You may have heard of the term bonded leather, but what is bonded leather? When we say that a sofa is made of bonded leather, does it mean synthetic leather? Is it sustainable? Do you have the money to buy a bonded leather sofa in your living room?
When we consider the types of leather used in current products, our goal is to provide the best information to help you make an informed purchase.
Ultimately, it depends on you and your budget. Better leather and construction cost more than lousy leather and structure. Sometimes the distinction can be based on personal taste. In other cases, trade confusion or unknown conditions may make you pay more for inferior goods.
Have you ever found a leather sofa for sale that looks so good to be true? Even if the item was promoted as bound or genuine leather, you should know that not all leather types are developed equally. The question you might want to ask is, what is bonded leather? Let’s take a look at what you get when you buy a bonded leather item and whether it’s a good buy or not.
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What Is Bonded Leather
Some know bonded leather or reconstituted leather is a term used to describe upholstery, which contains animal leather lining. It consists of a layered structure of a fiber or paper support covered with a layer of chopped leather fibers mixed with an embossed polyurethane binder, with a texture similar to the leather.
Bonded leather is a type of leather built with traces of crushed surfaces. It allows you to use smaller pieces and inferior qualities of leather in the finished products. This can be a positive thing because it reduces the amount of animal leather that is generated. It can also be an outlet through which the old worn leather can be recycled into newer materials. This type of leather is sometimes called reconstituted leather.
In a sense, bonded leather is like scrap metal or hot dog; it consists of pieces of finely chopped leather assembled with polyurethane or latex in a knitted or fiber/paper sheet. The amount of leather in the mixture itself can vary considerably (from 10% to 90%) and therefore influence the functional and aesthetic properties of the finished product.
The surface is often printed with a grain pattern to give the appearance of natural leather. A variety of different colors, sometimes bright, are applied to the surface, providing many options for the color of the finished product. This makes it a material available in many colors, styles, and textures.
The durability of this leather is generally lower than that of the real leather made from animal skin. The plastic used in producing bonded leather ends up making the product less flexible. Therefore, it can be worn and broken with a few years of use.
One advantage, however, is the cost. Because bonded leather uses leather and plastic scraps, it can be produced at a much lower price than any natural leather. It, therefore, found a market for a wide range of consumer goods. In general, this leather looks and smells like real leather; therefore, as long as it lasts, it can be desirable and inexpensive.
How Is Bonded Leather Made
How is Bonded leather made, you may ask? Well, there are several steps involved in making bonded leather. So, we are going to break them into different sections for easy understanding.
Cut Into Strips
Firstly, pieces of leather and fibers are broken. These can appear as scraps for the production of natural leather goods. They can also come from inferior leather, which cannot exceed the evaluation standards of the finished product, although they can be used absolutely in a bonded leather application.
The shredded leather fibers are mixed with a mixture of polyurethane or latex plastic. This binds them together while the threads are held by the plastic mix as it dries and solidifies. This is often called “paste” of bonded leather, with the same process name used in papermaking.
The specific elements of the mixture can vary considerably depending on the end-use of the material. Some may be denser, firmer, stronger, softer, or harder. Some of these mixtures are kept secret. Each contributes to the overall feeling and performance of good final leather.
The bonded mixture, when not yet dry, is extruded onto a flat back. Extrusion can occur by pouring and gravity or by machines that uniformly push the material.
The support is necessary because the glued material requires a safe place to dry and adhere to take its final form.
Once the pulp dries up, the leather can be colored. In general, it is a surface treatment that does not penetrate deeply into the material. While natural leather usually has an utterly penetrating dye, the color of the bonded leather is only applied to the surface (and does not penetrate through synthetic plastic). Virtually all colors can be added by paint to treat the surface.
Bonded leather can have an applied surface texture when colored. This is used to make it have its natural look. It can also be used to print a favorite, visually appealing pattern.
Although natural embossing of the leather is sometimes used to cover surface imperfections, the embossing of bonded leather is purely cosmetic for reasons of finish. The bonded surface of the leather is generally due to the assembly and extrusion processes.
This stage involves the application of synthetic surface protection. It gives the leather a shiny appearance. The finished surface can also contribute to a layer that protects the base material. “In general, these finishes are a transparent polymer resistant to water and scratches/abrasions.” Finishes can also include scents that help the smell of bonded leather like more natural leather.
