Is Bicast Leather Really 100% Leather?

Close-up of an armchair in a living room
George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

I'm looking for a sectional for my family room and found one that I like. The saleswoman says it is 100% leather, but she also mentioned that it was bicast leather. Is bicast leather 100% leather?

Answer: In a word, no. Bicast leather is not 100% leather. Strictly speaking, it is not even leather, but a leather by-product.

Bicast leather is made from split leather which is then laminated and strengthened with a polyethylene top layer.

It has been made available thanks to modern technology, which lets leather be split into a number of layers. The layers used to make bicast leather are of the most inferior quality, and without the coating, they may not have been of any use at all.

After the polyethylene coating is applied, grain patterns are embossed into the surface to make it look more leather-like. For someone who is not really aware of the characteristics of real leather, it is very easy to mistake it for the real thing.

How to Tell it Apart from Real Leather

There are several ways to tell it apart from real leather. While bicast leather furniture may look like leather at first glance, you will find that it does not behave like real leather. Here's how you can tell it apart:

  • Real leather is very supple. If you bunch it in your hand and let go, it will relax back to its original position. It also develops a richness and patina with extended use. Bi-cast leather, on the other hand, does not develop that suppleness or patina with time.
  • You may find that bi-cast leather upholstery may have a strong chemical smell at first, which dissipates after a while.
  • Real leather never looks uniform, and there is a great amount of variation in the grain. Bi-cast leather resembles real leather at a glance, and you may find plenty of color choices, but the grain may appear to be too even. The same grain pattern is repeated over and over giving the surface a uniform appearance.
  • Bicast leather may also be prone to splitting and cracking. This happens because it is not as resilient as real leather.

Advantages to Buying Bi-cast Leather Furniture

While bi-cast leather does not compare to real leather, there are some advantages to buying it. What bi-cast leather has going for itself is that it is much more affordable than real leather, and easy to keep clean.

All the same, it is misleading and dishonest to sell it as 100% leather or even real leather. If you are looking for real leather, then bi-cast leather is not for you. If you want your furniture to last a while, again, bi-cast leather is not for you.

Note: Bicast leather is also known as bycast leather, bi-cast leather, or PU leather.