Why Is Your RV Leather Furniture Peeling and What to Do About It – RV-N-Style

Why Is Your RV Leather Furniture Peeling and What to Do About It

Peeling RV Leather Furniture

When we purchased our beautiful Newmar Mountain Aire Class A RV, we never noticed any damage to the leather furniture inside. Within about 2 months we began to notice little pieces of what we thought was leather peeling and flaking off of our recliners.

Since our RV was out of warranty, we had to solve the problem ourselves.

RV Recliner Arm Peeling
Recliner Arm After a Month

I did a lot of research about RV furniture and this is what we learned. Hopefully, it will help you.

The Secret Behind Why RV Leather Furniture Peels

RV furniture peels because RV manufacturers do not install real leather furniture, it is synthetic leather.

If your RV is still under warranty and your furniture is showing any signs of wear, immediately contact your RV dealer and manufacturer and request that it be replaced before your warranty expires.

Inspect Your Furniture BEFORE You Buy

  • Before buying a pre-owned RV, inspect the furniture very carefully for fabric flaws.
  • Inspect it in the daylight with as much light as possible.
  • Negotiate replacement furniture or a steep discount on the price of the motor home because RV furniture is expensive.
Negotiate RV Price

Long Time Industry Problems

RV furniture peeling problems have been going on in the industry for years, too bad we didn’t find out about them until after we bought our RV. Hopefully, our experience will help save you money when buying your RV.

Five Basic Steps to Replacing Your RV Furniture

  1. Is your RV furniture still under warranty?
  2. Can Your RV Furniture Be Repaired?
  3. What should you replace your RV furniture with?
  4. Where do you get RV replacement furniture?
  5. How Do You Your RV Furniture Through Your RV Door?

RV Furniture Surprises Dealers Don’t Tell You

While it may look like leather, the furniture in even the top of the line RVs is not real leather furniture.
RV furniture manufacturers use synthetic imitation leather fabrics made to resemble real leather.
The fabrics go by many different names depending on the manufacturer and the fabric quality varies greatly.

fabric swatches

Unfortunately, over the past several years the RV industry has been inundated with furniture covered with poor quality fabrics that do not last.

Our Experience With Peeling Furniture

When we purchased our pre-owned Newmar Class A RV, we had no idea that the furniture was not real leather or that this is a known issue in the industry. In a matter of a few months, our beautiful new to us luxury RV went from looking like this:

The Chairs Look Nice

To this:

It Happens Very Fast

At first, there were just a few flakes of missing material that started becoming noticeable on the arms of our recliners. I began searching the issue on the internet trying to find ways to stop the damage and find a way to repair the chairs.

That’s how I learned about all the different so-called leather products used in RVs and how they are very different from each other.

What makes Bonded Leather RV Furniture Peel?

When I researched it, I found that there were lots of things that cause bonded leather (which is the standard type of furniture used in all RVs) to peel.

According to the manufacturers, everything from the oils from your skin, to the climate that your RV is stored in can cause your furniture to begin to peel and flake.

One place even said that using lotion on your skin or letting your pets on the furniture would do it!

skin lotion

What Really Makes RV Furniture Peel?

Everywhere I searched, there was no solution on how to stop our RV furniture from disintegrating right before our eyes…

The simple answer to what makes bonded RV leather furniture peel is- Time.

You will only get about 2-5 years out of it!

It made me wonder (just for a second) why luxury RV Manufacturers would use such an inferior product. Again a simple answer- to cut costs!

Can you Fix Peeling RV Furniture?

No, there is no real fix for peeling bonded leather. It’s a synthetic material that is not considered durable. It’s really not worth the time or effort to try any quick fixes, that will probably make it look and feel worse.

Can You Reupholster Your Bonded Leather RV Furniture

You could have your RV furniture recovered, but any reputable upholstery company will tell you that will cost you as much to recover them as it would be to buy new furniture!

