What is Bonded Leather?

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What is Bonded Leather?

Bonded leather is a material made from leather scraps and polyurethane or latex, which are mixed and bonded together to create a leather-like product at a lower cost. It typically contains between 10-20% leather remnants and fibers with polyurethane or latex binders, and then the mixture is applied to a backing of cloth or paper and embossed with a leathery grain pattern.

It is pertinent to mention here that while bonded leather is cheaper and easier to produce than genuine leather, it is not considered real leather by many due to its manufacturing process and lack of durability compared to natural leather.

Remember! Real leather gets the durability crown, but it's pricey. Bonded leather and PU leather mimic the look for less, but crack easily. Faux leather is similar to PU leather, while vegan leather uses eco-friendly materials but may not be as tough. Similarly, patent leather offers a shiny look but can be stiff, and soften leather is simply regular leather that's been treated to feel smoother.

The Fundamentals of Bonded Leather

Bonded leather is a cheaper substitute for genuine leather. Even though it has aathery surface, it's not as durable or high quality as real leather and therefore, you need to weigh your budget, expected lifespan of the item, and preference for authentic leather feel and appearance while deciding between bonded and real leather.

Here's a dive into the fundamentals of bonded leather:

How is Bonded Leather Made?

The manufacturing process of bonded leather involves several steps:

  1. Collecting Leather Scraps: During the production of genuine leather, leftover pieces and trimmings are collected. These scraps would otherwise be thrown away.

  1. Shredding the Leather: The collected scraps are shredded into tiny fibers.

  1. Mixing with Binders and Fillers: The shredded leather fibers are then mixed with polyurethane or latex binders and sometimes fillers like polyester fibers. This creates a thick pulp-like material.

  1. Applying the Mixture to a Backing: The leather-binder mixture is then spread onto a backing material, which can be fabric or paper.

  1. Embossing the Surface: The material is then passed through rollers that press a leather-like grain pattern onto the surface.

  1. Dyeing and Finishing: Finally, the bonded leather is dyed to the desired color and may be treated with a protective coating.

Pros and Cons of Bonded Leather


  • Affordability: Bonded leather is significantly cheaper than genuine leather, making it a budget-friendly option for those who want the look of leather without the high price tag.

  • Breathability:  In some cases, bonded leather can be more breathable than some synthetic leathers, which can feel hot and sticky against the skin.


  • Durability: Bonded leather is not as durable as genuine leather. It is prone to cracking, peeling, and deteriorating over time, especially with heavy use.

  • Look and Feel: Bonded leather may look and feel somewhat like genuine leather, but it often lacks the richness, depth, and suppleness of real leather. It can also have a more plastic-like feel.

  • Longevity: Due to its composition, bonded leather generally doesn't last as long as genuine leather.

Characteristics of Bonded Leather

Bonded leather provides a taste of leather's look at a much lower price, yet, its compromises lie in durability and a less luxurious feel compared to genuine leather. The characteristics of bonded leather include:

  • Texture and Appearance: Bonded leather can mimic the look of genuine leather but lacks the unique texture and richness of real leather. Its surface is often more plastic-like and lacks the supple, organic feel of genuine leather.

  • Durability: Bonded leather is less durable than full grain or top grain leathers. It is more prone to peeling, cracking, or fading over time due to the synthetic materials used in its construction.

  • Consistency: Bonded leather excels in consistency, offering uniform color and texture due to its manufacturing process. This consistency can be beneficial in certain applications.

  • Price: Bonded leather is typically less expensive than other types of leather due to lower production costs. However, the lower upfront cost may be offset by reduced longevity and the need for earlier replacement.

Other Considerations:

  • Breathability: In some cases, bonded leather can breathe better than some purely synthetic leathers.

  • Environmental Impact: Can be seen as a way to utilize leftover leather scraps, potentially reducing waste.

Bonded Leather vs. Real Leather: How to Tell the Difference?

Telling bonded leather from real leather can be tricky sometimes, especially at first glance. To distinguish between bonded leather and real leather, consider the following characteristics by which you can determine whether a product is made from real leather or bonded leather.

  1. Texture and Appearance: Real leather has a natural, organic feel and texture, while bonded leather can feel cold and uniform. When you run your fingers across real leather, it doesn't feel perfectly smooth, and the surface will stretch and wrinkle a bit like skin. Bonded leather, on the other hand, has a uniform texture that can be difficult to distinguish from genuine leather.

  1. Color: Genuine leather has a richer, deeper color that comes from natural dyes. Bonded leather can be dyed any color but may appear flatter and less nuanced.

  1. Smell: Real leather has a distinctive, natural "leathery" smell that cannot be accurately manufactured. Bonded leather, made from a mixture of leather scraps and chemicals, often has a varying degree of a plasticky or chemical odor.

  1. Labeling: Check the label or tag. If it says "100% leather," "full-grain leather," "top grain leather," or "genuine leather," it's likely to be real leather. If the label doesn't mention anything about the material, it's probably bonded leather.

  1. Price: Real leather is generally more expensive than bonded leather due to the higher quality and durability of the material. If the price seems too good to be true, it might be bonded leather.

  1. Durability: Real leather is more durable and less prone to peeling or cracking over time compared to bonded leather. Genuine leather can last longer and withstand heavy use without significant wear, whereas bonded leather may not.

  1. Surface Structure: Real leather has natural imperfections and blemishes, whereas bonded leather is more uniform in appearance and may have a machine-made texture.

  1. Water Test: Place a small drop of water on the material. Real leather will absorb the water slowly, while bonded leather will repel it or absorb it very quickly. However, this test is not foolproof, as some leather treatments can affect absorption.

Here are some additional tips:

  • If the item you're looking at feels suspiciously cheap for leather, it's probably bonded leather.

  • Look for labels or descriptions that clearly state the material.

  • When in doubt, ask a salesperson for clarification.

Concluding Note

When it comes to maintaining the appearance of your leather goods, understanding the differences between genuine leather, bonded leather, and faux leather is crucial. For instance, to clean a leather purse, you'll want to have it with a gentle leather conditioner and cleaner to maintain its natural texture and prevent drying out. If you need to dye leather to match a specific color, you'll want to use a high-quality dye specifically designed for leather.

On the other hand, if you have a faux leather purse, you can clean it with a soft cloth and mild soap, but avoid using harsh chemicals that might damage the synthetic material. Additionally, if you accidentally spill ink and now you want to clean faux leather or other material, you can remove ink from leather with a gentle cleaning solution or a specialized ink remover. Finally, to clean white leather, it's essential to use a mild soap and water solution to prevent discoloration, and avoid using harsh chemicals that might damage the leather's natural dye.

FAQs - What is Bonded Leather?

Is bonded leather as good as real leather?

No, bonded leather is not as good as real leather in terms of quality and durability. While bonded leather contains some real leather scraps, it is mixed with synthetic materials like polyurethane or latex and lacks the natural characteristics and longevity of genuine leather.

How long will bonded leather last?

Bonded leather can last for up to three years or more with gentle use and proper care, such as cleaning it with a soft damp cloth, applying leather conditioner, and keeping it away from direct sunlight or heat sources. However, the lifespan of bonded leather can vary depending on individual usage and maintenance practices.

What does 100% bonded leather mean?

Although by definition, bonded leather does contain a mix of real leather scraps (usually 10-20%) and other materials, however, the term "100% bonded leather" is considered as a marketing term to emphasize the presence of some leather. Remember! Despite the term "100% bonded leather," it's important to note that bonded leather itself is not 100% genuine leather; it typically contains only about 10-20% real leather scraps, with the rest being synthetic materials.

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