Genuine Leather vs. Bonded Leather: What’s the difference?

Genuine leather and Bonded leather both sound pretty sweet, right? Surely something that is bonded must have greater strength and durability than most?

What is Genuine Leather? Basically leather particle board

Just as particle board is wood chips smashed together, bonded leather is just smashed leather scraps.

That is exactly what advertisers want you to think. Bonded leather is only leather in the same way that particle board is good lumber, or that hot dogs are quality meat. Bonded Leather is made, in short, by taking all the leftover scraps of leather bits and pieces and smashing them together with a “bonding agent” and then, as with genuine leather, painting it and pressing it to make it look like it is one sheet of leather. You can see that this would make it significantly weaker, because it isn’t even one solid piece of material. It will quickly start deteriorating, just like plywood does as the chips of wood compressed in it start peeling off.

How Long Does It Last?

It is difficult to give a time frame to when this deterioration will occur, because there are many different bonded leather “recipes”, and each yields a different grade result. There are some that will fall apart in less than 3-5 years, if that, and there are some that can hold up for many years, though still lacking the durability of real leather. If we are just comparing genuine leather to bonded leather, I would say genuine leather is better. While bonded leather is made of fragments, genuine leather is generally one continuous piece of leather, just one that has been structurally weakened. So in a face-off I think genuine leather takes the victory, but in my personal opinion both of them are next to worthless. If you are going to pay for a leather product, it is worth it to spend a little extra and get the real deal, though a lot of times, especially when you consider name brands, you can get the real deal cheaper!

How It’s Made: The Longer Short Version

Think like the hot dog analogy. That explains it the easiest.  First, much like the meat scraps they use for hot dogs, they take the leather scraps and pieces and grind them up, effectively getting rid of all the natural durability and elasticity of leather. The ground up scraps, which only make up about 10-20{252f7dd7ba9e0baa00d1435eb90ef3fcba6524dd9f374f9bfcb092bf854c0baf} of the end product are then mixed with various plastics which are glued to other plastics, mostly polyurethane. Basically it ends up being plastic that has some bits of ground up leather in it. They then color it, and imprint a pattern and grain in it. This is very much just a surface treatment and makes it look, at least to most, like every other type of leather. They are then able to legally advertise it as leather, because technically it does have “leather” in it from the scraps.