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What is Bonded Leather?

What is Bonded Leather?

What is Bonded Leather? | Complete Guide

Bonded leather is a combination of leather scraps, leather leftovers, and a bonding agent (typically plastic). It is then pressed into sheets that can be used as is for upholstery or to be made into finished leather goods. The use of bonded leather has been controversial for many years. While it is cheaper, easier to produce, and closer to the look and feel of actual leather, it is not considered real leather by many people. The primary reason for this is that the bonded leather is not an original part of the animal, but rather a manufactured material that can lack durability and often looks different from real leather.

Bonded Leather
Close up of bonded leather

Bonded leather is derived from leather fibers and polyurethane resin, which are mixed and bonded together. It has a paper or fiber backing. Essentially it is recycled leather.

This type of leather is one of the most common types of leather used in personal accessories like wallets, purses, backpacks, and wristbands.

It has some advantages that have made it so popular and common. In this article, we will examine the advantages and disadvantages of this material.

What is Bonded Leather?

In Bonded Leather there are remnants of leather, which constitute between 10-20% of its content. The remnants are ground up and coupled with a fibrous or paper backing to form a pulp formulation that is coated with polyurethane. The polyurethane coating adds a protective surface and helps hold the material together.

A leather called bonded leather is made from leather scraps ground up into a powder. This makes it possible to use lesser pieces of leather, which normally would end up in waste.

Occasionally, old, worn leather is reconstituted into newer materials with the aid of a machine. This kind of leather is called reconstituted leather, or blended leather.

In a way, bonded leather is a mixture of scraps bonded together using polyurethane or latex. The bonded leather mixture can range from 10% to 90%. The percentage of leather used for the mixture influences the aesthetic and functional properties of the product.

To give the impression of natural leather, the surface of the leather is often stamped with a grain pattern. The surfaces are embossed with a variety of colors, sometimes vivid ones, so the color of the finished product can be customized. This makes it a versatile material that's available in a variety of color and texture combinations.

Leather made of synthetic materials is much less durable than leather made out of natural leather. This is because the plastic used to make them ends up making them not so flexible. Thus, they crack and wear out from just a few years of use.

Generally speaking, bonded leather is less expensive than fully natural leather, since it is produced from scrap leather and plastics. Since it looks and feels like real leather, it is one of the latest trends today.

What are the uses of Bonded Leather?

Upholstered leather furniture is often made from bonded leather as opposed to natural leather since the cost is much less than natural leather. Thus, this means that furniture stores offer bonded leather at a relatively low price as a means to own real leather.

Technically it is true, but given the variations in the percentage of leather present, it can be misleading since this type of leather performs much worse than natural leather. It's often an easy way to get customers interested in leather, without being transparent in the fact that it is really leather.

Peeling Bonded Leather

Various types of bonded leather are also used on books as covers due to their durability and the fact that they can be shaped into any shape. They can also be made in any color, which makes them perfect for varied applications.

The linings, for example, or externally facing surfaces of clothes, jackets, pants, skirts, and hats, could be made of this type of leather. Shoes and boot pieces might also have this type of leather.

This type of leather is commonly used in laptop, camera, and media storage cases, media storage bags, and diploma covers. It can also be found in backpacks, laptop cases, and makeup bags for travel use.

Bonded leather is used for making belts, straps, wallets, key chains, eyeglass cases, sunglasses, jewelry boxes, key rings, credit card cases and more.

Pros & Cons of Bonded Leather

Pros

• Low cost leather compared to other types

• A wide variety of colors are available.

• A variety of surface textures are available.

• Several types of leather goods can be made using this product.

• Available in extremely large sheets (for bonded leather furniture)

• Can mimic the look and smell of leather for a short time

Cons

• Does not have a lot of flexibility

• Cracks appear after just a few years of use

• Tears and scratches to leather are more difficult to repair than in natural leather

• The leather is not as long lasting as natural leather.

• Feels different from leathers that are more natural in texture

• The condition usually worsens over time, whereas some natural leathers look/feel better as time goes on

How is Bonded Leather Made?

