In this article, we will learn about bicast leather, its unique characteristics, how it’s made, and what kind of products it is used for. We will also look at the advantages and disadvantages of using this material, how to maintain it, and compare it to similar leathers.
How Bicast Leather is Made
In order to make bicast leather, first the raw hide is split into different layers, and the top grain is removed. Depending on the thickness of the hide, the remaining layers are further split until only a thin bottom layer is left. This bottom layer, which lacks the strength and natural beauty of the top-grain layer, is then covered with a layer of polyurethane that is applied to the surface and then embossed to look like real leather. Bicast leather is also known as laminated leather or reconstituted leather. In some countries, this material is also referred to as leatherette.
A similar production process results in a purely synthetic product called PU leather, which is short for “polyurethane leather” or vegan leather. PU leather is manufactured by applying a shell coating layer on top of a synthetic polymer blend. Since it contains no natural hide, this material cannot be sold or marketed as leather.
Since Bicast leather is only partially made from natural leather, it has properties of both the hide it’s made from, and the synthetic polyurethane layer. It is neither as long-lasting nor as durable as natural leather. It doesn’t develop the natural patina over time that real leather does, either. When used in footwear, it is not as breathable as natural leather, while also lacking strength. When used for furniture, the bicast leather tends to split and crack with just 6-8 months of normal wear and tear. This is in stark comparison to genuine leather furniture, which can last between 25 and 40 years.
When it comes to looks, bicast leather can closely resemble natural leather. Due to the versatility of the vinyl coating on the split layer, it can be imprinted to mimic the top grain of real leather, and have higher consistency and glossiness than possible for most natural leathers.
Unfortunately, the material does not become more beautiful with time and use; instead it develops unsightly cracks, rough patches and tears that cannot be repaired without replacing the whole covering. While initially the surface of laminated leather is smooth and has a bright shine, its appearance changes with use and shows signs of wear and tear relatively quickly.
Products Bicast Leather Is Commonly Used For
Bicast leather was originally created for use in shoes. It allowed for cheap footwear that resembled real leather shoes. Later, it became widely used for furniture such as couches, sofas and settees. Nowadays, bicast leather is also used for handbags, men’s bags and belts. Some jackets for both men and women are also made from this material.
Advantages of Bicast Leather
The main advantage of bicast leather is the price. Compared to a sofa made of genuine leather priced around $6000, a similar sofa made of bicast leather may cost around $800. Hence, for price-sensitive consumers looking for furniture or other products that need not last for a long time, laminated leather is a good option. Because bicast leather does not develop a patina over time, it is good for applications where a consistent appearance is needed.
Disadvantages of Bicast Leather
Bicast leather, due to its manufacturing process, does not result in high-quality products that are flexible, durable and retain their beauty. Instead, they tend to show cracks on the surface with use, deep scratches will grow longer, and the glossy surface becomes dull with time. The main issue with laminated leather products is longevity, so if you’re about to purchase a piece of furniture, avoid this option if looking for a durable item. It is also difficult or impossible to repair once damaged.
How to Care for Bicast Leather
Because the surface of bicast leather is not made from top-grain, it does not react well to dirt, oils or skin contact. It should never be cleaned with products that are intended for use with genuine leather, such as oils or waxes. To prevent it from becoming sticky, it should be protected by applying bicast protector. It should also be regularly cleaned with bicast cleaner, to remove body oils that can degrade the surface and lead to cracks. Sometimes, cracks in PU leather can be fixed by gentle heating with a hairdryer. However, this should be done with extreme caution, and you should first test the method on an area that is not visible such as the underside of the furniture.
Similar to bicast leather is another type of synthetic leather, called bonded leather. Bonded leather, also known as reconstituted leather or blended leather, is made from shredded leather straps and leather fibre mixed with bonding materials. The layer of shredded leather and bonding materials is bonded with a polyurethane coating which is pressed to form a leather-like texture.
Just like bicast leather, bonded leather is not high quality and is not considered real leather. They are both used to upholster furniture, but both are susceptible to damage from cracks, abrasion and contact with body oils and dirt. However, both can be maintained by using recommended cleaning and protective products.
In short, bicast leather is unsuitable for products which require durability, flexibility and heavy use. It is a cheaper option than genuine leather and has myriad uses, but care should be taken when purchasing leather furniture. Unscrupulous dealers may try to pass off bicast or bonded leather products as made from real leather.
Other Similar Leathers
Other leathers you may want to check out:
- Artificial Leather
- Bonded Leather