What is Bonded Leather? Leather comes in so many quality and types that average consumers are often confused when they’re offered a mix of leathers, especially when it is down to buying new furniture. Bonded leather is a composite of artificial materials and genuine leather.
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How is bonded leather made?
Bonded leather is comprised of 10%-20% genuine leather and polyurethane binder. Both of these raw materials are then combined and then glued to a paper backing to create a seamless layer. Manufacturers make use of leftover scraps of genuine leather to create bonded leather.
Some manufacturers may double the quantity of polyurethane to improve the durability of bonded leather. Embossing is also done to improve the texture and visual aspects of the bonded leather, which makes the leather more attractive, and therefore more marketable.
Quality and Durability of Leather
The main advantage of choosing bonded leather is that it costs far less than genuine leather. Bonded leather is not real leather as it contains a maximum of 20% genuine leather only.
Additionally, bonded leather is consistently smooth and attractive, albeit with a shorter lifespan. Genuine leather naturally has imperfections because leather is animal skin, and animal skin doesn’t have the perfection of being embossed.
You get what is natural when you invest in genuine leather. So if you like consistency, go for bonded leather, and not real leather. Bonded leather also comes in a variety of styles and colours.
You can get as creative as you want with bonded leather, for sure. And finally, bonded leather smells good – it can feel like genuine leather, and if you take care of it, it will last longer.
Now for some of the disadvantages of choosing bonded leather: by and large, bonded leather is less durable than genuine leather. In short, it will deteriorate faster than real leather. Genuine leather, once aged, can potentially last a lifetime if the manufacturing process is high quality, too.
So expect furniture with bonded leather to not be as durable as furniture done with genuine leather.
Bonded leather also shows signs of wearing away after a short period. We are talking about scratch marks, peeling, flaking, and the like. Genuine leather rarely shows overt signs of deterioration, unless the leather is exposed to adverse conditions or the leather is subjected to items or tools that can wear down or puncture its surface.
Bonded leather is also weak against the direct heat of the sun, and its colour will quickly fade with sun exposure. And if you are a vegan, bonded leather is not a vegan product based on what vegans agree to be standards for what a vegan product should be.
Another thing that you should think about when buying a bonded leather is the off-gassing or the release of chemicals in the air as the bonded leather ages.
To be fair to products like bonded leather, even plastic containers exhibit tendencies for off-gassing for an extended period, so this phenomenon is not new, nor is it limited to bonded leather. Manufacturers use different compounds to secure the individual leather fibres to the main canvas of bonded leather, and that high-quality adhesion requires potent chemicals to pull off.
How to tell if it is bonded leather?
Many manufacturers write “real leather” even when the leather is not 100% genuine leather. Marketing terms can easily frustrate people who just want to know what the real deal is with the furniture they’re buying. The number one indicator that what you are buying is bonded leather is the price. Bonded leather will always be cheaper by a league compared to genuine leather, so it would be best first to scan the market so you can get different price indicators and make the right decision.
If you bought something and the manufacturer indicated that it was real leather, but you ended up with leather that began to peel after a year or so (or even earlier), then it is quite possible that you bought bonded leather and not the genuine article.
What’s genuine leather like?
There are two kinds of genuine leather: top grain leather and split hide leather. Top grain leather has a higher quality than split hide leather. This kind of leather is described as soft and almost buttery, and it is breathable too. Top grain leather is often placed in front of furniture, where people sit, to give them a better experience overall with their genuine leather furniture. Split hide leather, on the other hand, is slightly rougher and is not as comfortable to sit on. This type of material isn’t as breathable as the top half or top grain leather. Bottom half or split hide leather is used for the sides and back of furniture.
Bonded leather or faux/vinyl/reconstituted leather can never be genuine leather because of its composition. Additionally, manufacturers are known to incorporate additional materials to the blend to make the final product more marketable. Manufacturers can add dyes, polish, and other binders to strengthen the content and improve their visual qualities. However, despite all these efforts, genuine top grain leather can easily outlast bonded leather – up to four times, based on the average lifespan of top grain leather versus bonded leather.
Genuine leather will not flake and brush away over time. Genuine leather becomes more durable as it cures and dries, which would explain why leather articles from centuries ago can survive if they are kept away from moisture and moulds. This can only mean that if you want a worthy investment, you are going to have to invest in the genuine article.
However, if you do not have the budget for it, there is nothing wrong with settling for bonded leather at the moment. Bonded leather will still look good, and when you are ready for a more lasting investment, just head over to genuine leather furniture, and you’ll be surprised as to how much longer the leather will last even with constant use.