Purpose of Bonded Leather
Bonded leather is usually used in the production of upholstered furniture. This can include sofas, stools, chairs, armchairs, and others. Because the cost is much lower than natural leather, many furniture stores offer bonded leather items at relatively low prices as a way to get “real leather.”
While this may be technically true, depending on the varying amount of leather present, it can be misleading as the performance of this leather type does not match natural leather. It is often used as a marketing strategy to draw attention to leather goods, without always being transparent about what the end product is.
Bonded leather is also used in books as a cover. Because the material protects well and can be molded with any texture, it offers an almost infinite amount of binding options. It can be available in practically any color, so the applications here are varied and inexpensive.
Clothes also benefit from this type of leather material. Bonded leather is also used in making some shoes and boots. The same can be done on the lining and even on the outer surfaces of clothing, jackets, pants, shirts, and hats.
For on-the-go use, bonded leather is often found in briefcases, backpacks, bags, protective cases, makeup bags, electronics protectors, and wallets. At home, it is in boxes for multimedia supports (CD and DVD), diploma covers, shirts, and other bags or protective bags.
In individual accessories, bonded leather is used for straps, belts, key chains, wallets, glasses cases, jewelry, credit card boxes, and in general, for small useful applications. It can be used for most products that would use natural leather.
How To Clean Bonded Leather
To get the best out of bonded leather, regular care is necessary. Do not apply harsh chemicals to it. These will remove the transparent layer of the material. Instead, use a soft, damp cloth to remove debris and to remove oils, and dirt from the body. If the sofa is used a lot, clean it at least once a week. Use a good conditioner to protect and preserve the surface.
Never place bonded leather under direct sunlight. This will cause discoloration and the weakening of the material. The heat will dry the leather and promote exfoliation. Bonded leather is sensitive to stains, so clean up any spills immediately. Like other leather types, this material requires regular cleaning to avoid stains and discoloration and conditioning to prevent cracks.
- Place the bonded leather out of direct sunlight from windows or lights. Although bonded leather is sturdy, it is vulnerable to discoloration when exposed to the sun.
- Clean with a soft, damp cloth to remove dirt and oil from the body. For stubborn dirt or stains, clean them with a neutral non-alkaline cleaner or soap, without detergent, and with a soft cloth. Test the cleaner on a selected area of the leather to make sure it doesn’t discolor or damage the surface.
- Repeat cleaning with a damp cloth every 2-3 weeks to remove dust and avoid stains. If the material is used a lot, you may need to clean it more often.
- Do not rub stains or splashes. This can cause rapid wear of the PAL leather.
- “Clean the sofa regularly to remove dirt, dust, and debris. Use a soft attachment to avoid scratching or tearing the leather and use a cracking tool to remove dust and debris hiding on the seams.”
- Apply a teaspoon of leather conditioner to use with leather products attached to a soft cloth. Leather balms are available at most leather furniture stores.
- Test the conditioner in a hidden area of the sofa to make sure it does not discolor the leather.
- Massage the balm on full leather, but avoid rubbing it. Pay attention to the most worn areas, such as chairs and armrests.
- Remove excess lotion with a dry cloth. Bonded leather ought to be treated with a good conditioner about twice a year.
Things you will need to take care of a bonded leather
- Soft cloth
- Rub – on leather conditioner
Note: Avoid using force when cleaning a bonded leather.
The Benefits of Bonded Leather
Some of the benefits of bonded leather are that it is environmentally friendly because it uses worn leather that would otherwise be sent to a landfill. It is cheaper than quality leather and is available in a variety of colors and looks for all pockets and styles. Some varieties are quite resistant and flexible for clothing, such as jackets.
- It has a smooth and uniform consistency, unlike real leather, which has imperfections in the general appearance.
- Bonded leather can be obtained in a variety of colors and styles.
- Bonded leather can feel more like real leather than artificial leather.
- Environmentally friendly: Reuse leather waste without additional farming
- Consistency of the product: without natural defects and minimal variation from one batch to another
- High cutting performance: economic and reduces waste
The disadvantage of Bonded Leather
While bonded leather is significantly less expensive than other types of leather, a leather upholstered sofa can be money-consuming in the long run if you plan to use it longer. Once the leather is split or cleaned, it is difficult to repair and may need to be covered. Therefore, bonded leather is only recommended for items that will be used infrequently.
Another problem in addition to the limited time is that it is less breathable and sticky in hot weather.
