Leather is a luxurious material that has been used for centuries to create furniture, clothing, and other accessories. It’s no wonder that so many people are confused about what “bonded leather” is. Is it really leather? And if not, what is it? In this article, we will explore the truth about bonded leather and answer these questions once and for all.
To kick things off, let me give you a short summary of our question of the day. Bonded leather is not real leather. It is a man-made material that is made from scraps of leather that are glued or bonded together with a polyurethane or latex backing.
This type of leather is often used to create furniture, clothing, and accessories because it is more affordable than genuine or real leather. While bonded leather may look like the real thing (real leather), bonded leather does not have the same durability or quality.
What’s Bonded Leather Made Of?
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s dive a bit deeper into our topic.
- Scraps Or Leather Off-Cuts
As I mentioned before, bonded leather is made from scraps of leather that are glued together. These scraps can come from anywhere; they may be leftover pieces from other projects or they could be bits of leather that were cut away during the tanning process.
Bonded leather is also usually made from lower-quality leather scraps – in a way to put all those leather scraps which would have ended up in landfill sites, to good use.
- Bonding Agents
The next ingredient in bonded leather is a bonding agent. After the leather scraps are obtained, they are ground and bonded onto a sheet of fibrous backing using special adhesives and resins.
The fibrous backing can be either fabric, and the most common bonding agents are latex or polyurethane.
- Polyurethane Sealant
Once the bonding agent has dried, a polyurethane sealant is applied to the surface of the leather. The sealant helps to protect the leather from water and other elements, and it also gives bonded leather its characteristic shine.
- Coloring And Finishing
Another common ingredient in bonded leather is color. To give the leather its desired color, dyestuffs and pigments are added to the surface of the leather. Once the color has been applied, a clear polyurethane coating is added to seal the color and protect it from wear and tear.
Why Is Bonded Leather Often Confused With Real Leather?
I’m sure you can see how this type of leather could be easily confused with the real thing. After all, it is made from actual leather! However, there are a few key differences that set bonded leather apart from genuine or top-grain leather.
The Presence Of Real Leather
As mentioned before, bonded leather contains leather that has been ground up and glued together. The percentage of leather present in bonded leather can vary depending on the quality of the product.
For example, lower-quality bonded leather may contain as little as 20% real leather, while higher-quality products can contain up to 80% real leather.
The Look Of Bonded Leather
Most manufacturers are able to imitate real leather by embossing the surface of the bonded leather with a leather grain. This gives bonded leather its characteristic look and feel.
This not only makes bonded leather very similar to genuine leather, but it also makes it difficult to tell the difference between the two types of leather without a closer inspection.
The Feel Of Bonded Leather
Another thing that confuses people is the fact that bonded leather feels very similar to real leather. This is because the surface of the leather has been sealed with a polyurethane coating, which gives it a smooth and supple feel.
Also, some manufacturers are able to achieve a similar level of softness by adding a layer of fabric to the back of the leather.
However, this smoothness is only skin deep; once you take a closer look at bonded leather, you’ll notice that it doesn’t have the same natural markings or irregularities that you would find on real leather.
Reasons Why Bonded Leather Is Not Real Leather
Just so that you do not confuse the two types of leather, here are a few key differences between real and bonded leather and the reasons why bonded leather isn’t real leather.
1. Real leather is made from a single piece of animal hide, while bonded leather is made from scraps of leather that are glued together.
2. The percentage of real leather in bonded leather can vary depending on the quality of the product. But all in all, you can never have bonded leather without any real leather content.
3. Real leather is a natural product, while bonded leather is a combination of both real leather and synthetic materials. This is why you can not call bonded leather synthetic or vegan leather.
4. The lifespan of real leather is much longer than that of bonded leather. Bonded leather will only last a few months or up to a year if you’re lucky.
5. Real leather looks and feels more luxurious than bonded leather.
6. Real leather has a distinctive smell that some people love and others hate. Bonded leather, on the other hand, has little to no smell. In some instances, bonded leather will have a mild chemical smell that isn’t natural.
7. Real leather is breathable, while bonded leather is not. This means that real leather will age better and develop a patina over time, while bonded leather will not.
8. Real leather is more expensive than bonded leather. This is because it is a natural product that takes longer to source and produces.
9. Real leather is better for the environment than bonded leather. This is because it is a natural product that does not require the use of chemicals and synthetic materials.
How To Tell The Difference Between Bonded Leather And Real Leather
Now that you know the difference between bonded leather and real leather, you might be wondering how you can tell the two apart. Here are a few tips that will help you:
Look For a Label Or Stamp
- Usually, most sellers will gladly brandish a label or stamp that says “real leather” if their product is made of 100% genuine leather. However, this isn’t always the case for bonded leather.
- In most instances, you’ll find a label or stamp that says “bonded leather” or “leather match.” These labels are usually placed on products that contain less than 50% real leather.
Inspect the Surface
- If you’re still not sure, take a closer look at the surface of the leather. Real leather will always have natural markings and irregularities, while bonded leather will appear to be smooth and uniform. Bonded leather might also have a plastic or synthetic look and feel to it.
Check the Price
- Real leather is usually more expensive than bonded leather. This is because it is a natural product that takes longer to source and produces. However, this isn’t always the case as some companies might inflate the price of their bonded leather products. So, be sure to do your research before making a purchase.
Check the Backing
- If you can see the back of the leather, take a close look at it. Real leather will have a soft and porous backing, while bonded leather will have stiff and non-porous backing.
Do the Water Test
- One foolproof way to tell the difference between real and bonded leather is to do the water test. Simply sprinkle a few drops of water on the surface of the leather. If it beads up, you’re looking at real leather. If the water is absorbed immediately, then you’re looking at bonded leather.
- Next, take a sniff. Real leather has a distinctive smell that some people love and others hate. Bonded leather, on the other hand, has little to no smell. In some instances, bonded leather will have a mild chemical smell that isn’t natural.
- Last but not least, touch the leather. Real leather is soft and supple, while bonded leather is stiff and rigid.
Now that you know the difference between real and bonded leather, you can make an informed decision about which one is right for you. Keep in mind that real leather is a natural product that will last longer and age better than bonded leather. It’s also more expensive and better for the environment.