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Why Do People Buy Fake Leather Furniture? Is It Any Good?

By Jeff Frank

Faux (fake) leather fabrics made with 100% synthetic polyurethane materials and woven backings can be extremely durable, comfortable and easy to clean.

The 100% polyurethanes are softer. They are often closer in look and feel to real leathers (made from hides) than the older vinyls. Many shoppers still remember the older vinyls, which often had a plastic look feel that could be hot and sticky.

The main reason people buy fake leather furniture is price.

  • A faux leather sofa can save hundreds of dollars compared with an identical sofa made with cheap genuine “protected” leathers made from hides.
  • Faux fake leather materials can save thousands of dollars compared with identical sofas made with high quality natural leathers.

There is a lot of confusion about “faux ” or “fake” leathers.

Bonded leather and Leather match are the two most popular types of “leather” furniture currently being sold. They are especially popular with reclining furniture.

  • Bonded leather is a horrendous, unstable material that should be banned from use in furniture. Thousands of complaints about “peeling” bonded leather have appeared in customer reviews.
  • Problems with bonded leathers (and other fabrics) are rarely covered under warranty.
    • Multi-year guarantees are written in bold print near the top of the warranty document. Exclusion clauses, voiding the highlighted guaranties, are buried further down in smaller print.
    • These exclusion clauses will void the warranty if the damage is considered either “normal wear” or “customer abuse.”
    • Almost all possible damages fall into one of those exclusion categories. For example, use of cleaning or conditioning products, pets who sit on the furniture or exposure to sunlight can all be considered “abuse” of the furniture.
    • There is usually no cost-effective way to repair the damage.
  • Leather match uses low cost genuine leathers (from hides) on parts of the furniture where you touch (seats, backs, inside arms.) Places that are not usually touched (backs, outside arms, bases) are made using a matching vinyl.
    • The genuine leather used is a low cost “protected” leather that is heavily dyed to remove all visible flaws. This process also hides the natural grain of the hide.
    • An artificial grain is then engraved into the hide to match the vinyl being used on the rest of the sofa.
    • Although leather match is not as bad a product as bonded leather, there are still some serious long term drawbacks.
      • Leather made from hides and vinyl have different properties. Over time the two materials may expand or shrink at different rates, resulting in exposed seams where the two materials are sewed together.
      • Leather and vinyl fade at different rates. When new, there will be an almost perfect match in color between the leather and vinyl. After a few years there can be a significant variation in the shading of the two different materials.
      • Leather match is usually used on sofas or chairs with non-removable seat and back cushions. These non-removable cushions cannot be repaired or replaced if they become damaged or worn out.

      Uneducated consumers who purchase bonded leather or leather match fabrics often think that they are actually buying “genuine” leather furniture at discounted prices.
      About 50% of customers who shop for “leather” furniture do not understand what it is they are buying. “Fake” bonded leathers, polyurethanes, vinyls and leather match are all very different from each other. “Real” leather made from hides comes in dozens of different variations.

MyFurnitureForum.com is an excellent source for additional information and questions about leathers. The forum is especially informative about high quality leather furniture.

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