All You Need to Know About Bonded Leather | What is it? How is it made?

WHAT IS BONDED LEATHER?

Bonded leather is called ‘leather’ because it incorporates scraps of leather remnants, which comprise between 10-20% of its content. The scraps of leather are made into a pulp and stuck to a fibre or paper backer which is then coated with polyurethane and embossed to give it the appearance of genuine leather.

HOW TO TELL IF ITS BONDED LEATHER

The price of an article is an immediate indication as to whether you are buying genuine leather. At a glance, bonded leather may look like the real thing but it will feel thin to the touch and will lack the softness of real leather, it may also exude a chemical smell.


WHAT IS BONDED LEATHER MATCH?

This term refers to the ability of bonded leather manufacturers to replicate the appearance of real leather, although it is likely that the product may be dyed in a striking range of unnatural colours.

HOW IS BONDED LEATHER MADE?

Composition of this material varies considerably and is often a trade secret but in principle its manufacture is similar to the production of paper. Shredded leather scraps and fibre are mixed with bonding materials and extruded onto a fibre or paper backing cloth. The material can then be dyed and embossed with a leather like texture, although the colour and patterning are only a surface treatment. A polyurethane treatment gives the surface a glossy finish.

WHY BUY BONDED LEATHER?

For most people this will be a choice dictated by the comparative low cost of the product; some may choose bonded leather because it can be regarded as environmentally friendly, in so much as it uses left overs and does not involve additional farming and, potentially, reduces landfill. The product is also easy to clean and is likely to come in a wide range of design options.

HOW TO CLEAN BONDED LEATHER

Bonded leather should be wiped with a clean damp cloth and wiped dry with a different cloth. Spilt liquids should be cleaned immediately but no detergents or abrasive cleaners should be used. Non-alkaline cleaners and non-detergent soaps can be used but the material should always be tested for colour fastness on a small unobtrusive area first.

HOW DURABLE IS BONDED LEATHER?

Bonded leather is not a durable product. Generally, furniture made from bonded leather is likely to peel and crack within two to five years.

WHAT CAUSES BONDED LEATHER TO PEEL AND CRACK? 

Bonded leather is a non-elastic material; therefore, it has a tendency to crack with use, strips of polyurethane and leather will then start to peel away from the backing.

WHY IS BONDED LEATHER BAD?

Compared with leather, bonded leather has a very short lifespan. It is prone to cracking and peeling and once it has deteriorated beyond a certain point it is impossible to repair. Although a bonded leather may be cheaper than real leather, it’s short life span means that in the long run the cost of replacing a bonded leather item can be more expensive. There is also the argument that this also makes it less environmentally friendly.

HOW TO REPAIR BONDED LEATHER  

There are repair kits on the market which enable you to make small repairs to bonded leather. The affected area must be sanded to remove any protruding bits of leather, a patch can then be dyed to match or the fabric under the peel can be dyed and sealed to stop further peeling. The resulting repair will be noticeable but will be an improvement.

HOW TO FIX BONDED LEATHER SCRATCHES  

First clean the area with a white cloth to ensure that no dye is transferred. Then mix a leather repair solution together with an appropriate tint. Add a small quantity of the mixture to the affected area and around the affected area. Then place leather grained paper, supplied with the kit, over the area and gently iron with a warm iron, this will transfer the pattern to the repair. Be careful to ensure that the iron is not too hot because it may discolour or damage the bonded leather. For minor scratches, it may be possible to affect a repair with the use of shoe polish. You should also check any new products on a small inconspicuous area of the leather item first.

BONDED LEATHER VERSUS FULL GRAIN LEATHER 

Full Grain leather is the top layer of the hide with all the grain, hence its name. It’s considered the highest quality leather, which is why MAHI chooses to use full grain leather for all its products. It has a natural beauty which is enhanced with age and its vertical fibres make it extraordinarily strong and durable. Unlike bonded leather, it’s extremely durable and it will not crack, peel, tear or puncture.

BONDED LEATHER VERSUS TOP GRAIN LEATHER 

Top Grain leather is the second highest grade quality of leather and is the lower part of the top layer of the hide. One removed it is sanded and refinished. It comes in two grades, aniline, which is natural soft leather which is vulnerable to stains and semi-aniline which has a protective coating. Top Grain leather is comprised of twelve to fourteen percent water and consequently it adjusts to body temperature: it is cool in summer and warm in winter. With bonded leather the reverse is the case.

BONDED LEATHER VERSUS REAL LEATHER 

Real Leather, also referred to as Genuine Leather is the third grade of leather, taken from the lower, thinner layer of the hide. The surface is then reworked to resemble a higher-grade leather. It is not as tough as Full grain leather or Top Grain leather but is considerably more durable than bonded leather.

BONDED LEATHER VERSUS FAUX LEATHER 

Faux leather, sometimes referred to as Pleather, contains no animal products and is made from polyurethane. It can be embossed with any texture and looks and feels like genuine leather. It is water resistant and easy to clean. Unlike bonded leather it does not crack or fade in sunlight, it is however, easy to tear or puncture. It is also considered less environmentally friendly due to the chemicals and toxins used in its production – although this varies depending on the exact process and materials used to produce it.

BONDED LEATHER VERSUS DURABLEND

Durablend is a low-cost leather alternative, similar to bonded leather and comprising of 57% polyurethane, 26% poly/cotton and 17% leather shavings. It is the trademark product of Ashley Furniture. Customer reviews suggest that it shares similar weaknesses with bonded leather in so much as it scratches easily and is prone to cracking.


BONDED LEATHER VERSUS VINYL 

Polyvinyl chloride, popularly known as Vinyl or PVC is a faux leather which has been produced since the 1940’s by chemical companies like DuPont. It is used for shoes, car interiors and upholstery. Not as breathable as bonded leather, skin tends to stick to its surface, which makes it unpleasant seating in hot weather, it is easy to clean and maintain. Like bonded leather it cracks with use and is easy to puncture.

BONDED LEATHER VERSUS MICROFIBER 

A much more sophisticated form of faux leather: polyurethane resin and ultra- fine microfiber bundles are combined to replicate the microscopic structure of leather. The complexity of its construction mean that it is more expensive than other faux products but it does have a number of advantages over bonded leather. It doesn’t scratch or tear and is non-fading. It breathes like real leather but it also has ant -bacteria and anti-mildew properties. Unlike bonded leather it is completely odourless.


BONDED LEATHER VERSUS REXINE 

Rexine is the registered trademark of a British artificial leather which has been produced since the 1920’s. Essentially a cloth backing is coated with cellulose nitrate and embossed to produce the illusion of leather. Primarily used for car interiors this is now regarded as retro faux leather and as such is sort out by collectors.


BONDED LEATHER VERSUS BICAST

Bicast is constructed using a split leather backing to which a layer of polyurethane is applied. The surface is then embossed to give the appearance of leather. It shares many of the qualities of bonded leather: it has a consistent texture and is easy to clean and maintain but it doesn’t breathe like leather and it lacks strength and durability.

BONDED LEATHER VERSUS LEATHERETTE 

Leatherette is a plastic based synthetic leather. Unlike bonded leather it does not scratch and it does not fade in sunlight. Like most faux leather, it does not breathe and is unpleasant next to the skin. Although it might be the preferred choice of those who don’t like to use animal products, it is made from non- biodegradable, non-renewable materials and is therefore considered less environmentally friendly.

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