Genuine Leather for Commercial Upholstery: How Can You Tell What’s Real Material and What’s Not?

28 February 2018

Leather is one of the most sought-after materials in upholstery, and for good reason – it has every feature you could ever want for a wonderful, practical, and low-maintenance upholstery set. Not only is leather elegant, it is also versatile enough to be done-up into an assortment of different finishes to suit whatever aesthetic ends. It is also very durable and is impermeable to most common forms of wear-and-tear.

Leather is also slightly water-resistant and hardy enough to forgo regular maintenance. However, it is because of these features and the fact that leather is essentially an animal by-product, it is expensive. The high price isn’t making leather any less popular though, and its demand has actually skyrocketed throughout the years, giving rise to a large number of imitations and ‘alternatives’.

In spite of the fact that faux leather alternatives are cheaper and can even look like the real thing, nothing still beats the real deal, and if you’re eager to invest in authentic leather upholstery, here’s how you can tell what is real material and what is Not:

  • Texture – one of the most telling differences between faux leather and authentic leather is the texture. While faux leather will often feel somewhat plastic-like, or may otherwise be too smooth or too flawless to the touch, real leather will feel soft, supple, pliant and somewhat ‘grainy’. Even the smoothest of authentic leather will have a certain texture about it that isn’t 100% uniform.

You can also tell faux leather from the real deal by the appearance of its creases and pores. The former will showcase uniform texture all throughout, while the latter will feature some imperfections here and there.

  • Scent – nothing can ever imitate the smell of authentic leather. It will smell woody, earthy, and somewhat musky. Treated leather will also smell like lemon balm, which is often the default scent for lanolin wax – a sealant used to condition leather. Faux leather, on the other hand, will smell nothing like the real thing and may even exude a petrol-like scent that can be somewhat off-putting. Some faux-leather will be completely scentless.
  • Price – pieces that feature authentic leather will often have a label that indicates it as such, and a hefty price-tag that reflects its authenticity. However, some un-branded pieces can be identified by the flesh side (the underside) of the leather, which will display a ‘nap’-like or velvet-like texture and can be discerned from the edges of one’s furniture.

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