Bonded leather vs Faux leather

by Albert Varkki updated 08-03-2023

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bonded vs faux leather

There are many terms in the leather industry that mean specific things to the experts, but to regular shoppers they all sound the same.

Bonded leather versus faux leather is a great example.

To many, it may seem that these are the same thing, but to leather experts, they could almost not be farther apart.

IMPORTANT: If you want the best type of leather for your purchase, then you should always choose "full grain leather". At Von Baer, we always use that for our bags.

Below, we go over what bonded and faux leather are, as well as the key similarities and differences:

Bonded leather

In order to make bonded leather, tiny leather scraps and fibers are cut up and then mashed into a pulp, like wood is processed in paper making.

Once the pulp is prepared, it is spread flat and thin on a paper or fiber backing, using polyurethane as a bonding agent.

The final result looks and feels a bit like faux leather, but there are differences, as you’ll see below. For the moment though, let’s take a closer look at faux leather.

bonded vs faux leather sofa

Faux leather

Faux leather goes by a couple of other names too. You may not have heard of polyurethane leather, but I’d be willing to bet you’ve heard of vegan leather – leather made without using any animal-derived products at all.

All of these, faux leather, polyurethane leather, and vegan leather, are the same thing. These names all refer to a leather-like fabric that is made of thermoplastic polymer. Inf act, there is no real leather in it at all.

5 Key Differences Between Bonded and Faux Leather

  1. Animal Products – The biggest difference between bonded and faux leather, is that bonded leather contains scraps of animal skin (between 10 and 20% in fact), whereas faux leather does not.
  2. Cost – Bonded leather is usually cheaper than faux leather, even though it contains actual leather. It is usually extremely thin, and that thinness leads us to the difference number three.
  3. Durability – Faux leather usually lasts longer than bonded leather. Neither of them is particularly suitable to hard or rough use, but of the two, bonded leather breaks down much more quickly in most cases.
  4. Appearance – The object of both faux leather and bonded leather is to offer a cheaper (and also vegan, in the case of faux leather) alternative to real leather – so they are intended to look like the real thing. The problem is that the faux and bonded leather products look very uniform, even though they have some of the desired texture. Natural leather has imperfections, blemishes, and non-uniform graining that gives it character and a particularly unique look to each piece. Genuine leather is also much thicker, and can be much softer, depending on manufacturing techniques and intended purpose. Neither artificial option measures up to this standard, but of the two, faux leather is a bit thicker and feels slightly more like the real thing.
  5. Aroma – One of the most appealing aspects of genuine leather products, for many people, is their aroma – the way they smell. Bonded and faux leather can smell of polyurethane and other chemical odors, while genuine leather has a natural odor that many people find very pleasant and appealing. In this aspect, bonded leather beats out faux leather, because the scraps of real leather bonded into it can retain some of this aroma, making them slightly less artificial smelling.
  6. Sustainability – Real leather is often vilified by those wanting to avoid animal products, but because hides are a by-product of the meat industry, it could be argued that it is more sustainable than products made from materials not otherwise in existence. Plastics and other chemical components of faux and bonded leather can also be harmful to the environment, just like the chemicals used to process animal hides, and these plastics don’t biodegrade. Where chemical byproducts of a tannery can be captured and properly disposed of, worn out and discarded plastic-based products are usually destined for landfills.
  7. Care and maintenance – Real leather absorbs liquid, making it more susceptible to stains from rain, spills, and general wear. This can be desirable, to some degree, but no one wants a red wine stain down the front of their favorite jacket. Artificial leathers, however, sheds liquid due to its plastic content, and is much easier to clean. Faux leather is more durable than bonded leather, and both should be treated quite delicately when it comes to cleaning – nothing abrasive or too caustic.

Related leather articles:

What is Real Leather, Bonded Leather and Faux Leather?

Real Leather

real leather hanging

Full-grain leather, often called real leather, represents the pinnacle of quality. Crafted from the finest layer of animal hide, it retains its natural imperfections and distinct grains.

When properly treated, it becomes thick and exceptionally long-lasting.

Bonded Leather

Crafted from leftover leather scraps and bonded with polyurethane, bonded leather consists of approximately 80% polyurethane and is affixed to a paper sheet for structure.

The product can feature stamped texture and occasionally receives a polyurethane coating for added luster.

Faux Leather

Faux leather, also known as polyurethane leather or PU leather, is entirely artificial. It's 100% vegan, with no animal products involved. As a result, it lacks the distinctive leather scent and instead carries a plastic-like odor.

While it's easy to clean and repels liquid effectively, it falls short of the durability found in genuine leather.

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Author: Albert Varkki

Albert Varkki is the co-founder of Von Baer. He understands leather products as a consumer, supplier, and a manufacturer, helping you with the inside knowledge you need, to choose the perfect leather product for you.

We always aim to have the highest editorial standards, and only publish accurate information on our website.

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