What is faux leather? If you’ve ever heard of the term “faux leather?”, then you might be wondering, “what is the difference between faux leather and genuine leather?” Additionally, you might also ask, “should you buy faux leather instead of actual leather?” To answer these questions, we’ll have a closer look at faux leather – from how it is made to how it differs from genuine leather. We’ll also discuss its advantages and disadvantages compared to genuine leather.
What Is Faux Leather?
As the name suggests, faux leather is “fake leather.” However, it is specifically designed to look like genuine leather. In addition, it also feels like natural leather, and the color is just like genuine leather as well. It’s also worth noting that faux leather is known by many other names. These include fake leather, artificial leather, synthetic leather, etc.
Nonetheless, despite looking and having a texture similar to genuine leather, people already accustomed to natural leather can quickly identify the difference between true and faux leather. One difference is that the surface of genuine leather is naturally uneven. In contrast, faux leather’s texture is unnaturally even. This is because the texture in the faux leather is made by a machine instead of being naturally sourced. We will further discuss their differences in the following sections.
With that said, there are also many uses for faux leather. In fact, you can see them in sofas, belts, wallets, shoes, chair covers, upholstery, among many others. However, one of its most famous uses is in faux leather jackets. Faux leather jackets are trendy because not only do they look classy and stylish, but they can also be tough to differentiate from genuine leather jackets. This is because these jackets are designed to look and feel like genuine leather despite their artificial nature. Additionally, they’re trendy among the masses because they’re significantly less expensive than genuine leather, making them more affordable and accessible.
What Is Faux Leather – Types
To better understand faux leather and the question “what is faux leather,” you must first know that there are two types of faux leather. To be more specific, faux leather construction is primarily categorized into two kinds. These are polyvinyl chloride, or “vinyl” for short, and polyurethane.
Since the 1940s, synthetic vinyl leather has been in production in the United States. However, the production of vinyl leather back then was initially meant to serve as a base material for shoes, upholstery, and automobile interior.
However, around the year 1950, several chemical companies such as DuPont started developing polyurethane products. As a result, polyurethane faux leather started to rise.
With that said, both vinyl faux leather and polyurethane faux leather are used in making upholstery, clothing, product covers, and many more. Nonetheless, there are some products wherein one faux leather type works better than the other.
For example, polyurethane products are more breathable and flexible. Because of this, polyurethane faux leather is better for making clothing pieces. On the other hand, faux vinyl leather is not as breathable as polyurethane, making it more effective in repelling water and moisture.
Therefore, faux vinyl leather is often used in book covers or cases for electronic devices or other objects requiring protection from moisture—more on their definition and differences below.
What Is Faux Leather – Vinyl Faux Leather
So, what is faux leather that is made from vinyl? Well, faux leather that is made from vinyl uses two different synthetic materials. First, polyester fibers are utilized to create the fibers of faux vinyl leather.
Next, vinyl is then used to coat these polyester fibers. The vinyl used to cover the fibers is made from plasticizers (phthalic acid) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). After this, the vinyl is melted and then placed into the fibers. This is done because vinyl seals the fibers closed, resulting in a waterproof surface that is still both tough and flexible.
One of the main advantages of faux vinyl leather is that it is effortless to maintain. This makes faux vinyl leather very good for applications or situations wherein constant cleanliness must be observed, such as restaurants, hospitals, and even your home.
As for its maintenance, faux vinyl leather does not require any specific cleaning or special care type. However, despite being relatively tough and flexible, faux vinyl leather can become quite hot if left under the sun. For example, when used as chair covers and then left for extended periods under the heat of the sun, your skin may stick to the faux vinyl leather and may cause some discomfort.
Furthermore, you may also notice some cracks on the surface of faux vinyl leather after prolonged use. Despite that, faux leather is significantly more affordable than genuine leather, so you can easily find replacements.
What Is Faux Leather – Polyurethane Faux Leather
In contrast, faux leather that is made from polyurethane has an entirely different process. First, it uses a base material or a backing fabric such as shredded leather, polyester, or cotton. The base material is then coated with a flexible polymer and processed to appear similar to genuine animal hide or natural leather.
