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What is Bonded Leather?

Shopping for leather can get confusing due to there being more than one type. Leather comes in faux, faux and genuine mixed, and genuine leathers. Bonded leather is frequently used for making clothing or furniture, so it is important to understand what exactly is bonded leather and how to care for it. 

Bonded Leather

Bonded Leather

An array of bonded leather swatches, in various colors and patterns.
 Image: Serepsa, Copyrighted free use, via Wikimedia Commons

Bonded leather is a combination of genuine and fake leathers created from remaining pieces and fibers generated from genuine leather processing, blended with a polyurethane binder. Afterward, they are rolled together using adhesives to bond them onto a paper backing. Manufacturers may sometimes add an additional coating of polyurethane to bonded leather and stamp it to give it the texture of real leather. The majority of bonded leather products are comprised of at least 10% genuine leather and at most 20%. Bonded leather can sometimes be marketed as real leather due to the small percentage of genuine leather it contains.

Bonded leather is also known as:

  • Bonded Leather
  • LeatherSoft
  • Faux Leather
  • Vinyl
  • Reconstituted
  • Composite

How Is Bonded Leather Made?

The framework of this material differs significantly and is often unknown to others, but its building process is similar to paper. Scraps of shredded leather and fiber are combined with materials that bond them together and placed onto a papered cloth. The leather may then be dyed and embossed to create a leather-like texture. To finish, a polyurethane treatment is given to the surface for a smooth finish.

What Are The Uses Of Bonded Leather?

Bonded leather is known to be used to make furniture such as the binding of books and shoe accessories, purses, belts, and fabric lining. Paper-backed bonded leather is more fragile, so it is mostly used to cover books such as planners, Bibles, and several types of accessories used for office desks.


  • Less expensive than genuine leather.
  • Smooth, consistent texture.
  • Has an array of colors and designs.
  • Smells like genuine leather.


  • Lasts 2-3 years.
  • Peels and flakes easily.
  • Sunlight causes discoloration.
  • Not vegan.
  • May release chemicals due to bonding.
  • Hard to clean due to certain cleaners stripping away the colors and material.

Durability of Bonded Leather

Conditioning and treatment are not readily accessible in bonded leather as those in natural leather. Bonded leather is known to wear at the surface of the binding, deteriorate the plastic, and begin to crack.

Since bonded leather is polymer-based unlike genuine leather, it protects from wearing and moisture. This leather can last up to 2-3 years, but once it starts to deteriorate it can fall apart quickly.

Causes of Peeling and Cracking in Bonded Leather


Bonded leather lacks flexibility making it more susceptible to cracks, causing polyurethane and leather to start pulling away from the backing.

It will need to be used more carefully than natural leather due to its plastic-based nature.

The lack of natural fibers being exposed means this specific leather cannot be treated or cared for like natural leather can.

Flexing causes bonded leather to disconnect from its backing from continuously using furniture and moving it around. This causes it to flake and peel at the surface over time.

Discoloration begins in pieces of upholstery due to the peeling, and the layers beneath become exposed. This results in an unattractive piece of furniture.

Care & Maintenance

With proper handling, maintenance, cleaning and preservation bonded leather has the potential to look and smell great for a few years. For preventative care, avoid placing bonded leather in direct sunlight. This will cause the leather to fade and weaken. Additionally, avoid heating vents or fireplaces due to the same unfortunate outcome. The heat will cause the leather to dry and create peeling. Bonded leather is prone to stains, so any spills should be cleaned immediately.

Cleaning Bonded Leather


Bonded leather is able to be cleaned gently by using a wet cloth gently on the material. Avoid using lint and loose fibers, due to the possibility of it transferring to the leather's surface. Microfiber cloths are recommended to clean this type of leather for peeling and staining prevention.

Check to see that the cloth will not transfer color to any material surface (couch, leather sofa, leather chair, bag, purse, etc.) by testing in a small area first or on a separate bonded leather piece.

Dirt and grime can be easily removed from leather by using a soft brush if it needs additional cleaning. Take the brush and wet it lightly then gently brush it over the leather, be careful not to push it down too hard.

After the brush is used, remove any leftover dirt and/or dust with a mildly wet cloth. As soon as the leather has dried off completely, you can use it/store it.

Removal of stains can be complicated. In a situation where you find a stain and cleaning goes beyond dust or grime, supplementary care might be necessary. Before taking action, consider what the stain is made of.

If it's a familiar substance, a gentle cleaner might work. If not, a cleaner specific to the stain would be better to use.

Using cleaners designed specifically for bonded leather is suggested if it's a more significant stain. The stain will not only be treated, but it will also help to maintain the surface of the material.

How to Condition Bonded Leather

Conditioning is not necessary for bonded leather due to its protective finish. The surface finish protects the leather underneath creating a barrier that conditioners cannot infiltrate.

Due to its protective surface bonded leather is easy to clean and easy to maintain. If the protective layer starts to diminish, protectants can added to help restore it.

These products may be applied using a cloth or specific applicator, while others are sprayed on and wiped off. Before applying them, read the directions on all finishes and make sure to test on a small area first to prevent ruining the surface.

How to Repair Bonded Leather

Repair kits are available in stores in the event that you need to make a minor repair on your bonded leather product. First, you must sand the affected area in order to remove any bits of leather that may be protruding out. Afterwards, you may place a patch that has been dyed to match or you can dye the fabric underneath the scratch/tear and seal it to prevent further peeling. The completed repair may yield noticeable results but will look better than the original damage. 

Scratch Repair

Completely clean the area with an uncolored cloth to prevent dye from being transferred onto the material. After, combine leather repair solution with a tint to apply it to and around the repaired area.

Afterward, place leather-grained papers and iron them to the repair. This will transfer the pattern onto the repair. Be gentle with the hot iron as it may ruin the bonded leather.

Shoe polish is an alternative to fixing small scratches. Be sure to test new products on a small, unnoticeable area of the leather piece first.

Why Buy Bonded Leather

Bonded leather is often selected over genuine leather due to its low prices of the product and a vast selection of designs and colors; others may choose bonded leather because it is seen as environmentally friendly, in the 10% of real leather it contains it does not involve additional farming and could reduce landfill. 



Bonded leather consists of leftover genuine leather and polymer which is at least 10% real leather. Bonded leather requires practicing daily preventative care on the product to keep it looking as beautiful as the day it was purchased. Although bonded leather peels, there are simple repairs you can do to restore its looks. As a genuine leather alternative, bonded leather is the best affordable option, especially if you are a new homeowner furnishing your home or just looking to revamp your closet.