Industries

Furniture Industry

Consumers in the United States spend over $100 billion annually on furniture. You would think that with that price tag, they should get what they paid for. 

As furniture manufacturers look to substitute real leather with faux leather substitutes to respond to customers’ demand for eco-friendly materials and to bring down their costs, fake leather has become a popular alternative to real leather in the furniture industry.

The Problem

Fake leather can be a problem in the furniture industry for several reasons:

  • Making artificial faux leather uses non-renewable resources such as oil, which can be harmful to the environment.
  • Fake leather is not as durable as real leather. It can puncture easily and the furniture made from it will crack over time.
  • Plastic based leather alternatives are not breathable.
  • False advertising: some manufacturers may market their products as real leather when they are actually fake. As a result, consumers can end up paying more for real leather when in fact they are getting a fake leather alternative.

The word “Leather” should NOT be used to promote synthetic alternative products

Our Goal

Because furniture labels are often confusing, if not downright misleading, and because the U.S. government does not specifically oversee the content of household furniture (in 2002, the FTC rescinded its specific guidelines for the household furniture industry), our goal is for furniture manufacturers to transparently label the materials used in the pieces they sell. 

Both real leather and synthetic leather furniture should be clearly and accurately labeled. To help us achieve this goal, we are asking consumers around the world to ask furniture sellers, “what’s on the label?” whenever they are shopping for a sofa or chair. By doing so, we hope that consumers will help us drive meaningful change in order to create a more transparent marketplace.

Be Aware of Faux Furniture Leather Types

General examples of terms used to refer to fake leather include:

Bi-cast leather
Bonded leather
Faux leather
Genuine leather
Leatherette
Majilite
Naugahyde
Novasuede
Pleather
PU leather
PVC leather
Ultrasuede

Be direct and up front

Make it known that you only want real leather and not a cheap substitute.

Ask for proof

When furniture shopping, here’s what you can do:
Check the label. Ask your salesperson for proof that it is real leather. Ask for paperwork that documents the actual fiber content of the upholstery or do an online search.

Safety data sheet

Request the material safety data sheet for the material. By law furniture covering must be fire resistant, this information should state the fiber content of the material.

Still Not Clear?

If you’re still not sure if the furniture you are about to buy is made from real leather, or if its label reads “genuine leather,” “bonded leather,” “bi-cast leather,” or “PU/PVC leather,” don’t hand over your credit card. You should be okay if the label says “full grain” or “top grain” leather.

Terms to Watch Out For

Genuine Leather
This term can mean practically anything. Usually all it tells you is that the material contains leather, but it may be the lowest quality or split, bi-cast or bonded leather.

Bonded Leather
Also called reconstituted, composition or blended leather, bonded leather has a layered structure of fiber or paper backer covered with a layer of leather fibers mixed with urethane, and then embossed to mimic real leather. It differs from bi-cast leather, which is made from a leather split (the middle layer of the hide) and then laminated with an artificial leather-like coating.

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