If you’ve ever been leather furniture shopping, you’ve probably seen the term bonded leather and wondered if it’s the same thing as faux or genuine leather. The answer: It’s not. Bonded leather is an entirely different category of leather, though it has some of the same characteristics of both faux and real leather.
What is bonded leather?
Bonded leather is a mix of faux leather and genuine leather. Bonded leather manufacturers take scraps of real leather – often remnants from the manufacturing of real leather items — and combine them with polyurethane. The mixture is often applied to a backing — typically paper — while the front is made to look like genuine leather. The vast majority of bonded leather contains as little as 10% genuine leather.
Low-quality bonded leather often doesn’t last as long as even faux leather, and certainly won’t last as long as genuine leather. Bonded leather is prone to cracking and peeling. We typically recommend avoiding bonded leather for this reason. Sadly, it is often used on furniture, and manufacturers frequently inaccurately advertise it as real leather.
Because it does contain a small amount of genuine leather, bonded leather is not vegan.
Bonded leather vs. faux leather
The main difference between bonded and faux leather is quite simple: Bonded leather contains some genuine leather, while faux leather does not. Bonded leather is also typically less expensive than faux leather.
Faux leather is sometimes called pleather, vegan leather or PU leather. The PU stands for polyurethane, which is what faux leather is typically made out of.
One common misconception is that you need to condition faux and bonded leather — typically, this is not the case. Faux leather is nonporous, which means a leather conditioner designed to penetrate the leather – like Leather Honey — cannot be used on faux leather. This is also often the case with bonded leather, though some high-quality bonded leather will contain enough genuine leather to absorb a leather conditioner.
Instead of conditioning, use a gentle cleaner like Leather Honey Leather Cleaner to clean faux and bonded leather as needed.
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Which is more durable: bonded leather or faux leather?
Interestingly, faux leather is more durable and often lasts longer than bonded leather, due to the way bonded leather is manufactured. Because bonded leather is applied to a backing typically made of paper or another thin material, bonded leather can crack and peel after only mild use.
Though some furniture manufacturers sell bonded leather conditioners or other care products, there is very little that can actually be done to effectively prevent this. The worst-quality bonded leather will very quickly deteriorate, which is frustrating because it is often used on high-use items like leather chairs and couches. If only bonded or faux leather is in your budget, we recommend going with faux leather as it is likely to last longer.
Bonded and faux leather vs. genuine leather
Genuine leather is exactly what it sounds like — real leather made from an animal hide. Genuine leather can be processed, dyed and treated in a variety of ways, and there are countless types of genuine leather, including aniline, suede, top-grain and full-grain.
While genuine leather can sometimes be coated in polyurethane as a protective measure (this is particularly common with leather car interiors) it generally is not and should be made of 100% animal leather. Genuine leather is porous, and can dry out over time — it is necessary to replace that lost moisture.
Real, genuine leather will typically be significantly more expensive than faux leather or bonded leather, but with proper care, it can also last significantly longer – you can pass down genuine leather pieces for generations, which is rarely the case with faux or bonded leather.
Maintain Your Bonded or Faux Leather
To maintain your genuine leather, be sure to condition every six months with Leather Honey, which infuses the leather with moisture, makes it more flexible and prevents cracks, scratches and other damages.