How Do I Tell If I Have Leather Or Vinyl? Genuine or Imitation Leather?
We are often asked by our customers: How Do I Tell If I Have Leather Or Vinyl? Genuine or Imitation Leather? This sometimes can be nearly impossible just by visual determination but is an important step to take before placing your order for a repair kit or maintenance products. Please keep in mind, that a majority of upholstered furniture and automotive seats will have a combination of both materials: Leather seating areas combined with vinyl trim on the sides or in other areas. In some instances, the material may be presented as leather, but in reality is a vinyl material. This makes the job of identifying your material a bit more difficult.
First; leather feels softer, warmer, more natural. Vinyl, on the other hand, feels colder, stiffer, and artificial. This may be easy for some to determine the difference, but others may have a very difficult time in making the decision in this manner.
One sure fire way of determining which you have is to look on the under or back side of the material. This can be done easily if you have a cut or hole all the way through the material. Just lift up a small section and look at the back side of the material. If you see a "cloth like" material that appears to be glued to the backside of the fabric, then you are looking at a piece of vinyl. Sometime this backing will be of a white colored poly-fill or “fuzzy” nature or may look like cheese cloth or a definite knitted material. Leather has no backing material of any kind, only “rough” or suede looking (usually a similar color as the surface).
You will always find edges of the material wrapped around the frame of the piece where you can lift an edge to see the backside of the material. Just make certain that you are looking at the right section of the upholstery, Many times there is a combination of leather and vinyl used. If the piece is referred to as simply "leather", that means that all seating areas or any material that will come into contact with skin in a normal seating position will be leather. Other trim pieces such as sides, lower panels etc., can be of a vinyl material. A piece labeled "full leather" will normally be genuine leather all over, including back, sides and other trim areas.
Another method that can be used, is to use a finger tip and press on the surface of a cushion or area where the leather is applied over a soft padding. If the material is leather, the pressure from your finger will create tiny wrinkles in the finish of the leather in close proximity of where you have placed your finger. If the leather is not stretched tightly over the cushion, you may also pinch a small section of the leather to create a fold. Wrinkles in the finish will appear when this action is performed. If no wrinkles appear, you most likely are looking a a vinyl material. The finish of vinyl will not form small wrinkles when pressed or partially folded. However, there are a few types of vinyl being manufactured that will wrinkle when severely folded. If in doubt, the sure fire way to determine leather from vinyl, is to look at the backside as mentioned above.
There mare many fabrics used, especially in furniture applications, where misleading marketing tactics are employed. Artificial leather, which is simply vinyl material made to imitate genuine leather, is often used and passed on or presented to the consumer, to complicate and confuse the purchaser into thinking that genuine leather is being purchased. These fabrics generally carry exaggerated names and identities such as "Pleather", "Leatherette", "Faux Leather" and many others. We are often confronted by customers wishing to obtain products for their "leather" furniture and after some discussion we are able to determine that the item that they assume is genuine leather is, in reality, one of these imitation products. Maintenance and repair products designed for use on genuine leather, are completely ineffective on these imitation materials and in some cases can be damaging. Leather Magic! wishes to provide products that provide the exact solutions that you are searching for. That is why we diligently strive to answer your question of how do I tell if I have leather or vinyl