In principle, its production is similar to paper as well, though its composition can differ significantly.

The leather scrap and fibre is mixed with bonding agents and extruded onto a backing cloth with either a fibrous backing or a paper backing.

It can then be treated like leather by dyeing and embossing, even though the color and pattern were inserted into the material only as a surface treatment.

Glossiness is achieved with polyurethane treatment.

Bonded Leather scraps
Scraps of Leather to be used to make Bonded Leather

1. Shredding

Shredded leather scraps and fibers are ground up from high intensity machines, and from lower grade hides. These can come from the trimmings left from the production of natural leather goods, or discarded in the production of bonded leather products, or just leftover scraps in general.

2. Mixing

When shredded leather is mixed with a polyurethane plastic mixture, the fibers are held together as they are connected by the plastic mixture when it settles and solidifies, giving leather fabrics this "pulp" name from the similar paper processing process.

Some mixes may be dense, strong, firm, soft, or hard, while other may be more supple, dense, firm, strong. Trade secrets are kept about some of these mixtures. Each of these mixtures enhances the overall characteristics of the final leather product.

3. Extrusion

After it has been bonded, the mixture is then extruded onto a flat backing. Extrusion may take place by gravity or by machines that push the mixture evenly out onto the backing.

Typically, the backing is made of a paper or fiber. The backing accompanies the bonded material and helps it adhere and take the final shape.

If needed, the mesh can also be created from a fine fiber, plastic, or metal. This allows for more gripping areas to hold the pulp, and it dries more readily after the pulp has been extruded onto the backing.

In bookbinding, bonded leather might have a paper backing, while in upholstery it might be on a fabric backing.

4. Dyeing/Coloring

Colors can be applied to leather that has dried on the backer after the pulp. This is normally a superficial treatment that does not penetrate very deeply into the material.

Colors penetrate fully into natural leather, but not into synthetic leather. Any colored dye can be applied to the surface of plastic to treat the surface.

5. Stamping/Embossing

When the bonded leather has been colored, it can be given a surface texture to simulate the natural grain of genuine leather. This may also be used to create a design that is visually appealing.

Stamping natural leather is sometimes used to cover blemishes, but stamping bonded leather is designed to finish its surface. Due to the bonding and extrusion process, the bonded leather finish is usually pretty even.

Based on what type of goods it will be used for, different textures could be incorporated into the final product. Due to the fact that this is a mostly synthetic material, bonded leather offers a chance to introduce stylish and functional textures.

6. Finishing

Finishing bonded leather with synthetic surface protectants is usually done after it has been stamped/embossed. This process yields a shiny appearance to the leather.

These finishes are generally polymers that resist water and scratches/abrasions and provide a layer of protection to the material beneath.

Scents can also be applied to the finish to help make the bonded leather smell like natural leather.

How to Tell if it’s Bonded Leather

An article's price is one of the best indicators of whether it is genuine leather. Bonded leather may at first glance resemble genuine leather but will not feel thin to the touch and will lack the softness that real leather offers, and it may have a chemical smell.

Bonded Leather
Difference between real, bonded, and PU Leather

Leather Content of Bonded Leather

Based on the goal of the final product, leather and plastic can be bonded to various formulas and percentages for bonded leather. This has the benefit of using leather in bonded leather solutions for future uses.

Customers also find it confusing how much leather is used in the leather production of bonded leather products.

Generally, the fraction of leather and non-leather materials should be specified to the consumer in America by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The guide states:

"(f) Ground, pulverized, shredded, reconstituted, or bonded leather. A material in an industry product that contains ground, pulverized, shredded, reconstituted, or bonded leather and thus is not wholly the hide of an animal should not be represented, directly or by implication, as being leather. This provision does not preclude an accurate representation as to the ground, pulverized, shredded, reconstituted, or bonded leather content of the material. However, if the material appears to be leather, it should be accompanied by either:

(1) An adequate disclosure as described by paragraph (a) of this section; or

(2) If the terms "ground leather," "pulverized leather," "shredded leather," "reconstituted leather," or "bonded leather" are used, a disclosure of the percentage of leather fibers and the percentage of non-leather substances contained in the material. For example: An industry product made of a composition material consisting of 60% shredded leather fibers may be described as: Bonded Leather Containing 60% Leather Fibers and 40% Non-leather Substances."

