What the heck is bonded leather – 2015 edition – Bob’s Discount Furniture is still at it.


bonded leather sofa  Isn’t it pretty?

I continue to see retailers like Bob’s Discount Furniture advertise and sell furniture made out of something called “bonded leather”.

I’ve written about this before. What’s new?  Reputable furniture sellers are now refusing to sell furniture made of “bonded leather” because so many customers have complained (and filed law suits) regarding bonded leather.

If you want to save money, and don’t care that your “leather” furniture will peel and flake like it has a sunburn within months of purchasing it, then by all means, run down to Bob’s Discount Furniture and have at it.

If you actually want something of better quality, something that will last, something you can be proud of – go somewhere else, and then ask a lot of questions.

If you already purchased your “leather” furniture from Bob’s or anywhere else, here’s an easy way to know whether or not you got real leather.

Do you find your leather furniture makes you sweat and stick to the furniture?  If so, it’s not real leather.  Real leather breathes.  It’s an organic product.  It won’t make you sweaty or sticky any more than a fabric sofa.  Don’t confuse this with automobile leather.  Automotive grade leather is often coated to withstand extreme cold and heat.  You can’t compare a car with leather upholstery sitting in the sun for hours where the interior can climb to 140 degrees F, to the leather on your sofa. However, you may notice now, that higher end vehicles come with leather that is perforated or mechanically cooled with fans inside the seats.

Bonded Leather shouldn’t even have the word leather in the name.  It is reconstituted hide scraps mixed with several other things – some recognizable, some not so much.  It is made in a similar fashion as paper – pulverized wood shavings, with other additives, are mashed together in a big blender and then extruded into sheets.  With bonded leather, it’s leftover leather waste products from actual tanned leather that is dried, then pulverized, then mixed with paper bits, cardboard, and any number of other things they find.  It is then extruded into long sheets that have a fiber or paper backing.  Industry standards vary by country.  For example in the U.S.A, bonded leather must contain 60% “leather fibers” (that doesn’t mean actual tanned leather).  In Europe the standards are higher with the requirement of 50% (wet or dry measure) of actual leather.  But in places like Asia requirements for use of the term Bonded Leather only require that as low as 20% of the pulp extrusion be leather fibers and/or leather products.  Much of the furniture sold in the United States at discount furniture establishments, and stored like Walmart, Ikea, etc. comes from China.

Bonded leather is leather like a hot dog is a prime cut of beef.

Recipe for Bonded Leather:

– Take 20% of leftover leather shavings that you purchase in bulk from a tannery,
– Add recycled paper products, cardboard, cut-up foam from yoga mats, rat droppings from the factory floor (anything really, because – there is no regulation).
– Put it all in a very large blender, on high, until silky smooth smooth.
– Pour that “slurry” onto a cookie sheet and bake in the oven at a very low temperature – maybe just keep it on “warm” – until it is dried out completely. Don’t forget to spray the cookie sheet with cooking spray (or any petroleum product you have lying around).
– When dry, peel it off the cookie sheet carefully and wrap it around a particle board frame.
– Sell it to Bob’s Discount Furniture as a “Bonded Leather Sofa”.  It’s completely legal.

To make it even easier you can simply pour the slurry into a “sofa mold” – similar to pouring Jello into a Bundt cake pan.  It take a little longer to dry (cure), but all you have to do it cut the mold away when you’re done.

If you don’t believe me about all of this.  Here is a video of how they make bonded leather:

And here is a video of how one company makes real leather:

Working with leather is an art-form that has been around for thousands of years.  Retailers like Bob’s Discount Furniture in New England (mostly) proudly sell furniture made of bonded leather, yet few consumers know about bonded leather.  They are too embarrassed to ask, thinking they should already know what it is.  And since it has the word “leather” in it, that’s good, right?  Bonded Leather is not real leather.  It’s a word gimmick.  It is the cheapest of cheap materials and it was invented because of what else? Greed – misrepresenting what a product is in order to sell huge amounts of it at cheap prices.

By the way, I just purchased a sofa, online, from a furniture manufacturer in North Carolina.  I was able to select my leather from the many, many swatches they sent me prior to my final purchase.  It’s a beautiful sofa and I spent about $500 more for it than I would have for bonded leather at the local furniture store.   The difference is, for $500 more I get a sofa I will have for 20 years, instead of 3 years.