Furniture Buyers Beware: Bonded Leather Isn’t Actually Leather

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Bonded leather furniture may look and even smell like real leather at a fraction of the price — but it may have very little real leather in it.

You probably know the difference between particleboard and wood, but what about bonded leather and leather?

MousePrint.org wrote about a recent run-in with bonded leather furniture, which Furniture Today says started appearing in 2007.

The writer spotted what seemed like a great deal on a desk chair made of the stuff, and he assumed bonded “referred to the fact that parts of the chair were leather and parts were vinyl, or maybe that pieces were put together.”

He did things in the wrong order — he bought the chair before doing his homework. While he managed to save $100 on the model, when he got home and looked up the material, he was disappointed to learn that the Leather Research Laboratory described it as “vinyl, or a polyurethane laminate or a composite, but it’s not leather.”

He called the manufacturer’s customer service line and was assured it was real leather, with the durability of real leather — just made from scraps. But the product didn’t include an explanation of the leather-to-plastic ratio, which can vary widely. The Federal Trade Commission expects manufacturers to do that so consumers know what they’re getting:

 A material in an industry product that contains ground, pulverized, shredded, reconstituted, or bonded leather and thus is not wholly the hide of an animal should not be represented, directly or by implication, as being leather. This provision does not preclude an accurate representation as to the ground, pulverized, shredded, reconstituted, or bonded leather content of the material. However, if the material appears to be leather, it should be accompanied by … a disclosure of the percentage of leather fibers and the percentage of non-leather substances contained in the material.

Furniture Today said in 2011 that up to half of the leather furniture market may be bonded leather. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it — as long as it’s properly represented and priced accordingly.

Do you have any experience with bonded leather furniture? Did you know what it was when you bought it? Has it held up well? Let us know on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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