Every homeowner knows that purchasing new furniture is an exciting experience. You can change how your home looks by simply replacing old furniture with new furniture. When buying leather upholstery, you do not want to regret the purchase because you have made the wrong choice. You want to make sure that the leather office chair, ottoman, or couch that you have bought is authentic; otherwise, you could have problems with it, like it peeling off the very next day.


Synthetic leather vs real leather – How to tell the difference between real and fake leather

A smart buyer would want to know whether it's real leather or fake leather before making a choice. Typically though, it's not an easy task, however you can test it on your own without the help of an expert. Here are some ways:


1.) Check the price and the label

Before buying the piece of furniture, always read the tag. It should be able to tell you what kind of leather is used in making the product. Tags of the furniture usually say whether it's genuine leather or use other terms such as full grain leather, which is typically used for high-end products. When a sofa or any furniture is labeled with full-grain leather, it means it is unfinished where there are creases and coloring unique to the product. Because it is the toughest and most beloved type of leather, the furniture will understandably have a very high price.


Top grain leather which is also used in high-quality products. It is the most common type of luxury leather and has been improved just a little bit to remove some imperfections. Compared to full grain leather, top grain is more consistent and is smoother. It is not as durable but it is still well-crafted, and the price is not too high.


Genuine leather typically gives a suede side or feeling when you touch it. Leather is genuine after it has been stripped off of the grains on top. It is not as durable and is softer than the two types of leather above. Most people use genuine leather to mean real leather, but the term is actually a specific grade for leather. However, it is common to find salespeople who will say their product is genuine or real leather. This type is less expensive than full or top grain.


Bonded leather is still leather, but it is cheap and made from pieces of waste or discarded leather. It is bonded using a polyurethane backing. You can already tell that this type is low quality and therefore cheaper than the other types of leather. If you want real leather, stay away from bonded leather.


Other labels include pure or semi aniline and pigmented leather. These terms all mean that the furniture is made from real leather materials. Meanwhile, synthetic leather includes the use of terms like faux leather, pleather, leatherette, and Naugahyde aside from bonded leather.


2.) Look at the appearance

You can tell if it's faux leather vs real leather by looking at the sofa. In real leather, you will find the following:


- Natural markings from the hide of the animal

- With grain characteristics

- Creases or fat wrinkles due to the fat deposits of the animal

- Uneven and often rough seam edges

 As for fake leather, you will find that the edge seams are smooth and even perfect. Often, you will see that there is a huge piece of upholstery that continuously covers the furniture instead of small patches that have been sewn into the cover. Another difference is that there are no natural markings. You will just see a solid, even color.


3.) Feel the furniture

By touching the piece of furniture, you can tell whether it is real or fake. For real leather, you will find the fat wrinkles or the natural creases from the animal’s body. There is also that soft suppleness and a slightly bumpy feel on the surface of the leather. Whenever you sit on the sofa, it should give a warm feeling, which tends to say it is made of real leather.


Meanwhile, fake leather feels cold when you sit on it. Synthetic leather is usually stiff yet smooth to the touch.

4.) Smell the leather

You can also tell whether the furniture piece has real or fake leather by smelling it. Often, the smell of true leather is distinct and should emit an appealing smell. If the leather is unprocessed, it should give off a stronger smell compared to one that went through mechanical buffing, sanding, or dyeing. On the other hand, the leather is fake if the smell is unpleasant due to the synthetic fibers used to make it.


When testing artificial leather vs genuine leather, you can try the sensory-related methods listed above. Furniture shopping does not have to be stressful, especially if you have the knowledge in differentiating real from fake leather. If you'd like to know even more about the differences between leathers, make sure to check out our previous blog post on the differences between real vs bonded vs faux leatherIf you want to put this to the test, browse our simulated leather products to see if you can tell the difference!