When shopping for leather seats and other leather items, you might have come across different types of leather with a different feel and at different price points and may be wondering which one to go with. The most common types of leather are bonded leather, faux leather and genuine leather. We tell you which one to choose in the sections below.
Genuine leather is the best version of leather as it lasts the longest, ages well and is the most durable. Bonded and faux leather are both synthetic versions of leather although faux leather is better than bonded leather. In choosing between bonded leather or faux leather, faux leather is a bit costly but worth the money.
Bonded vs Faux vs Real Leather: Comparison Table
The main similarities and differences between the three types of leather are as follows:
|Bonded Leather||Faux Leather||Genuine Leather|
|Low; prone to peeling||Medium; resistant to peeling and cracking||High; only cracks with poor care|
|Small bits of animal hide||No animal hide||100% animal hide|
|Low; Easy to clean||Low; Easy to clean||High|
|Lasts up to 2 years||Lasts at least 2 years||Lasts up to 20 years or more|
|Unlimited style, patterns and colors||Unlimited style, patterns and colors||Limited designs and colors|
|Thin and stiff||Soft and supple||Stiff and thick, softens with time|
|Not breathable||Not breathable||Breathable|
|Off-gasses||Synthetic smell||Earthy smell|
|Minimal variations between products||Consistent appearance||Unique individual products|
|Ages poorly||Appearance maintained||Ages well; develops patina|
|Stain-resistant||Stain-resistant, doesn’t fade||Easily stains, vulnerable to UV light|
|Easily punctures and tears||Easily punctures and tears||Resistant to tears and punctures|
What is Bonded Leather, Faux Leather and Real Leather?
The three types of leather stand for the following:
1. Real Leather
Real or genuine leather (or simply ‘leather’) is the top outer part of the skin of animals such as cattle or buffaloes which is processed to attain a certain color, feel and texture.
2. Bonded Leather
After the manufacture of real leather, the remaining pieces (fibers and scraps) are then mixed with a polyurethane binder then bonded and embossed on to a paper backing. A coating of polyurethane is then added to mimic the texture of genuine leather. Often, bonded leather has about 20% genuine leather. Bonded leather is also called blended leather or reconstituted leather.
3. Faux Leather
Faux leather (also called PU (polyurethane) leather, pleather, leatherette, vegan leather, leather air, leather gel) is an artificial type of leather made purely from thermoplastic polymers. Faux leather is vegan given that it doesn’t use any animal products.
However, bicast leather is a type of faux leather that combines thermoplastic polymers with the fibers that are left over in the processing of genuine leather. A layer of polyurethane is then added as a finish. This type of faux leather isn’t vegan. As such, when comparing PU leather vs faux leather, the difference is that PU leather is just a type of faux leather. Faux (French for ‘false’) leather is a term applied to any leather that isn’t genuine.
Ultraleather (ultra-leather) is the best type of synesthetic leather as it made to provide the best user experience while looking very much like real leather. Ultraleather is a synthetic type of leather made with a strong polyurethane molecular structure that makes it durable, long-lasting, sustainable, luxurious and easy to clean. It can be seen in most high-end upholstery such as airplane seats.
Differences Between Bonded Leather, Faux Leather and Genuine Leather
The main differences between these types of leather are as follows:
In terms of cost, genuine leather is the most expensive followed by faux leather then bonded leather. Real leather is expensive given the difficulty in getting the raw materials and the whole manufacturing process. When comparing bonded leather vs leather, bonded leather is much cheaper as it’s made from the remnants of real leather and some synthetic materials.
2. Appearance and Texture
Genuine leather has an inconsistent texture that’s also smooth and soft. This is due to the natural formation of the skin on the animal as it grows and interacts with the environment around it. Genuine leather is also breathable and has an earthy smell to it. For those with allergies, real leather is the best as it’s hypoallergenic (doesn’t cause allergies and allergic reactions). Genuine leather isn’t easy to manipulate and thus has limited designs. It’s also easy to find a unique design when it comes to leather chairs.
Faux leather can look quite like real leather although it has a consistent texture to it. Depending on how good the manufacturer was at mimicking real leather, faux leather can appear quite similar genuine leather or poorly synthetic. It has a synthetic, plastic-like smell to it.
Bonded leather, on the other hand, is quite synthetic in appearance and often has an off-putting synthetic smell. It’s also quite thin. Both bonded and faux leather are non-hypoallergenic and a good number of people may have allergic reactions to them. They’re both easy to manipulate and manufacture hence have unlimited designs.
In general, if you touch a piece of leather and it has woven fabric backing in the underside, that’s not genuine leather.
3. Durability and Longevity
Genuine leather is the most durable of the three types of leather discussed here. When properly taken care of, real leather doesn’t peel or crack and instead develops a beautiful patina on the surface. Real leather can last for 20 years or more. Since genuine leather is tough and durable, it doesn’t tear or get punctured easily. Being biodegradable, genuine leather won’t harm the environment at the end of its life.
Second in durability is PU leather (faux leather). While not as durable as genuine leather, faux leather outlasts bonded leather since it’s made of synthetic materials which can be quite tough. Faux leather lasts at least 2 years with proper care although it starts to degrade after that. Faux leather easily gets punctured and can develop cracks in the wrong environment. It’s also non-biodegradable and non-breathable.
Bonded leather peeling is caused by the top synthetic layer coming off after some use. When comparing bonded leather vs genuine leather, the longevity of the two is one of the main differences. While genuine leather can last for 2 decades, bonded leather lasts up to 2 years. You can easily scratch and puncture bonded leather. Bonded leather hyper-allergenic (can cause allergic reactions) and isn’t breathable. It’s also not biodegradable hence can harm the environment if not disposed of well. Bonded leather durability is low.
4. Care and Maintenance
Real leather absorbs liquids and thus can easily stain and make it difficult to clean. As such, you’ll need to treat real leather at least twice a year if you want a long life from it. The treatment also keeps it soft and supple and aids the aging process to form a patina. Patina on leather is the rich weathered look that comes with age and use. Do not use abrasive cleaners on leather since they damage it.
Faux leather is the easiest of the three to clean as it doesn’t absorb liquids and can thus be wiped with wet clothing to remove stains. As it ages, faux leather will maintain its looks before starting to get damaged.
Bonded leather is a bit delicate when it comes to cleaning and general maintenance. When in good condition, you can easily wipe it down with a wet piece of cloth to clean it. When it starts peeling, you’ll need to keep it dry as the underlying paper will get damaged by liquids.
In choosing between faux leather, bonded leather and real leather, you need to know that the debate is basically between real and faux leather. This is because all types of leather that aren’t natural or genuine are faux leather. Even better, faux leather is the best version of the non-natural types of leather and thus is the best of the synthetic leathers.
When looking for an office chair or any other type of leather item, real leather should be the first on the list as it has the best quality and lasts the longest. However, if you want to get a synthetic version, go for faux leather. In our opinion, bonded leather is no good. It’s the cheapest but won’t serve you for long. A real leather recline chair can serve generations of users with proper care.