If you’re looking for a new piece of leather furniture, you may need to get familiar with different types of leather. There’re many types, including bonded leather, bicast, full-grain, top-grain, and PU leather.
In this article, we are going to talk about bonded leather, discuss how is it different from genuine leather, and how to take care of it.
What Is Bonded Leather?
Bonded leather is a mixture of real leather and other materials. It’s called ‘bonded’ because genuine leather scraps are made into pulp mixed with a binder, usually polyurethane (PU), to make bonded leather.
Leftover leather pieces are put into a mill and ground into very tiny pieces. Then, the pieces are rolled and glued to a paper backer using adhesive materials. Sometimes, additional coating and embossing are done with polyurethane to make the product look more genuine.
The percentage of genuine leather in bonded leather rarely surpasses 20% of the whole content. However, manufacturers may advertise their bonded leather products as genuine, while in reality, bonded leather is more fake than real.
Bonded leather is also called vinyl, composite, faux leather, or reconstituted leather.
How Is Bonded Leather Different from Genuine Leather?
There are many techniques for making bonded leather look like genuine leather. The better the PU bonding material, the harder it is to tell the difference between the two.
However, there are certain features that should help you tell the difference. The first one is price: bonded leather is far cheaper than genuine leather.
Bonded leather is thinner than genuine leather. It also has a more synthetic feel and consistent texture, which you can’t find on genuine leather.
The smell between the two types of leather is significantly different. Bonded leather often has a chemical smell. However, some manufacturers have tackled this, and it’s possible to find bonded leather that smells just like the genuine thing, so do not rely on this parameter alone.
Bonded leather is a relatively stylish, cheaper option, which is good for people just starting to equip their homes, and having no resources for large furniture investments.
However, bonded leather isn’t as long-lasting as the real one. Genuine leather gets a kind of patina over time, and is mostly impervious to wear and tear, , which is not the case with bonded leather. Furthermore, repairing bonded leather is not as simple as it is with genuine leather. Once it breaks, the damage will only accelerate, even if you patch it, because it will keep on pealing on the stitches.
How Long Does Bonded Leather Last?
If kept with care and used gently, bonded leather can last up to three years. However, the material can easily damage.
Since bonded leather is basically a single piece of material composed of many mashed pieces, it is not very solid. Body oils and fluids such as sweat can compromise this bonding, leave stains on the surface, and eventually lead to thinning and tearing.
Pets and children regularly using the furniture will likely shorten its lifespan, compared to only using it as seating for occasional guests.
Grit and dirt have an abrasive effect on the bonded leather, so it’s essential that you clean it regularly and use protective solutions.
How to Take Care of Bonded Leather?
If you want to make your bonded leather furniture last longer, proper care is essential. Regular cleaning, like wiping the surfaces is recommended, but don’t use harsh chemicals. Chemicals will literally peel off the coating. Instead, go for a slightly wet, soft cloth to remove dust, body oils, and other types of damaging debris.
If a particular piece of furniture is heavily used, weekly cleaning is recommended. For less used items, bi-week or even monthly cleaning is okay.
To protect the surface of your bonded leather chairs, consider using cushions over the seats, so that people don’t sit directly on them, thus slowing down the wear and tear process. If there is any kind of spill on the bonded leather chair, make sure to clean it up right away, as the stain will otherwise stay.
You can also use leather-protective chemicals such as a leather conditioner to add a protective layer to the material.
Finally, keep your bonded leather furniture away from fireplaces, heaters, or direct sunlight because they will dry it and speed up the peeling process.
Bonded Leather Pros and Cons
Before we wrap up, let’s summarize some of the most important bonded leather pros and cons. Should you, or should you not purchase furniture or other items made of bonded leather?
- Significantly cheaper price;
- Resembles real leather;
- Environmentally friendly: no piece goes to waste joined with a lower percentage of animal product used;
- Easy cleaning;
- Comes in a variety of colors and patterns.
- Compromised durability;
- Difficult to fix if damaged;
- Not as breathable as genuine leather;
- Can preserve a chemical or plastic smell.
Whether you should or should not buy a bonded leather chair, depends on your budget, needs, and type of chair.
There are quite good-looking and efficient ergonomic chairs that come at a lower price since they are made of bonded leather. La-Z-Boy Hyland and Bellamy models are excellent examples of that. In this case, you may want to compromise the quality of the upholstery to gain more ergonomic features.
Furthermore, if you’re only starting to equip your apartment with furniture, and aren’t yet ready to make big investments, bonded leather armchairs can be a great temporary option. There are some beautiful and even posh-looking models that you might want to fit into your living room, such as the Elizabeth Tufted armchair, or the Christopher Knight Home Freemont model.
Finally, when it comes to dining chairs, if you go for the bonded leather option, it’s highly likely that you will be satisfied. You will pay much less money, and once the wear and tear become so ugly, you can simply reupholster them. Several of these iterations will still cost you less than buying dining room chairs made of genuine leather.
Some of our favorites in this category of chairs are the Meco Stakmore Parson’s folding dining room chairs as well as these elegant Christopher Knight Home James dining chairs.
Buying chairs upholstered with bonded leather is a good option in some cases.
A certain degree of compromise is inevitable when it comes to the price-quality ratio.
If you’re uncertain about whether you should buy the bonded leather chair, think in terms of your budget, frequency of use, and speed of wear and tear.