How durable is my reclining sofa fake leather fabric?

How durable is my reclining sofa fake leather fabric?

Customer Question

I have been looking at a reclining sofa made with a 98% polyester and 2% polyurethane fabric. Will this fabric be durable on a reclining sofa that gets lots of use?
What is the expected life span for this type of fabric?

This is a new composite faux leather material, combining polyester and polyurethane, that several large companies are trying out as a substitute for bonded leather. 
  • Bonded leather, introduced in 2010, has been extremely successful (from a marketing perspective) as a low cost substitute for genuine leather (especially in reclining furniture.) It has also generated thousands of consumer complaints.
  • Bonded leather is highly unstable. It often peels within 1 - 3 years after purchase (and sometimes sooner.)
  • Once bonded leather begins to peel, it is not repairable. The problem is so widespread and so costly that all furniture warranties specifically exclude coverage for repair or replacement. 
  • If your furniture is more than 1 year old, no retailer will help. If your furniture is less than 1 year old, many retailers will replace it. There is no way to repair peeling bonded leather.
Both polyurethane and polyester faux leathers have existed for many decades. They have never been very popular, however, as a leather substitute in residential furniture. 
  • 100% synthetic faux leathers have existed for over 50 years but were always considered "inferior" by the general public.
  • Much of this "inferior" reputation originated from older vinyls, which did not look or feel very similar to real leather. These were used on cheap sofas, but primarily on low cost dinette sets, which were very popular in the 1950s - 1970s.
  • Higher cost vinyls and 100% polyurethanes are extremely durable, easily cleanable and also look and feel closer to real leather. These have been very popular in healthcare, restaurant and institutional furniture since the 1950s. But these high end commercial grade synthetic faux leathers are too expensive for low and mid-range residential seating.
  • 100% synthetic polyester faux leathers have also been available since the 1950s. These have always been very inexpensive, but until recently, were not very close to real leather in either looks or feel.
Over the past year, several different versions of 100% synthetic composite faux leathers have appeared. These look and feel very similar to bonded leather fabrics.
  • There are many versions of these composite faux leathers, made with various percentages of polyester, polyurethane (and sometimes vinyl.)
  • In general, the higher the percentage of polyester, the lower the cost of the fabric. 
    • The 98% polyester/2% polyurethane fabric you have referenced is one of the least expensive of the new composite faux leathers, but if it looks and feels OK to you, it will probably be an excellent material.
  • Although higher percentages of polyurethane may help the fabric look and feel more like real leather, it should not make much difference from a durability standpoint. The thickness (and weight) of the fabric are more relevant for determining long term durability.
These new 100% synthetic composite faux leathers have not been around long enough to test long term durability, but they should be far better than any of the bonded leathers. Polyester and polyurethane fibers are both extremely durable. 
  • Bonded leather's problems resulted primarily from the unsuitability of using crushed leather particles as a backing material. 
  • The new composite faux leathers will not have that problem.
Bonded leather's flaws did not become apparent to retailers and manufacturers until 2 - 3 years after their introduction, and a few more years before they became obvious to the general public. Although something similar could happen with these new composites, it is far less likely.
The general public appears to finally be ready to accept 100% synthetic faux leathers as an acceptable material for use on low and mid-priced upholstered furniture. 
  • Recent technological improvements allow 100% synthetic faux leathers to look and feel even closer to real leathers. 
  • 100% polyester, 100% polyurethane and 100% vinyl fabrics all hold up for 10+ years in most cases.  Although there is no long term track record yet, there is every reason to believe that combining these materials should result in an equally durable fabric. 


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