Bonded Leather vs. Faux Leather: How To Tell the Difference

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 type of leather, though it has some of the same characteristics of both faux and real leather. Let's take a look at how to tell the difference between bonded leather and faux leather. First, a brief explanation of both.

Bonded leather

Bonded leather is made from a small amount of leather scraps and fibers. It is mashed into a pulp, then binded to a paper or fiber backing using polyurethane.

Faux leather

Faux leather  — sometimes called polyurethane leather or vegan leather— is an artificial leather made of thermoplastic polymer. It contains no real leather.

5 differences between bonded and faux leather 

1. The leather. The main difference between bonded and faux leather is quite simple: Bonded leather contains some genuine leather, while faux leather does not. While bonded leather typically only contains between 10 to 20% real leather, it is there. That makes faux leather a good choice for those seeking a vegan option.

2. The cost. Despite containing actual leather bits, bonded leather is typically less expensive than faux leather. Bonded leather is the cheapest form of all leathers because it is generally extremely thin. That leads us to durability. 

3. The durability. 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 cracks and peels after only mild use. If you are shopping for an affordable leather product, we suggest going with faux leather over bonded leather because faux will likely last longer.

4. The appearance. Both bonded and faux leather are made to resemble real or genuine leather. However, they both look and feel almost nothing like real leather. Bonded and faux leather have a uniform look, while genuine leather has imperfections. Bonded and faux leather also feel thin and synthetic, while genuine leather is extremely soft and thicker. Between the two, bonded leather typically feels thinner and more synthetic than faux leather.

5. The smell. Smell can be a big component to buying leather products. While genuine leather has a gentle, natural odor, bonded and faux leather tend to have strong, artificial odors. Bonded leather usually smells a bit more like real leather than faux leather. That is due to the small amount of leather used to make the product.

How to maintain your bonded or faux leather

Bonded leather is more difficult to clean than faux leather because of its tendency to crack and peel, so we recommend cleaning gently with Leather Honey Leather Cleaner and a soft cloth. With faux leather, you can also clean with a gentle leather cleaner like Leather Honey. You do not need to condition faux or bonded leather, as it doesn't dry out the way genuine leather does and won't absorb a leather conditioner. (Some bonded leather that has a high genuine leather content can be conditioned; ask the manufacturer for care instructions if you're not sure.) 

As for your genuine leather, be sure to clean it regularly and condition it every six months with Leather Honey Leather Conditioner.  


Keep reading:

How Is Leather Graded?

How to Protect Your Leather Couch From Scratches

Leather Care Guides

Leather Patina: What You Need to Age Leather Beautifully


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