- Bonded leather is not so durable as real leather and has a short shelf life.
- The agglomerated surface is worn over time and can easily get scratched and peeled, unlike genuine leather.
- Color may fade in direct sunlight.
- Over time, bonded leather can release some of the chemicals used when the fibers come together.
- Bonded leather can be difficult to clean. Some cleaning products can be abrasive and remove the leather over time.
- Difficult or impossible repair or reconditioning after wear or damage
- Disassembly and “sweating” of poorly formulated plasticizers and other chemicals
- It is not usually as durable as real leather
Know More: Best Ways to Clean a Leather Couch At Home
Frequently Asked Question
Q: Is bonded leather as good as real leather?
Ans: No, bonded leather is not as good as real leather. It mainly consists of crushed leather fibers linked to a mixture of polyurethane (plastic) and lasts only a few years. Authentic leather will look more beautiful, work better, and last much longer. If you want to make a sustainable investment, genuine leather is the solution. However, bonded leather still has a valuable position in the market.
Q: Is Bonded Leather Durable?
Ans: No, bonded leather is not very durable. It is a mixture of leather and plastic, and flexibility is limited. Over time, it will begin to break, peel, and fade. Although new, the surface resists humidity and abrasion, and it takes about 2-3 years to wear out.
Q: Is Bonded Leather better than Vinyl?
Ans: Yes, it is better than Vinyl. Bonded leather is a synthetic material with leather fibers stuck to the back. The surface you are sitting on is 100% artificial, and you will feel just like your leather-like any other plastic surface while vinyl leather is PVC leather.
Q: Does Bonded Leather Crack?
Ans: Bonded leather is non-elastic. Therefore, it is are likely to disconnect or crack. Bonded leather is made from recycled pieces of leather treated with polyurethane (PU). When this layer of synthetic reaches its elastic point, the layer detaches from the leather straps, and it begins to crack.
Q: How to stop bounded leather from peeling?
Ans: Cut the part of hardened leather that came out of the foam or the pillow underneath. Small toilet scissors work best for this. Clean the area with a damp, lint-free cloth.
Hold a piece of fabric over the peeling area. If the kit is not supplied with a cloth, use a thin layer. Outline the material about 1/8 of an inch more substantial than the damage.
Hold the cloth with tweezers or your fingers. Hold it to the damaged area by sticking the edges under the perimeter of the leather attached with a toothpick. You can also use the tool supplied with the kit or the tweezers. Some repair kits indicate that only the backing fabric should be used to damage a specific size, usually 1/4 inch or more.
Apply a tiny layer of vinyl adhesive to the backing fabric, extending it to about 1/8 of an inch below the edge of the glued leather. Wait for the adhesive to dry. This creates a smooth and clean surface for the color mix and slightly increases the damaged area so that the finished patch is level with the lining that surrounds it.
Stand directly next to the sofa and check out the color guide that came with the kit for an overview of the colors you need.
Apply a thin layer of colored compound to the vinyl adhesive on the siding, mixing the color around the surrounding area to seal the exposed edges of the bonded leather.
Q: Is Bonded Leather Bad?
Ans: This question is subjective to individual opinion. However, bonded leather is not bad. Bonded leather is a small product whose primary purpose is to make people think about buying real leather furniture at an economical price.
Although there are various types of “bonded” leather, they are generally vinyl “polyurethane” or “bonded” fabrics on a support made of pieces of “real” leather from 10% to 20%. They were cut into small pieces, mixed with adhesives and other chemicals, and rolled up.
Leather goods are not a suitable support material. It does not “breathe,” which can suffocate the product.
Q: Will bonded leather hold up pets?
Ans: Not for long, it will weaken over time. Nevertheless, some damage caused by pets can be easily avoided. If you don’t like the appearance of the leather, but just the presence, you can add a case. Worn leather can help hide scratches and debris. Indeed, this could increase the character of the suffering aspect, making a stressful situation beneficial.
Bonded Leather is less resistant and more susceptible to crusts and cracks over time, bonded leather is not recommended for items that you plan to use frequently and that you intend to keep longer. However, if you are on a budget and want to replace the items in a few years, then bonded leather items will suit your needs. Bonded leather offers several advantages in terms of price and proximity to the appearance and smell of real leather. If you are considering a purchase or material for a new project, this type of leather is an option that can be explored. However, it requires proper care.
Learn More: What is PU Leather? All You Need to Know