What exactly is bonded leather, and are bonded leather products worth buying? We’re going to take a look at how this semi-faux leather works, how it stacks up against real leather and if there are better options for high-quality leather products.
If you’re looking for high-quality, long-lasting, and stylish leather products, you really need to be looking at real leather. Check out our collection real leather goods from the 'Shop The Full Collection' button below.
What is Bonded Leather?
Bonded leather is an, often thin, leather alternative that is a combination of waste leather and plastics. The real leather content is often quite small.
Bonded leather is created using scraps and fibres leftover from real leather product manufacture that are then made into a pulp and backed with paper or fabric. This is then sealed with a PU binder to give it a (typically more shiny) leather effect. It is commonly used for things like furniture and bags.
This type of leather is extremely susceptible to peeling and flaking because of how it is made, and because of this, it is often cheap to buy.
Is Bonded Leather Real Leather?
Bonded leather is not real leather and is commonly referred to as fake leather, leathersoft or vinyl leather. Bonded leather is also not the same as 100% PU vegan leather and bonded leather bags cannot be considered vegan due to its small amount of real leather content.
Even though it does contain some small fibres from real leather, it is mostly made up of plastics and synthetic materials, the small quantities of fiber and leather scraps are not enough to ensure the quality of the material. Bonded leather is easily distinguishable from real leather because of its texture and plastic appearance.
Real Leather Duffle Bag - The Weekender
How to Clean Bonded Leather
Bonded leather's high plastic content makes it easy to wipe down and clean, but the lack of quality in the material can mean it’s prone to splitting, scratching and wearing.
Here are a few tips on how you can clean bonded leather without causing too much damage.
For dirt and other surface-level marks, you should be able to wipe down bonded leather with a soft damp cloth. For dried or more stubborn stains, warm water should help.
You can also use a soft brush to remove stains but you should be careful not to scratch bonded leather as it is very susceptible to damage. Because it is cheaply made, damage to the material will make it look far worse and can mean the whole product needs replacing.
Bonded leather is much more fragile than real leathers. We advise against using abrasive brushes or sponges or strong cleaning solutions as these will likely damage your bonded leather product.
Real leather conditioners that are often used to maintain real leather goods will not be much use on bonded leather. It’s plastic and synthetic contents will mean that it does not absorb moisture in the same way that real leather will. Products made with bonded leather are not designed to be long-lasting.
Pros of Bonded Leather
Bonded leather is a much cheaper alternative to real leather. This is because it typically contains plastics and synthetic materials. In fact, bonded leather is only made from around 10-20% real leather, something that is usually visible in the grain and synthetic texture of this fake leather.
Bonded leather is available in a number of colours, it’s smooth plastic-like texture means it’s easy to dye so can easily be used for bright colours. This does, however, mean that it is prone to fading.
Due to its real leather contents, products made with bonded leather can sometimes avoid having the chemical smell common with most faux leathers. They might even have a faint leather smell that many find appealing about real leather products. You will find that the lower the real leather contents, the more likely you are to experience the chemical smell common with other fake leathers.
Cons of Bonded Leather
When compared to real leather, bonded leather is not as durable or strong. There are many arguments that cheaper synthetic materials can actually cost more long-term because of constant replacement. A real leather bag, for example, can last for decades if properly cared for – a well cared for bonded leather product would not last for anywhere near that length of time and will likely peel or flake over the short period. Bonded leather couches, as an example, are expected to crack within just 2 years of use due to how thin the fabric is.
There are a couple of other reason that bonded leather cannot stand the tests of time. Bonded leather can fade in the sunlight, this is particularly noticeable with brightly colored synthetic dyes and is a big contributor to its short lifespan. On top of this, the bonding used between the synthetic materials in bonded leather can release some chemicals over time and the breakdown of this bonding can further weaken the material.
Bonded leather is almost impossible to repair. The quick wear means that quite quickly many will look to diy fixes rather than replacements but splitting and peeling are hard to permanently mend. There are some online kits that will partially repair peeled bonded leather but the repairs will be noticeable and are often short term solutions that only complete replacement will fix.
Bonded Leather vs Real Leather
Deluxe materials like real leather have been key to the fashion and lifestyle industries for decades. The appeal of real leather is hard to deny, with its unique blend of visual and durable properties, it’s not hard to see why real leather goods are such high-quality and so long-lasting.
Many think that environmentally, real leather is much more sustainable than bonded leather, even though bonded leather can be made of recycled materials. Real leather briefcases or travel bags can often last a lifetime, and are considered to be a much more durable product. To match the lifetime of one good, real leather briefcase, you would expect to buy a bonded leather briefcase several times, and even then you may fall short.
In reality, bonded leather is not even really comparable. It cannot beat real leather in quality, durability or even aesthetic appeal and whilst it is seemingly more affordable, with replacement products necessary very often, this thin fake leather is no match for the quality of real leather products.
Why we Recommend Full Grain and Top Grain Leather for Bags
We always recommend full grain and top grain leather, particularly for products that see a lot of wear, like leather bags. We understand the appeal of cheap, fake or low percentage leathers but the quality and longevity of real leather goods really speaks for itself.
Bags generally see a lot of use. Travel bags, briefcases and backpacks are some of the heaviest wear items you can use. You can avoid repeat buying by purchasing a one-off high-quality item whether its for yourself or as a gift, and be able to enjoy a full grain or top grain leather product for many years.
Our Favorite Real Leather Goods in 2022
At The Real Leather Company, we are dedicated to providing high-quality men’s leather bags.
Many of our customers say that our bags are the perfect gift for a loved one on a birthday, anniversary, or as a reward for a new job. So, we’ve put together a short guide to help you choose the perfect bag.
If you’re looking for a stylish real leather duffle bag, then this is the perfect option for a weekend getaway or season of travelling. The Full Grainer is a durable and fashionable must have for anyone who regularly hits the road.
2. The Jones
If you’re looking for the perfect option for an everyday messenger bag, then look no further than The Jones. This classic design has a fresh look, and the high-quality leather will stand the tests of time - the perfect real leather messenger bag to buy as a gift for a special occasion.
This modern leather briefcase is perfect for the busy working man. Designed to last and maintain its stylish design, it perfect for everyday use, and when you need to travel, it will attach to your suitcase!
You can check out our collection of real leather bags here.