Say the word "vinyl" and most people think of the hard, shiny fabric that covers diner booths and retro chairs. Vinyl, however, has transformed into a fabric that so closely resembles leather that sometimes it's difficult to tell them apart. Several techniques, however, can help you identify the differences between the two, allowing you to make a more informed purchase or sale.
Check the furniture first for a manufacturer's tag. If the piece has a tag, it will tell you if the item is made of 100% leather, vinyl, or a blend of the two.
Examine the back of the material, if possible. The back of vinyl has a rough woven appearance, as it is a man-made fabric. Leather, on the other hand, is simply made of animal hide and therefore has a smooth, suede-like appearance that manufacturers cannot replicate.
If the furniture is old, look for signs of wear and tear. Even the best vinyls show damage faster than true leather. Pay close attention to fading or cracks, as vinyl is much more prone to this kind of damage than finished leather.
A common technique to tell vinyl from leather is to smell the furniture. Because leather is an organic rather than man-made material, it has a distinctive, though subtle fragrance to it that vinyl does not.
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