When shopping for leather sofas, you might notice two similar options with a significant price gap. This difference occurs because one is made of real leather while the other is crafted from faux leather. Faux leather comes in various forms like PU, PVC, and synthetic leather. You might also come across terms like "vegan leather," which simply means faux leather without any animal-based materials. Still puzzled? Let's begin by exploring what faux leather is. Then we dive into the pros and cons of faux leather compared to real leather. By the end, you'll have a clearer idea of which type of leather sofa is the perfect fit for your needs.
What is Faux Leather?
Faux leather is a man-made material designed to imitate the look and feel of genuine leather. It's completely vegan since no animal products are used in its production. It's crafted by covering a fabric backing with a soft plastic layer to mimic the natural grains and shades found in genuine leather.
The two most common kinds of faux leather are polyurethane (PU leather) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC leather).
PU leather is created by coating a backing fabric like cotton, polyester, or shredded leather with a flexible polymer. This treatment gives it a close resemblance to animal hide, making it the most realistic imitation of genuine leather in terms of hand, surface feel, and overall appearance. When stitched, gathered, or tufted, PU leather also forms wrinkles, just like real leather.
PVC leather, commonly known as vinyl upholstery, is crafted from two separate synthetic materials coated with Polyvinyl Chloride and plasticizers. The vinyl is melted onto the surface of the fibers, creating a strong, flexible, and virtually waterproof surface by sealing the fibers closed.
Differences between PU and PVC Leather
- Durability: PVC leather is more durable due to its foam layer and additional layers underneath, making it robust and able to withstand extreme weather and wear and tear. PU leather, due to its thin and malleable nature, may develop wrinkles over time and is less resistant to severe wear and harsh weather conditions compared to PVC leather. Additionally, the larger holes on the surface of PU leather make it more prone to collecting stains.
- Breathability: PU leather is more breathable than PVC leather because PVC leather has a foam layer underneath its surface coating, making it less breathable. This makes PU leather the preferred choice for wearable clothing items. However, PU leather has more pores on its surface, which makes it prone to absorbing stains and unwanted particles. As a result, PVC leather is commonly used for upholstery to avoid this issue.
- Price: PU leather is significantly more expensive than PVC leather. It can cost more than double the price of PVC leather, and even up to 2-3 times higher for special requirements. The production process for PU leather involves more waste, as the pattern paper can only be used 4 - 5 times before being discarded. Additionally, the service cycle of pattern rollers is longer, further contributing to the higher cost of PU leather compared to PVC leather.
Pros and Cons of Faux Leather
Now, let's delve into the pros and cons of using faux leather and real leather as sofa upholstery.
Pros of Faux Leather
Cost effective: Faux leather is more budget-friendly than real leather due to the materials used, and mass production benefits from economies of scale.
Easy to clean: Faux leather is less sensitive to chemicals and can be effortlessly wiped clean with a damp cloth, making it a practical choice, especially for families. However, real leather needs more care to avoid stains and cracks, including regular conditioning to keep it soft and well-preserved. Being a natural material, real leather can readily absorb liquids and spills, which may cause staining if not promptly dried.
UV resistant: Faux leather is generally resistant to fading in the sun compared to real leather. This is because it undergoes a treatment with UV-resistant chemicals during manufacturing. Additionally, a protective topcoat is applied to shield it from fading, staining, and other damage, ensuring its long-lasting appearance.
Versatile: Faux leather can be printed with various textures and patterns, offering a wide variety of options. Additionally, it can be dyed in a rainbow of colors, allowing for more creative freedom.
Cons of Faux Leather
- Less durable than real leather: Faux leather is prone to punctures, tearing, and cracking with time. Its surface may peel and retain moisture within a year of usage. On the other hand, with proper maintenance, real leather can last for decades.
- Less breathable than real leather: Faux leather is less breathable than real leather because of its coating, especially in the case of PVC leather. This can lead to a sticky feeling during hot weather.
- Chemical odor: Real leather has a natural, distinct smell that attracts many people when purchasing a new leather sofa. However, synthetic leather lacks this particular smell. Instead, faux leather can emit a strong plastic or rubber odor, often described as plasticky or chemical-like.
- Lack of natural texture: Faux leather has a consistent texture, while real leather has a natural and unique appearance since each hide is different. Faux leather has artificial pores, whereas real leather has natural and varied pores.
- Not hypoallergenic: Faux leather is more likely to cause allergic reactions compared to real leather. Therefore, individuals with sensitive skin or a history of allergies to synthetic materials should be cautious when using faux leather products.
Which type of leather sofa is the best fit for you?
As you can see, both faux leather and real leather have their own advantages and disadvantages. The best type of leather sofa for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences.
If you're looking for something affordable, faux leather is the better option. However, keep in mind that you may have to compromise on durability, and it might feel sticky during hot weather.
If you appreciate a timeless appearance and value exceptional durability, a real leather sofa is the perfect choice. Real leather is also an excellent choice for people with sensitive skin, as it is resistant to allergens like pet dander and dust mites. Overtime, real leather becomes softer and gains a beautiful patina, enhancing its rich and textured appearance.
To explore further information about real leather sofas, visit our article on "how to choose a leather sofa". Take a look at our real leather sofa collection to find the perfect design that aligns with your preferences and complements your home.