Vinyl Vs. Leather for Upholstering

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In many situations, there is little difference between vinyl and leather upholstery. Vinyl upholstery has come a long way since its inception, and is often mistaken for leather. Leather, on the other hand, is a classic material that does not go out of style. Choosing between these two upholstery fabrics is a decision that has many separate considerations about the benefits of each fabric and each person's lifestyle.

Leather

  • Leather upholstery is created from animal hides. Commonly cow hides are used, but other hides, such as goat and sheep, are also sometimes used to make leather. The animal hides are tanned (which uses salt to cure the hide and give it a flexible shape) and dyed, which forms them into the supple leather used to make upholstery. Leather is not waterproof, and can dry out over time if left in the sun.

Vinyl

  • Vinyl upholstery is made from two separate synthetic materials. The fibers of the upholstery are constructed from strong polyester fibers. The fibers are then coated with vinyl, made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). This vinyl is melted onto the surface of the fibers, sealing them closed and making a virtually waterproof surface that is still flexible and tough.

Benefits

  • Each kind of upholstery has its own benefits. Vinyl upholstery is easy to clean and maintain. This makes it ideal for situations where cleanliness is a top priority, such as in hospitals and restaurants. Vinyl also does not require any special care or conditioning. Leather upholstery is soft and supple. It provides a comfortable surface for almost any activity. Leather also is ideal for allergy suffers who may have problems with dust in fabric upholstery.

Drawbacks

  • Even though each kind of upholstery has benefits, there are also drawbacks as well. Vinyl can become uncomfortably hot if left in the sun. Skin will stick to the surface, creating an uncomfortable seating situation. Vinyl may crack with extended use. Leather is made from animal skin. This is enough of a drawback to repel many people from leather. Leather also must be regularly conditioned to prevent it from drying out completely. Leather is more expensive than vinyl upholstery.

Considerations

  • There is a use for both vinyl and leather upholstery. Vinyl works well for children, medical industries and kitchens. Leather is beneficial for offices, homes and cars. Consider the lifestyle that you have, and whether low-maintenance is important to you, or if you prefer the luxurious vibe that leather upholstery gives off.

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References

  • Photo Credit Overstuffed Brown Leather Reclining Sofa image by James Phelps from Fotolia.com
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