If you’re considering buying leather furniture, you should know that you have a lot of options available. It’s very important to make sure you know what kind of quality leather you’re getting because there is quite a bit of difference between each type.
Two of the most popular among them for sofa upholstery are top-grain and bonded leather. Previously we did a breakdown of the best leather sofa brands and the overall best leather sofas. We also compared leather and fabric sofas. If you missed those articles, we’d recommend checking them out before making a decision.
In this article, though, we’re going to define each type of leather, share their benefits, and show where you can buy the best leather sofas.
What Is Top-Grain Leather?
Top-grain, or top layer leather, is the outermost layer of the hide and is considered to be the highest quality portion of the cowhide. If the top layer is used as is, with its natural grain preserved, it’s referred to as “full-grain leather.” Otherwise it goes through a sanding process to smooth out the texture.
Benefits of Top-Grain Leather Sofas
- Top-grain leather is a high-quality leather material.
- It has a more uniform look instead of retaining its natural markings.
- The tanning process closes the pores in the leather so it does not absorb oil or moisture or develop patina. Some people prefer a patina, but it can change the uniformity of the upholstery.
- With leather conditioner, you can retain the appearance of the leather for many years.
What Is Bonded Leather?
Bonded leather is a less expensive, lower quality material that is formulated with leather pieces, including leather shavings, vinyl and plastic. It is bound together with glue and dyed to have a uniform look that is often very close in appearance to a true leather couch.
Benefits of Bonded Leather Sofas
- Bonded leather is a much less expensive option than other high-quality types.
- When done well, bonded leather can actually look very close to the real thing.
- Bonded leather doesn’t require conditioning because it’s not real leather.
- It’s not as durable as leather, but it is easy to clean and can last a decent amount of time if used gently.
The Best Overall Sofas of 2023
To help you find the best deep seat sofa, I tested individual models from over 23 different brands. These are the best new sofas with extra deep seats that balance the best in design, price, sustainability, and durability.
Key Differences Between Top-Grain & Bonded Leather Sofas
Shoppers who choose top-grain leather prefer the better quality grade over bonded leather, which actually just contains leather scraps. However, for some shoppers, bonded leather is a better choice. That mostly applies to those constricted by budget.
Shoppers who have a bigger budget and don’t mind the investment of a top-grain leather sofa choose this option. However, for those on a tight budget or those who don’t want to make a large investment in a piece of furniture, bonded leather is a better choice.
Top-grain leather is the clear winner here. However, those who aren’t as concerned about the quality of the materials and just want something that looks like leather, might prefer bonded leather.
Shoppers who want quality leather products that will last for many years will most likely opt for a top-grain leather. For those who aren’t as concerned about their sofa’s longevity, bonded or faux leather is usually the choice.
Other Different Types of Leather to Consider for Your Sofa
Full-grain leather or genuine leather is the highest quality leather and is totally unprocessed so it retains all of its natural blemishes and texture. It absorbs moisture or oil over time, developing a patina.
Split-grain leather is the bottom portion of the hide that is separated during the splitting process that is often used to create other items.
Aniline and Semi-Aniline Leather
Aniline leather and semi-aniline is real leather treated with soluble aniline dyes to give them a uniform look while retaining the texture of genuine leather.
Faux leather is made from synthetic materials that produce a similar imitation grain that closely resembles genuine leather.
Suede is a form of split leather which has a napped finish and is softer and more pliant.
Where To Buy Your Leather Sofa
Now that you know what your options are when it comes to purchasing a sofa with leather upholstery, we can point you toward the best leather sofas and the best leather sofa brands. We evaluated all the most popular leather sofas and compared them based on price, quality, customer service and options. That was a huge lift for us, but it was worth it. Spoiler alert: we chose Allform leather sofas as the best.