Leather comes in so many types that it gets confusing to understand the minute differences between each of them. For example, genuine leather is not the best quality leather. Bonded leather is a combination of two types. Faux leather is not even leather. Then comes vegan leather, which is not made from animal hide!
Does it end there? Of course not. There are such tiny differences between certain types of leather that it’s easy to label one type as another. This article will help you make out the differences (and similarities) between bonded leather, faux leather, leatherette, and more.
Years of working with leather have given us immense knowledge of this wonderful material, and we like nothing more than to share it with fellow leather lovers.
What is Bonded Leather?
Bonded leather is made from the leftover scraps of genuine leather. These bits are bound with a polyurethane (PU) binder and rolled together using adhesive. This is then processed to make upholstery covers or other such items.
It is often cheap and comes in multiple colors. Bonded leather does smell like genuine leather though it looks much smoother and doesn’t have any imperfections that are a trademark of genuine leather. Naturally, it is not durable and doesn’t age well. Old bonded leather will look faded, have scratches all over, and will start to peel off.
A few manufacturers add another PU coating on bonded leather and emboss it to make it look like real leather. However, bonded leather contains around 20-30% genuine leather, while the rest is PU.
What is Faux Leather?
Polyurethane is a synthetic material used to make artificial leather. This leather is also known as faux leather and is widely used to make upholstery, covers, and jackets. Faux leather is made of PU or PVC-Vinyl (Polyvinyl Chloride) to create a uniform pattern and make it better than genuine leather.
Though faux leather is not really leather (made from animal hide), it looks and feels a lot like it. It is also cheaper, water-resistant, and highly versatile. Not just that, if you want leather that doesn’t require as much maintenance as real leather, faux leather should be your go-to choice. It also lasts longer though faux leather is not as durable as real leather.
It is not as hard as genuine leather. However, it doesn’t fade like bonded leather and is UV-resistant. It is easy to stitch faux leather, though the manufacturing generates a lot of environmental waste.
Faux leather is definitely not as good as real leather, but it is a decent alternative and comes within your budget.
What Is Leatherette?
Leatherette looks and feels very much like leather. But they are two different things. Leatherette is artificial leather made to resemble the real one. It can be of natural or synthetic materials but doesn’t contain even the tiniest bit of animal hide.
It is not that durable as genuine leather but can still last for about a decade if you take good care of it. Though it is water-resistant, leatherette is less porous and hence sweats in hot conditions.
Leatherette doesn’t age well over time. The uppermost layer will crack, allowing the cloth layer to peek out. Leatherette is used more to make upholstery and comes at a lower price. Still, you’ll need to consider the climatic conditions in your region before you choose leatherette furniture.
What's the Difference Between Bonded Leather, Faux Leather and Leatherette?
Bonded leather is a mix of leftover scrap of genuine leather (10-30%), and PU materials or vinyl glued together and rolled into a flat sheet. It is again coated with PU to make it look like genuine leather. It’s less expensive but doesn’t last long and peels away as it gets older.
Faux leather is fake leather (faux is a French term for fake) and is made using PU or vinyl materials. Polyurethane leather is softer and resembles leather compared to vinyl leather. This makes PU faux leather a better choice for residential upholstery. Also, it is less expensive but doesn’t last as long as vinyl leather.
Leatherette is also synthetic and doesn’t contain real leather. It can be made of PU, vinyl, polyester, or a combination of all three. Leatherette is made by covering a fabric base with a layer of plastic. The fabric can be natural or synthetic, and the plastic is either PU or vinyl. The use of plastic makes leatherette fully water-resistant. It is not porous and doesn’t breathe as real leather does. It is also less expensive and budget-friendly.
Other Types of Leather
Full Grain Leather: It is made using the top layer of the animal hide and is the best quality you’ll ever find. Full-grain leather is expensive, highly durable, and looks better with age. It is water-resistant and doesn’t tear or break over time.
Top Grain Leather: This is actually the second layer of the animal hide after the skin is removed. This layer is sanded to remove the imperfections and is thinner than full-grain leather. It is also less durable but is still real leather that has been processed quite a bit.
Split Grain Leather: This is a product of top-grain leather and is cut from the second or third layer below the surface. It is pigmented and has a grainy texture. It is much weaker and less durable than top-grain leather.
Genuine Leather: This is real leather but of the lowest quality. The term 'genuine' only means that it is real and is not a reflection of quality. Genuine leather is a lot less durable and comes at a cheaper price. It is also doesn’t get better with age.
Suede Leather: This is made from the inner layer of animal hide. It is processed and is hence soft and flexible. But it is not water-resistant and is easily stained.
Another classification of leather is based on the animal whose hide is used- cows, buffaloes, sheep, kid (baby goat), alligator, crocodile, snake, deer, horse, etc.
Also Check: 9 Things to Look For Before Buying Leather Bag
What is Imitation Leather?
