How to identify genuine leather sofas

15 Oct How to identify genuine leather sofas

Have you ever wondered how you can tell if a sofa is real leather? Most people are aware that genuine leather sofas are thought to be higher quality. Here we’ll discuss how to tell the difference and what it means for the quality and life span of the furniture.

There are lots of tricks in the furniture industry to create a leather-look sofa which can be made and sold at much lower prices. These can in some cases be partially made of leather but very often are made of artificial materials. Here we’ll examine several forms of faux leather and partial leather sofas and give you some tips on how to identify the genuine article.

Partial leather

If the manufacturer claims that the product is leather but doesn’t state that it is 100% leather then it is probably a mixture of leather vinyl. Depending on how much real leather is present you’ll see various descriptions such as the ones below:

  • ‘Leather match’ couches mean that there is real leather on the main seating areas but vinyl has been used for the rest of the surfaces.
  • Vinyl coated leather is what is sounds like, leather that has been coated in a layer of vinyl. This is sometimes done so that the leather can stretched in which case it will be referred to as bicast leather. Although there is some real leather in the composite material you should be careful about just how much because the cheaper the couch the more likely it is that there is very little real leather.
  • Bonded leather is leather fibres that are bonded to clear vinyl. The leather fibres are combined with the vinyl in a way that achieves a very close match to the appearance of ‘split’ leather (the lower layer of natural leather hide) and is also quite strong but won’t quite have the feel and smell of real leather.

Faux leather

The leather-look can also be achieved without any natural material at all. Such sofas may be described as faux leather, permeable leather, pleather, leatherette, Naugahyde, Ultrasuede, or leather cloth. These are generally made of some form of plastic. They may be made entirely of plastic or have a base of woven fibres that is then covered in a shiny plastic coating to complete the appearance of leather.

Identifying real leather

The first thing to do is check what material is listed which, if it is real leather, will say nubuck, suede, sauvage or ‘genuine’ leather. Don’t accept any substitutes. If you’re unsure then follow these simple tips to identify genuine leather;

  • Touch it: 100% genuine leather feels very soft to the touch and supple under your hand. Press your thumb into the leather on the arm of the couch or chair and look at how the leather depresses and bounces back. Real leather will press in easily and come back up slowly whereas artificial materials are more rigid and will not take the imprint of a thumb.
  • Smell it: Real leather has a distinctive smell that you should familiarise yourself with. Knowing what this smell is will ensure you don’t end up with an artificial substitute.
  • Examine it: If the grain of the leather looks too uniform, artificial or a pattern is repeated then it’s probably a fake grain. You should also examine the couch for signs that there is no cloth backing on the cover. This is because artificial covers are very often cloth-backed. By lifting up the couch to look at the underside you may be able to see the cut ends of the cover and check for the presence of a backing cloth.

Lean van der Merwe Interiors can source furniture and soft furnishings that transforms your living room. We’ll work with you to come up with the perfect design aesthetic for your home or commercial property. Contact us today!