A standard was developed by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) regarding bonded leather.

"The minimum amount of 50% in weight of dry leather is needed to use the term 'bonded leather'."

Standardization continues over time. It is crucial to have an agreement between the various divisions of the commercial world on what the term "bonded leather" should mean.

Bonded Leather Durability

The fibers in bonded leather are not as accessible to conditioning and treatment as those in natural leather. Over time, the surface of the binding wears, the plastic deteriorates, and the material cracks.

Since bonded leather is polymer-based rather than natural leather, it is able to protect itself against abrasions and moisture. However, once it starts to wear out, it becomes difficult to repair, usually within about 2-3 years.

Bonded Leather Peeling

The plastic-based nature of bonded leather means that it will need to be used more carefully than natural leather.

Due to the fact that the natural fibers are not exposed, this type of leather cannot be treated or cared for the same way that natural leather can.

The bond leather begins to separate from it's backing when it's frequently flexed, as a result of sitting and moving around furniture. After a certain period, it starts to flake and peel away.

When upholstery pieces come off in this way, they are no longer uniformly colored, and the underlying layers of the fabric become exposed. This results in an unappealing piece.

Bonded Leather Quality

Bonded leathers are usually less durable then natural leather. This is mostly because they are not made from natural leather, but instead it is made from a polymer containing some leather grains and fibers.

For furniture or personal accessories, approximately 2-4 years is a relatively short period of time for bonded leather to crack, flake, or break down.

It really comes down to taste and budget for bonded leather goods vs. natural leather goods; a cheaper bonded leather item can be repurchased every few years vs. a more expensive natural leather item that would last for decades.

How Durable is Bonded Leather?

Bonded leather does not last for long. Usually, it usually peels and cracks in two to five years.

What Causes Bonded Leather to Peel and Crack?

Due to its inflexibility, bonded leather tends to crack easily with use, strips of polyurethane and leather will then start to pull away from the backing.

Why is Bonded Leather Bad?

Compared to leather, bonded leather lasts very little time. It cracks and peels easily and once it deteriorates it cannot be repaired.

Even though the cost of bonded leather may be cheaper than genuine leather, it will eventually break down, making it more expensive to replace. It's also less environmentally friendly due to its short life span.

Full Grain Leather is Better than Bonded Leather
Full Grain Leather is the best type of Leather

Bonded Leather Vs Other Leather Types

We can take a look at how other leather items compare when choosing what type of leather item to buy.

Bonded Leather vs Genuine Leather

Any layer of the hide can be used to make genuine leather, and the surface is corrected to make it appear uniform.

A final surface appearance can be achieved by sanding or buffing the wood to remove defects, spray painting or stamping it to dress up its surface.

Leather obtained through this process has characteristics that make it undesirable to use for luxury goods, such as belts and shoes.

Genuine leather is still made of natural hide, so it will last longer and perform better than bonded leather.

Bonded Leather vs Full Grain Leather

Generally, only the hair on full grain leather is removed. This cut makes use of the outer layout of the hide, sometimes known as the "grain".

Generally, the grain consists of a bunch of leather fiber that are densely packed and fine; this enables the grains to achieve very strong, durable, and durable surfaces.

Due to the fact that the surface does not undergo sanding, it may have a few imperfections. It might have been caused from where a cow rubbed up against a fence, a small cut from everyday life, or scrapes.

Leathers with full grains and few blemishes are the most sought after. Because blemished hides are not normally found, they are considered the most visually appealing.

The Dagny Weekender - Full Grain Leather Bag
The Dagny Weekender - Full Grain Leather Bag

The surface fibers make it more durable than any other leather type, making it excellent for saddles, shoes, and furniture.

With preservation of the outer layer, it develops a distinctive patina (a surface color change resulting from use) that can be beautiful. Water-resistance qualities are also provided by the outer layer.