Imitation leather is artificial leather that looks very much like real leather. Of course, it doesn’t have the quality, breathability, or durability as real leather, as these are hard to replicate. Though real leather is famous and costly, imitation leather is used as seat covers for residential and commercial purposes.
Similar to real leather, imitation leather also comes in different types. It is graded based on the materials used in manufacturing and is less porous (and more water-resistant). It is pocket-friendly price and easy to maintain.
Difference between Genuine leather and Top Grain Leather
Genuine leather is just one step above the lowest quality leather. In fact, it is pretty much the last quality available that’s made using real leather. With genuine leather, we don’t know which layer of animal hide is used or how it’s processed. We only know that it’s still real leather, though it doesn’t have durability or high-quality leather texture.
Many brands use the term to confuse customers by calling genuine leather top quality. Remember, genuine leather is not full grain or even top grain. It is not the best.
Top grain leather is the second quality of leather and is made using the second layer of animal skin. It needs to be sanded, buffed, and polished to remove the dents and scars. The top grain leather is processed until it is smooth and soft. Furthermore, it is water-resistant and lasts for a decent time. However, top grain leather is further graded based on the quality of the animal hide used.
What is PU Leather?
We’ve mentioned PU leather multiple times by now. PU is short for polyurethane, a thermoplastic polymer material that’s artificially manufactured. PU leather is 100% artificial. It doesn’t have real leather and is also considered vegan leather.
It is easy to identify PU leather as it looks synthetic and smells of chemicals/ plastic.
It is easy to clean and maintain PU leather.
It is water-resistant and doesn’t dry out with age.
PU leather comes in various colors and styles.
It is not durable and can tear easily.
It is inexpensive and doesn’t age well. PU leather doesn’t develop Patina as genuine leather does.
Though it requires fewer resources, it contains plastic and is not eco-friendly.
What is Vinyl Leather?
Vinyl leather has been in production in the US since the 1940s. Vinyl leather is also artificial leather though it is not as breathable or soft as PU leather. Vinyl leather is a preferred choice for commercial purposes as it is more durable than other types of artificial leather.
Vinyl leather repels moisture and is not porous.
It is usually made using two synthetic materials- polyester fibres coated with PVC and plasticizers for strength.
Vinyl leather can sweat in the sun, causing things to stick to the surface.
It is easy to clean and maintain. It can also be decorated with designs to add to its appearance.
Vinyl leather is costlier than PU leather but not as expensive as real leather.
What is Air Leather?
Air leather is also known as leathaire. It was first manufactured in a Chinese laboratory. It is a product of micro-perforated PU material and is a type of synthetic leather. It is usually used for decorative purposes and cannot sustain much wear and tear.
Compared to other artificial leathers, leathaire has tiny pores that make it breathable.
It is more comfortable to sit on air leather during hot days as the material doesn’t sweat or stick to our skin.
Though air leather is not as strong or durable as real leather, it does have a life expectancy of 3 years (given you take good care of it).
It is smooth and comes in several colours, but it is easy to identify it as fake leather.
Air leather is affordable and comes with a budget.
What is Bicast Leather?
Bicast leather is a type of PU leather that contains teeny bits of real leather. It is an inferior quality of barely real leather though it has the properties of both real and synthetic leather. It is made using split leather covered by a layer of PU material.
Bicast leather was first used to manufacture glossy shoes. It was then adopted by the furniture and upholstery industry.
It can be easily cleaned and maintained because of the outer PU coating.
However, it is neither durable nor strong as the inner layer is split grain. In fact, bicast leather will start to crack and peel off in less than a year.
In a way, bicast leather is similar to bonded leather though the manufacturing process is different.
What is Considered Vegan Leather?
Vegan is a term used to describe items that do not have any animal or dairy product. But leather is made from animal hide. Vegan leather is faux or fake leather that is made from natural (plant-based) or synthetic materials. It is pretty much an oxymoron, isn't it? If you want leather that’s not real leather, you pick vegan leather.
Though vegan leather doesn’t harm animals, it is still harmful to the environment. It is made using PVC, PU, vinyl, polyester, and other materials. However, PVC leather is not called vegan leather. PU leather is termed vegan as it is softer and has a better appearance.
What is Leather-Bound?
Leather is not the same as bonded leather. Leather bound is a term used in the bookbinding tradition. Real leather is a versatile material and can hold the pages in a book for a long, long time. Leather-bound books are made using different types of leather, such as vellum, calfskin, Moroccan, skiver, and even bonded leather.
The leather is then decorated through embossing, gold tooling, border designing, or blind tooling to give it an added texture and appeal.
Vegetable Tanned Leather (Cowhide) is one of the most premium and durable leather in the market. If you are looking for leather bags in vegetable-tanned leather, look no further than F&L. Don’t get confused between real and fake leather. If you have any questions, ask us, and we’ll help you clear up your doubts. We have created this article after carrying out a good research. Invest in the highest quality leather and get the best for your money.