If you cannot afford to replace your bonded leather RV furniture, your best bet is to buy slipcovers and save up for new, higher quality RV furniture.

suede fabric swatches

How to Pick the Right RV Furniture

Since our Class A RV was out of warranty, we had to replace our furniture ourselves.
We did many hours of research before we bought our new RV furniture.

It isn’t as simple as choosing a particular brand and picking between a few different categories of quality.

Don’t Be Fooled by Industry Jargon

The furniture industry has created a long list of brand names of fabrics they use on furniture which can be quite confusing (intentionally?) to consumers.
What makes it harder is that since companies create their own unique brand names for fabrics, it’s very hard to compare them without some basic knowledge of how leather is made and what quality leather is – and is not.

What You Need To Know About Fabrics

I’ve put together this list of basic things that we learned about leather to allow us to make a wise buying decision when we purchased our new RV furniture.

When you are ready to purchase your new RV furniture, just keep these things in mind.

RV Leather Upholstery Basics

3 Types of Leather

There are really only three different types or grades of leather which are ranked by quality and durability:

  • Full-Grain Leather,
  • Top-Grain Leather and
  • Genuine Leather
leather samples

Leather manufacturers might further divide these three into subgroups, but for our RV furniture investigation, we don’t really need that much detail.

Other sites may call Bonded Leather a fourth type of leather, but as you read on you will learn that is not entirely accurate.

Lots of Leather Imitations

There’s also a long list of synthetic materials that, while manufacturers add the word “leather” to their brand names, really aren’t leather at all!

Manufacturers may give them designer names like Bonded Leather or Vegan Leather or PVC or PU, but they aren’t real leather.

How can you tell if something is real leather? On all real leathers, the back will be suede.


Tip: All leather, whether it is real or synthetic requires some level of processing to render it useful as fabric.


Full-grain leather –

  • Quality– Highest
  • Pros– Beautiful and Durable
  • Cons– Most Expensive, High maintenance
  • Recommendation
    Don’t Buy! Full-grain leather furniture is beautiful, but not practical for an RV due to the maintenance required and the fact that sunlight can damage it. Also, if you have pets, don’t forget this leather absorbs liquids- any liquid!
cow hide

Full Grain Leather FAQs

This is the highest quality and most expensive of leather grades.

It receives minimal processing, which leaves the full grain of the hide intact, including natural scarring and blemishes.

The most durable and resistant to wear, it does not tear.

It absorbs moisture and oil developing a unique patina with time.

Requires a lot of maintenance and is susceptible to sunlight and absorbs liquids readily.

leather texture

Top-grain leather –

  • Quality– Second Highest, both full and top-grain leathers are made from the best quality part of the hide
  • Pros– Beautiful, Durable and less maintenance
  • Cons– Also Expensive but not as costly as Full-grain
  • Recommendation
    Buy It! Top-grain leather furniture is beautiful, and requires less maintenance and care. It’s used most often in higher-end upholstered items.
    RV furniture made of top-grain leather will last long, look great and is well worth the investment.

Top- Grain Leather FAQs

Top grain leather is the second-highest grade of leather.

It’s buffed and pigmented to provide a smoother look and is softer than the full-grain leather with the same durability.

Doesn’t absorb moisture and is easy to wipe clean. It’s also highly resistant to tears and stains, so it’s ideal for those with kids or pets.

Genuine leather or Split Grain Leather –  

  • Quality– The lowest quality of leather
  • Pros– Less expensive
  • Cons– Not durable and not easy to maintain
  • Recommendation
    Don’t Buy! Genuine leather is a marketing term used to give the illusion that the product is quality when it is actually the lowest grade of leather.
    It’s basically made by gluing several layers of the lowest quality leather together and then painting them to resemble leather. This is not a good choice for your RV furniture.

Genuine Leather FAQs

Genuine leather is the lowest grade of leather that has been heavily processed.
It contains none of the original hide’s natural grain.

It isn’t as durable or beautiful as high-quality leather and can be difficult to maintain.
The most common split-grain leather is suede.

