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Why Fire Stations Should Avoid Bonded Leather Furniture

March 20, 2024

We’ve all seen pictures of leather seating that is flaking, peeling and falling apart. Ever wondered what makes that happen? The short answer is: Bonded Leather.

fire station recliner peeling bonded leather

What is bonded leather?

Bonded leather is a mix of real and synthetic leather. Leftover “scraps” and fibers made from processing real leather are mixed with a binding agent. These fibers are combined and “bonded” together onto a paper backing. Most bonded leather is only 10-20% real, genuine leather.

Even with the polyurethane coating many manufactures use to coat the bonded leather to give it the texture of real leather, it will still break down much faster when used in fire stations when compared to hospitality-grade synthetic leather that is designed for this type of use.

Over time, bonded leather can also release some of the chemicals that were used when the fibers and scraps were bonded together. Not what you want, especially in the firehouse.

When does bonded leather make sense?

Now, don’t get us wrong, there are times where bonded leather is a good value. If the furniture isn’t going to be used often, bonded leather will give you a leather look for less cost. For example, in residential settings like formal living rooms, bonded leather may be great.

Why doesn’t bonded leather last in fire stations?

Since firefighters are frequently sitting down and getting up, using furniture 24x7 for multiple shifts, the constant use accelerates wear and tear and decreases the lifespan of any seating. This means the flaking and peeling that happens with bonded leather can show in a shorter amount of time in this type of setting.

In addition, bonded leather cannot be safely disinfected without harming the fabric itself. Repeat, bonded leather cannot be safely disinfected without damaging the fabric and greatly reducing the lifespan. Manufacturers caution not to use any type of harsh cleaner, especially alcohol-based products, to clean bonded leather. Bleach cannot be used on bonded leather without causing significant harm, meaning it can only be cleaned with a soft cloth and water. Even then, tap water contains chlorine and other contaminants that can damage the surface.

Since fire stations and emergency service facilities are generally cleaned and disinfected quite often and there are multiple shifts sharing the same seating, having seating that can be properly disinfected and cleaned is very important.

So, what is the right fabric for fire station seating?

If cleaning and durability are important, it’s important to choose seating that is durable and easy to clean. Several of our recliners and sofas feature an antimicrobial synthetic leather that is designed for “hospitality” and “medical” settings, including hotels, medical facilities, and you guessed it…fire stations and emergency service facilities. This fabric has the look and feel of real leather, but is made to withstand constant use and can SAFELY be disinfected with a bleach + water solution.

We know this firsthand because FireStationFurniture.com is owned and operated by Brandon, a 20+ year Firefighter. “In my 20+ years in the fire service and 15+ years in the furniture business as my ‘day’ job, I’ve seen the types of materials that last and those that don’t. Bonded leather simply doesn’t hold up to round-the-clock use because of how it’s made. We chose this special fabric for a reason - it lasts.”

What makes FireStationFurniture.com seating different?

FireStationFurniture.com offers several recliners and sofas made with an antimicrobial synthetic leather. The fabric we use:

  • Provides an antimicrobial finish with Silver Ion Technology to control infections and prevent bacterial growth.
  • Offers extreme durability to maintain the antimicrobial protection for the life of the recliner.
  • Has been tested to 200,000 “double rubs” in the Wyzenbeek test, which simulates someone getting into and out of the recliner 200,000 times. This is 4x more durable than many commercial-grade fabrics, which are only tested to 50,000 “double rubs”.
  • Complies with California Tech Bulletin #117-2013, UFAC Class 1, NFPA 260 Class 1, MVSS 302 and IMO A. 652 (16) 8.2 flammability standards.
  • Can be easily cleaned with soap and water. Difficult stains can be removed with Fantastik or Formula 409 and it can SAFELY be disinfected with a 5:1 water/bleach solution.

Look for the “safely disinfect” icon on the recliners that offer this antimicrobial, hospitality-grade synthetic leather. Or, contact FireStationFurniture.com for more information on our fire station seating products.


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