How Do I Tell If I Have Leather Or Vinyl?

This is an important step to take before placing your order for a repair kit. Please keep in mind, that a majority of upholstered furniture and automotive seats will have leather seating areas, but will also have vinyl trim on the sides or in other areas. 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 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 definete knitted material. .  Leather has no backing material of any kind, only “rough” or suede looking (usually of the same 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 reffered to as “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.

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.