Insider's Guide to Furniture & the Home Furnishings Industry

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Why is the leather on my sofa peeling?

Welcome to the wonderful world of “bonded leather.”

If your "leather" sofa is peeling you do not have genuine leather made from animal hides.

What you do have is "Bonded leather". This is an inferior material.

The primary purpose of bonded leather is to fool uneducated consumers. Many consumers think they are purchasing real leather at greatly reduced prices.

Photo is courtesy of Rubnrestore.com.

There are other faux leather materials, such as polyurethanes (PU) and polyvinylchlorides (Vinyl.) These are far more durable, do not disintegrate and cost the same or even less.

Bonded leather is typically made with 10% to 20% “real” leather. The problem is that this “real” leather is made up of left-over scraps.

The scraps are swept off the floor, chopped into tiny particles and mixed with adhesive chemicals. It is then used as the backing for a vinyl or other type of faux (synthetic) leather.

Everything you see and touch on bonded leather is synthetic. All of the highly processed genuine leather is in the backing which cannot be seen or touched.

Chopped up leather particles are a terrible backing material.

The problem is compounded because this "leather" backing is thicker (and more expensive) than a normal backing.

To compensate, the synthetic face material is often thinner than what would normally be used with a cheaper (and stronger) woven cloth backing.

Compressed leather backings do not breathe and they tend to delaminate “peel” from the vinyl. Sometimes this occurs after a very short period of time.

It is not unusual to read reviews complaining about bonded leather delaminating in less than one year.

There is only one reason to use crushed reconstituted leather as a backing material. That is to fool people into thinking that they are purchasing "genuine" leather at reduced prices.

bonded-leather-3

Retailers will usually do absolutely nothing for you if your bonded leather delaminates.

Do not expect this type of problem to be covered by your warranty or by any extended warranty you may have purchased.

The bold print at the top of the warranty may seem to cover fabric defects during the first 12 months.

Further down will be smaller print expressly excluding liability for any fabric-related problems.

At that point all you can do is sue the retailer. There are many lawsuits currently in litigation about bonded leathers that began to peel after a short period of time.

Take a look at this NBC video and article. This is an interview with the CEO of a major (and highly reputable) furniture retail chain. He is responding to questions about customer complaints regarding bonded leather.

At one point the CEO is asked if customers are to blame for mistreating their bonded leather furniture. He replies, “I’m not saying they did something wrong, what I’m saying is that it’s delicate.”

Most consumers purchase leather furniture because they think it will be extremely durable. I can guarantee that none of these consumers were told by their salespeople that bonded leather was a “delicate” material.

bonded-leather-2

Another important note was also brought up in this interview. Extended warranties that customers think are protecting them for “everything” do not.

Extended warranties may even invalidate the manufacturer or retailer's warranty.

The customer whose complaint initiated this article stated that he “paid extra for an extended warranty.” He later learned that “the warranty does not cover peeling leather.”

Furniture Today is the leading trade publication for the furniture industry. The editor in chief wrote an editorial about the many problems associated with bonded leathers.

The editor in chief suggested that retailers and manufacturers should consider voluntarily dropping bonded leather from their lines.

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  1. Zack Zack I have a white sectional I got for free. I don’t know what material it is but it feels like some kind of leather (fake leather). It is peeling so bad. It’s like sand! I have to sweep/vacuum everyday because it gets EVERYWHERE. I can send/post pictures but I need help. How can I fix this and what material is this? Thursday, April 4, 2019
  2. The author It sounds as though you have either bonded leather or leather splits. There are several articles on this blog about bonded leathers. It is possibly the single biggest problem currently with upholstered furniture sold in the U.S. The problem you are describing can also occur with split leather. This is leather made from hides, but from the layers below the top grain. This is basically the suede part of the leather. There is usually a thin protective polyurethane top coat applied to this split leather, but if it becomes rubbed off the problem you are describing can occur. It cannot be easily repaired.
    Monday, April 15, 2019

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