The finest quality leather available today is Full Grain.

As opposed to full grain leather, bonded leather does not perform as well, nor will it last as long.

Bonded Leather vs Top Grain Leather

The top layer has been sanded and/or buffed in order to remove irregularities and imperfections in the finish of this cut.

Various dyes and finishes can be applied to the leather, which makes it softer and more pliable.

The sanding may make the leather look and feel more attractive, but it removes some of the strength and water-repellent properties of full grain leather. The tradeoff occurs between leather strength and leather appearance.

A soft and supple leather, top grain leather is popular in the manufacture of handbags, wallets, and shoes.

Within a few years, bonded leather will start to crack and flake, and performs poorly compared to top-grain leather.

Bonded Leather vs Faux Leather

The faux leather material is made of polyurethane or vinyl, and is designed to look like real leather. Faux leather is much less costly than authentic leather.

As opposed to genuine leather, it is extremely durable, inexpensive, and easy to clean.

However, it doesn't have properties of real leather such as lasting longer, being stretchable and breathable, being resistant to cuts and abrasions, or having that unique natural look/feel.

Unlike bonded leather which tends to flake and crack over time, faux leather stays a consistent consistency of the material.

An in-depth analysis of faux leather is available here.

Bonded Leather vs Imitation Leather

Fake leather is generally more durable than bonded leather in terms of flaking and cracking than imitation leather.

Leather looks and smells more like leather when it is new, but wears out much faster.

Bonded Leather vs Vinyl

As previously discussed, vinyl leather is another term used to describe faux leather. It is a type of leather that does not flake or crack over time as bonded leather will.

Bonded leather can look and smell a bit more like leather at first, but wear out much faster.

Bonded Leather vs PU Leather

As mentioned above, PU leather is another name for faux leather. It does not peel and crack as easily as bonded leather does.

The leather look and smell of bond leather will be a bit stronger in the beginning, wear out much faster than other leathers.

Bonded Leather vs Leather Bound

There are two types of leather, natural and bonded, that may be used for book bindings. Natural leather will last longer, will be more durable, and will tend to be softer. Bonded leather may be less expensive, but will deteriorate more quickly.

Bonded Leather vs Bicast Leather

Leather is applied to the surface of Bicast by splitting it., hence the name split leather. The polyurethane layer is then applied, with the surface embossed to appear leather-like.

Despite many of its characteristics, it doesn't possess the strength and durability of leather but it has the same texture and is easy to clean.

Bonded Leather vs Leatherette

It is an artificial leather made of plastic, which is soft to the touch and doesn't fade with sunlight, unlike bonded leather or most other synthetic leathers.

Despite the fact it might be the preferred choice of those who do not want to use animal products, it is less eco-friendly owing to its non-biodegradable construction.

Bonded Leather Care & Maintenance

It can look nice and smell great for a few years if handled well, maintained properly, cleaned frequently, and preserved properly.

How to Clean Bonded Leather

Due to how it is finished, bonded leather can be cleaned gently by wetting the cloth gently. Try to avoid using lint and loose fibers, since this could transfer to the leather's surface. A microfiber cloth could work well here.

Make sure that the cloth is not going to transfer any color to any material surface (couch, leather sofa, leather chair, bag, purse, etc.) by testing in a small area first or on a separate bonded leather piece.

A soft brush can easily remove dirt and grime from leather if the item needs further cleaning. Simply wet it lightly and gently brush it over the leather, taking care not to press too hard.

After the brush is used well, cleaning off any remaining dirt/dust with a damp cloth is a good idea. After the item has dried off completely, you can use it/store it.

Stains can be difficult to remove. In a situation where what you are cleaning goes beyond dust or grime, additional care might be required. First, consider what the stain is made of.

If it's a common substance, a gentle cleaner might work. If not, an appropriate cleaner may be necessary.

Consider using cleaners designed specifically for bonded leather if it's a more substantial stain. These will help treat the stain while also helping to maintain the surface finish.

If you want to make sure the cleaner doesn't discolor the bag, be sure to test it on a small, inconspicuous area first. You don't want to put a second stain in the bag while cleaning it.

