Why does leather peel?

There are two main factors that can cause your leather to peel. It is important to know and understand these two factors so you can be able to care for your leather item.

The reason leather items peel is that they are made of artificial leather or the leather is a very low type quality of natural leather called bonded leather. Synthetic leather cracks, peels and fades with time. Pieces of natural leather bonded with adhesives can also peel with time.

Usually, in some rare cases, you will find parts of natural leather peeling, but it is not the leather itself that peels, but the type of finish applied to it or leather that has not been cared for and maintained a long time. On the contrary, I would say with all certainty, that, it is most definite that your leather bag, shoes, hats and the like, made of synthetic leather will crack and peel with time.

As you may notice, there is natural leather, bonded leather, and synthetic leather and if you want the leather Item you bought or will like to buy to withstand time void of cracks and peels then you would want to read more on this article.

What is Natural leather?

Leather is material from animal skins and hides. The animal is killed and then skinned. The skin or hide is processed by a tanning process. The end product of the tanning process is what is known as leather.

Natural leather has qualities that make it durable and the most preferred choice. Natural leather can withstand extreme weather conditions, has an amazing ability to stretch without breaking, puncture-resistant, it can be molded and formed to one’s preferred shape and can last life long.

To be able to enjoy the longevity of your leather article in all of its beauty and glory, the leather has to be maintained by cleaning and moisturizing just like you do for your lovely skin. You can clean your leather by dusting it off or cleaning it with a bar of mild saddle soap. After cleaning, you should use leather conditioners to nourish and restore the natural oils of the leather.  

Why does Natural leather peel?

When there are signs or sights of peels and cracks on your leather article made of natural leather, it is usually not the leather itself that is cracking but the type of finish that was used on the leather. In other cases, natural leather will appear to peel or have cracks when you have applied a wrong type of cleaning agent, or wrong conditioner or failing to care and maintain the leather for so long.

Lastly, leather will surely peel when you use a sharp object to incise it. There is a high percent chance that your leather item made of natural leather will hardly peel or crack. Natural leather has outstanding popularity of becoming richer and darker with time and not cracking or breaking apart with time.  

What is bond leather?

Bond leather contains pieces of genuine leather but it is not real leather. Bond leather may contain only 5 to 10 percent of natural leather. It is also known as faux, vinyl or reconstituted.

Bond leather is made by the use of recycled pieces of natural leather, stuck together with strong adhesive and attached to a polyurethane overlay and will peel away with a bit of stretching. The pieces of natural or genuine leather are obtained during the processing of genuine leather.

The leftover pieces of natural leather are blended together and when used to make leather items will allow you to enjoy the look of genuine leather at a fraction of the price of natural leather.

Compared to natural leather, it is much cheaper and purchasing leather items made of bond leather can only save you money for a very short while.

Why does bond leather peel?

Bond leather is made using small amounts of natural leather together with an adhesive making it susceptible to cracks and peels with the least abrasion. Bond leather does not have the same stretch and elastic ability of natural leather because its not 100 percent natural leather.

Most producers will add finishes of coatings that will make bond leather look like natural leather. Be careful not to fall prey to such gimmicks. Later in this article, we will discuss some characteristics of bond leather to help you identify one when you see it.

What is synthetic leather?

Synthetic leather is a by-product of the petroleum industry. Synthetic leather is plastic leather cloths with coatings of Polyvinyl Acetate (PVC) on cotton (not all synthetic leather are backed with cotton though). 

It is marketed under different kinds of names such as leatherette, vegan leather, PU, and pleather.

Generally, they are made by coating fabrics with chemicals such as propylene. In using polyurethane to produce synthetic leather, it begins by laying out its base with fabric. Then the polyurethane coating is applied and finished off by coloring and a textured finish to look like natural leather.

With that said, it, however, has different manufacturing methods like press off among other manufacturing methods.

Why does a synthetic leather peel?

Synthetic leather peels because it is not natural leather and does not have the same endurance level. Its material makes up of polyurethane and polyvinyl acetate makes it less durable and can most of the time start to peel, crack and fade in only a few months and sometimes within weeks.

Unlike natural leather, there is little you can do to care and maintain synthetic leather to prevent peels and crack.

What are the differences between natural leather, bonded leather, and synthetic leather?

It has almost a perfectly smooth surface. Some come with surface markings or impressions intentionally created for pure aesthetics.
Natural leather comes in a limited number of colors and can be dyed. The comes in a wide range of colors and cannot be dyed.
Has irregular shapes Has regular shapes
Natural leather breathes through the natural pore it has. Synthetic and bond leather does not breathe
It can be stretched It cannot be stretched
It is very sensitive to humid conditions it is not sensitive to humid conditions compared to natural leather

What are the similarities between natural leather, bonded leather, and synthetic leather?

Although clearly different in their makeup, natural leather, synthetic leather and bond leather share some similarities that may trick you. Their similarities are:

  • All three types of leather can be used in making bags, wallets, shoes, wall hangings, etc.
  • All three types of leather have two surfaces.
  • All three types of leather are relatively flexible.
  • When all three are used to make leather items, decorative techniques like on-lay and in-lay applique and weaving techniques can be done on them.

1. How to fix peeling leather(natural leather)

The finishing coating and color of natural leather will first start to peel. Repair the peeling leather by:

  1. Scrub off the peeling leather with mild soap and brush and dry clean with a towel.
  2. Give the leather an adhesive surface to be able to receive the new dye you apply.
  3. Wipe the surface of the leather with alcohol(denatured ) and allow to dry
  4. Sand the surface with 240-grit sandpaper to further remove damaged leather and remove debris.
  5. Gently apply a prep sprayer
  6. With a color that matches the leather spray 2 -3 coats allowing each coat to dry.
  7. With a color that matches the leather spray 2 -3 coats allowing each coat to dry.

2. How to fix peeling bonded leather or synthetic leather;

  1. Get a good bonded leather repair kit
  2. Cut the part that is peeling  off
  3. With a bit of water clean the peeling area with a lint-free cloth
  4. Add the backing fabric from the purchased repair kit
  5. Apply vinyl adhesive over the area and allow to dry
  6. Apply the paint material from the repair kit match the leather area
  7. Sand off(320-grit sandpaper) to even out the surface after drying


Hi! I’m Kwabena, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leathercraft enthusiast and I’ve been that for almost 13 years now. I'm excited to share my experiences and all the new stuff I learn each day about leather craft, leather cleaning & care, and everything in-between!

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