It may also be mixed with leather scraps, artificial materials, and bonding agents.

suede fabric swatches

Synthetics- Not Really Leather, But Leather Imitations

If it says Leather in the Name, is it Really Leather? No, unfortunately just because a company calls its product some brand name and then adds the word “leather” to it, that doesn’t mean that it’s real leather.

There are many synthetic materials that are produced to look and feel like leather. The companies that create them give them brand names that make them sound like they are just different types of leather, when, in fact, they are not real leather at all.

Bonded Leather-

  • Quality– Low quality synthetic
  • Pros– cheap
  • Cons– Not durable, short lifespan before it peels and disintegrates
  • Recommendation
    Don’t Buy! Bonded leather is another marketing term used to give the illusion that the product is quality, even though it has a very short lifespan of 2-5 years. This was the material our furniture was made of and, in our opinion, is not a good choice for your RV furniture.

Bonded Leather FAQs

Bonded leather isn’t technically leather at all. It’s a mixture of leather dust, vinyl, leather scraps, plastic and glue bonded together.

It’s a cheap product that doesn’t last and is sometimes called reconstituted or blended leather.

It’s often used because it offers the look and texture of leather for the cheapest price

Faux Leather, Vegan Leather, and Other Phony Leather Names

When searching for RV furniture, you will hear lots of different names like PVC leather, PU Leather, Bi-Cast Leather and even Vegan Leather!

Don’t be fooled, none of them are real leather, just man-made materials made to look and sometimes feel like leather. And it’s hard to get a straight answer about them, each manufacturer wants to tell you that theirs is the next best thing to real leather!

confused over leather

Here are a few names and terms we encountered when researching RV furniture:

  • Faux Leather
  • Polyvinyl-chloride (PVC) Leather
  • Polyurethane (PU) Leather
  • Bi-Cast Leather
  • Ultimate Leather- not to be confused with…
  • Ultra Leather and Ultra Leather Plus
vegan leather

Comparing RV Synthetic Fabrics

The manufacturing process may vary slightly among them, and maybe some are better than others for RV furniture.

But it’s hard to tell because when we asked for comparisons, we got some weird answers.

Manufacturers said things like “PU leather offers better “breathe ability” (vapor transmission) than PVC leather”. We’re not sure how you can actually back this up with facts.

real brown leather

If you haven’t figured it out yet, we are not big fans of the synthetic leather materials just because we weren’t convinced that they were better than real leather.

Ultra Leather

The only company that seemed to be able to provide facts was Ultra-fabrics (they make Ultra Leather). The price of Ultra Leather was as much as Top Grain Leather, so that made our decision easy- we went with real Top Grain Leather.

Real Leather Is Easier To Match

Keep in mind that if you need to match any other of your RV furniture in the future, it’s a lot easier to match real leather.

If you don’t decide on real leather, make sure you do your research very carefully and keep this in mind…

I saw a comment on one of the RV forums that said something like when a famous actor was doing commercials for Chrysler, he used to say that the Chrysler Cordoba had the “Finest Corinthian Leather”. 

No one has ever been able to find any leather that came from Corinth, but it sure sold a whole lot of Cordoba’s!!

chrysler car

The last thing we learned that helped us confirm that real leather furniture was right for us was something called the Double Rubs Test.

What’s the Double Rubs Test and Why Does It Matter on My RV Furniture?

The Double rubs test is the North American government durability standard for testing the ability of a fabric to withstand wear from abrasion.

It’s a mechanized method to measure if a fabric is suitable for where it will be used.

The higher the abrasion rating, the more durable the fabric.

Why Durability Is Important

The main reason our RV furniture disintegrated was that it was not durable enough to withstand where it was being used.

RV furniture should have a durability rating of at least Medium Duty, but a Heavy Duty rating is preferred.

If you want to learn more about fabric durability testing, Google Double Rubs test abrasion rating.

recliner

Can You Use Regular Furniture in an RV?

Yes, you can use regular furniture in your RV, provided it fits through your RV door.