Because of this, compared to faux vinyl leather, polyurethane faux leather offers a better imitation of genuine leather. In fact, it looks more realistic, and the surface feels more natural as well. Additionally, when you garner together or stitch a polyurethane faux leather, it wrinkles like genuine leather. This quality makes it more realistic. Polyurethane faux leather works this way because there are no plasticizers used in its production, unlike faux vinyl leather.
Furthermore, because there are no plasticizers present, you won’t experience peeling or cracking on polyurethane faux leather. Moreover, its quality of being supple and soft remains the same throughout the time you use it. Because of this, decorations can go well with polyurethane faux leather due to its durability and resistance to cracking and peeling.
Lastly, polyurethane faux leather is also safer for the environment compared to faux vinyl leather. This is because in the process of making polyurethane faux leather, there are no dioxins used. In addition, the process does not need plasticizers because polyurethane resins are made from softer polymers.
What Is Faux Leather vs Real Leather
Despite being an imitation of the original leather, there are certain advantages to using faux leather over natural leather.
In fact, one of the most critical and perhaps convincing aspects for buyers is that genuine leather involves using the skin of a specific animal. In contrast, faux leather is made of synthetic products. Additionally, because faux leather is created synthetically, it is also more affordable and accessible for people with budget constraints.
This is because the materials are less expensive, and it’s generally easier to produce several faux pieces of leather at once. In addition, faux leather offers a higher level of versatility in terms of designs. For example, it can come in virtually any color you please, although most people prefer traditional leather colors such as brown or black. In addition, you can have it in a glossy finish, which looks incredibly stylish, or you can also opt for a matte or more traditional style.
Moreover, some individuals dislike the smell of genuine leather, so some people prefer faux leather. It also requires little maintenance and can easily be cleaned with a moist cloth. Furthermore, faux leather does not fade when exposed to UV light. Instead, it retains its usual gloss or matte finish. In contrast, authentic leather will degrade with time and show signs of fading when overexposed to UV rays. In addition, genuine leather is very absorbent. Unfortunately, this means that it is very susceptible to stains and can be very hard to clean.
On the other hand, faux leather is more resistant to moisture, and this cleaning and maintaining it is a lot easier.
What Is Faux Leather – Disadvantages Over Real Leather
To further deepen our understanding of “what is faux leather,” we have to discuss its disadvantages compared to genuine leather.
For example, since faux leather is created synthetically, it lacks the natural durability of genuine leather due to the rawhide that comes from animals such as cows, oxen, etc. However, natural leather is the highest grade of leather you can find but is also the most expensive.
Moreover, despite its lower cost, faux leather is more likely to tear and crack than genuine leather. Although it requires little maintenance, faux leather pales compared to genuine leather when it comes to durability and lifespan. Additionally, you may have to regularly change your faux leather. In contrast, genuine leather can last for decades when properly maintained. Instead of cracking or peeling like faux leather, natural leather develops a patina on its surface.
Furthermore, faux leather can also be easily torn or punctured. For example, in case of carelessness or accidents, faux leather can be very quickly damaged compared to genuine leather. Lastly, despite being friendly to animals, faux leather uses plastic components that take decades to decompose, if it does at all. Because of this, a higher production rate of faux leather means more and more plastic waste is getting introduced to the environment, which can contribute to the overall number of plastic and pollution to the environment.
What Is Faux Leather? – In Conclusion
So, what is faux leather? Simply put, it’s synthetic or fake leather. Moreover, there are two main types of faux leather, namely polyurethane, and vinyl. Additionally, when compared to genuine leather, faux leather is budget-friendlier but is less durable. However, it is more resistant to moistures and stains since it does not absorb water as natural leather does. Therefore, it’s that much easier to clean as well. So, when deciding whether to buy faux or genuine leather, there are several factors to consider. Of course, it ultimately depends on your preference, your application, and your budget. With that said, we hope that this article has given you a deeper insight into the question “what is faux leather.”