How to Condition Bonded Leather

Due to its protective finish, bonded leather does not require conditioning. And it doesn't even need to. The surface finish protects the leather underneath. It also acts as a barrier that conditioners cannot penetrate.

Cleaning bonded leather products is easy thanks to the protective surface that makes them easy to maintain. If the protective layer begins to wear away, additional protectants can be applied to help restore it.

Some of these products will be applied using a cloth or applicator, and others sprayed on and wiped off. Read the directions on all finishes before applying them, and always test on a small area first (to make sure that it will not ruin the surface).

How to Fix a Scratch on Bonded Leather

Firstly, clean the area thoroughly with a white cloth so no dye is transferred. After that, make a small mixture of a leather repair solution with a tint and apply it to the repaired area and around the repaired area.

You can then place leather grained papers and iron them to the repair, which will allow the pattern to be transferred. Only use a gentle touch-a hot iron will ruin the bonded leather.

Repairs for small scratches can be achieved using shoe polish. New products should be tested first on a small, inconspicuous area of the leather article.

How to Fix Tears in Bonded Leather

It may be difficult to fix tears in bonded leather because the leather is a leather/plastic blend. So you may need a repair kit with a filler to fix the tear.

In addition to fabric or flexible glue, the color-matched liquid included in the repair kit can also be used as a filler. Since the item will probably get used or sit, the filler must be flexible once dry.

Once the tear has been filled, just fill the visible scratch above it. Pour the color-matched liquid over the crack. Once this has been applied, it may need to be evened, heated, given a pattern, and then allowed to dry. Then the scratch should be filled.

How to Store Bonded Leather

Storage of Bonded Leather should be carried out in a cool, dry area. Keeping it out of direct sunlight is crucial, as a person may ruin the protective finish. Most furniture is kept indoors, making it a perfect place for them.

If you have leather clothing or accessories, keep them within reach of extreme moisture, and keep them out of sunlight.

Related Questions

Is bonded leather as good as real leather?

No, Real leather will look and last better for much longer, and with it perform better. Bonded leather is mostly made from ground leather fibers that are bonded with a polyurethane mixture. This binds them together, which is why it can last only for a few years.

Is bonded leather durable?

A blend of leather and plastic, bonded leather is not very durable. It has limited flexibility and will crack, peel, and flake over time. When first installed, it resists moisture and abrasion for about 2-3 years, though eventually wears out.

How long will Bonded Leather last

Since it is made from a blend of plastic, bonded leather will begin to crack and wear out within 2-3 years, sooner for items that are regularly used.

Does bonded leather crack and peel

Due to its inflexibility, bonded leather tends to crack easily with use, strips of polyurethane and leather will then start to pull away from the backing.

What bonded leather really means

Bonded leather is derived from leather fibers and polyurethane resin, which are mixed and bonded together. It has a paper or fiber backing.

How can you tell if leather is bonded or real

Bonded leather may at first glance resemble genuine leather but will not feel thin to the touch and will lack the softness that real leather offers, and it may have a chemical smell. Here is an in depth article about how to tell if leather is real.

Which is more durable faux leather or bonded leather

Unlike bonded leather which tends to flake and crack over time,while not the same as real leather, ironically faux leather stays better longer than bonded leather.

Is bonded leather faux leather

No, bonded leather is made using scraps of real leather. While this does not last as long as real leather it also not completely faux leather.

How long should a bonded leather couch last

Bonded leather, especially on a leather couch, does not last for long. Usually, it usually peels and cracks in two to three years.

The Welch Messenger bag made with Full Grain Leather
The Welch Messenger bag made with Full Grain Leather

Conclusion

Overall, bonded leather is a very inferior product in comparison to other leather. It is however cheap which is probably the reason why many consider purchasing it. There is however no harm in purchasing bonded leather. Likewise, it is important to learn the pros and cons before buying. In instances where you do own bonded leather, it is equally important to know how to properly use and take care of it. It might be inferior but with proper care, you can still make the most of it.

Best Alternative to Bonded Leather: Full Grain Leather