Make sure to get an accurate measurement of the inside door width (don’t forget to account for hinges or any other things that are inside the door frame), before you start shopping.

measuring tape

Factor In Furniture Weights

Most RV furniture can be disassembled to fit through doors and some regular furniture can be too.
In our Class A RV, furniture weight is not an issue but if you have a smaller RV or are getting close to your maximum Cargo Capacity Carrying weight (CCC), just should make sure that you are within limits.

If you want to learn more about RV CCC weights and why it’s important to know these numbers, you may enjoy Preventing a Blowout on Your RV.

Where Can You Buy RV Furniture

There are a number of online companies that sell RV furniture, or you can go through your RV dealership and have them order it for you.

Here’s a checklist of what to ask for when contacting RV furniture companies:

  1. Request samples of fabrics
  2. Ask what the material is specifically (Leather- what grade, Synthetic made of exactly what material)
  3. Ask for a detailed quote in writing
  4. Is shipping included
  5. Is it curbside delivery (most likely) or will they bring it into your RV
  6. What is the Double Rubs test rating
  7. How long is the warranty
  8. Do they offer options like power recline, USB charging ports, lights, massage, etc?

We purchased our leather RV theater seating from 4seating.com and we were very happy with their service and would highly recommend them. They even shipped our furniture three weeks early!

4seating.com

Here are some of the other companies that sell RV furniture. Be sure to compare the quality of the material before purchasing!

  • Shop4Seats
  • Brad and Hall
  • Flexsteel
  • Glastop

An Option- Order your RV with Upgraded Furniture

If you are ordering a new RV, consider upgrading your furniture (if that option is available).
If that is not an available option, our friends ordered their RV without the couch and bought their own custom-designed theater seating.
That can save you money and you can get exactly what you want, probably at a better price!

How to Get RV Furniture Through an RV Door

If you are replacing your original RV furniture, chances are that it came with the coach and can be easy to disassemble.

Check to see if your furniture is mounted or attached to the floor. Our old recliners were attached to brackets on the slide floor and after unscrewing a couple of bolts, we could move them.

The next step is to find the release on either side of the recliner backs and pull the backs up to remove them.

That’s it! Your situation may be slightly different depending on whether you have a couch or not, but they are pretty easy to disassemble.

Upgrade to Theater Seating

We decided on theater seating to replace our recliners (best time for an upgrade and refresh to the inside of your coach!).
The set we ordered from 4seating.com was easily disassembled and reassembled the same way.
They are really comfortable, and we love the power and USB charging capabilities.

Enjoy Your New RV Furniture

Don’t be afraid to use this as an excuse to do some remodeling and upgrading to your coach! We have friends that have completely changed their color schemes by just updating the furniture.

We decided that our beautiful new theater seats should not be sitting on the old carpet, so we replaced the carpet on our slide with some gorgeous waterproof vinyl flooring that looks like wood.

It was a simple job that we did ourselves and completed in a weekend!

Related Questions People Also Ask

Can You Replace Your RV Couch with Recliners?

Yes, you can replace your RV couch with recliners. Make sure to measure carefully to allow for enough space behind the recliners so that they can open.
You can also purchase wall hugger or zero wall hugger recliners.

What is a Wall Hugger Recliner or Zero Hugger Recliner?

Wall hugger or zero hugger recliners sit up straighter and use less space than a regular recliner. The back of the recliner only needs to be around four inches from the wall to fully recline, where a regular recliner needs at least 12 inches. 

Carol Ivey

Carol is a long time adventurer who loves travelling in her 44 foot Newmar Mountain Aire Class A RV with her husband Mike, and their Black Standard Schnauzer aptly named "Rider". Carol has been sharing travel stories and advice for years, and their newest adventure chronicles what luxury RV living and travel is all about. Tips, tricks and lessons learned about Glamping- seeing the country in style and comfort while cruising behind the wheel of a luxury RV. They definitely know how to RV-N-Style.

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