There is a reason why real leather furniture is still in demand and is treated as a luxury material. It lasts for decades and develops a natural shine with use; traits that cannot be matched by bonded leather. This DecorDezine guide discusses the difference between bonded and real leather to help you make an informed purchase.
“An industry product made of a composition material consisting of 60% shredded leather fibers may be described as: Bonded Leather Containing 60% Leather Fibers and 40% Non-leather Substances.”
― Code of Federal Regulations
Genuine leather is not only expensive, but also very hard to come by these days. The leather industry has been taken over by bonded leather products that provide a similar look and feel as offered by genuine leather and at half the price.
Unlike genuine leather, bonded leather is not made from a single hide. Also known as reconstituted leather, bonded leather uses leftover scraps of genuine leather that are bonded using strong adhesive. This sheet may have an underlying hard-fiber backing/base that holds the bonded leather in place. However, where quality and durability are concerned, bonded leather does not do justice to that of genuine leather. The quality of bonded leather varies depending on its content of leather fiber, non-leather substances such as polyurethane, and its manufacturing process.
Bonded Vs. Real Leather
Bonded leather or vinyl is comparatively much cheaper than genuine leather. It is this fact that attracts so many potential buyers to consider bonded leather furniture. While a genuine leather sofa may run into thousands, a bonded leather alternative may fetch a consumer a handsome price at less than USD 1,000. However, the problem lies in the cost of repair. The reason being, genuine leather can be mended easily if it were to tear from a place or two. On the other hand, bonded leather disintegrates as a whole, making it difficult and more expensive to repair. Often, the damage is so extensive that the entire furniture may need to be reupholstered, which rarely is ever the case with genuine leather. Secondly, although bonded leather can be repaired and matched with similar bonded leather materials, the repair is almost always minor, temporary, and repetitive.
Real leather, on the other hand, does not have any of the aforementioned complaints. If looked after and used properly, leather furniture can last a lifetime.
Appearance and Design Options
One of the reasons people often opt for bonded leather furniture and other materials is because of the wide variety of sheen, colors, and grain pattern available. Being made of non-leather material as well, bonded leather can be manipulated to look more shiny, classy, and attractive than genuine leather. This type of leather is often given artificial grain patterns and colors that are not offered by genuine leather. This leather can be easily manipulated and used for making unique pieces of furniture.
On the other hand, genuine leather lacks this artificial sheen and does not come in as many attractive designs and patterns as bonded leather. Being a natural material, real leather is comparatively more difficult to be used for making edgy furniture designs.
Bonded leather is very easy to clean and maintain. The cleaning process is not time-consuming and simply requires that the furniture be wiped with a non-detergent soap and damp cloth every 2 – 3 weeks. This type of leather is vulnerable to fading, and thus, it must be kept away from excess sunlight.
On the other hand, genuine leather requires plenty of regular care so as to prevent mildew. Real leather must be kept away from moisture and may also harden with lack of it. Therefore, the perfect balance has to be maintained by cleaning this material with a leather cleaning lotion. Thereafter, protective polish must be sprayed on the leather to lend it some moisture resistance in the form of a thin protective coating.
Unlike real leather, bonded leather is more consistent and unless intentionally done, has no defects such as uneven surface or blemishes. Since bonded leather is manufactured in bulk, the product retains a more or less fixed standard of quality.
However, the quality of real leather depends on the quality of the hide, its tanning process, and treatment. Secondly, being a natural material, leather has several imperfections in its grain, which lend it its unique attractiveness and feel. Bonded leather, on the other hand, is manufactured to have artificial and even grain with consistent patterns.
Finally, real leather tends to acclimatize to the body temperature of the user, thereby, making it more comfortable for us to use the furniture. Unfortunately, bonded leather does not breathe like real leather and does not adjust according to the body temperature of its user.