little or no education about the differences.

More recently, due to heavy publicity about problems and complaints about bonded leathers, both furniture salespeople and customers have become more aware of the differences. As a result, large furniture stores are beginning to move away from bonded leathers. New low cost composite faux leathers, made from combinations of polyurethanes, polyesters and sometimes vinyls, are becoming widely available.



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