Faux Leather What It Is and When to Use or Avoid It

Kevin Brown

Faux Leather: What It Is and When to Use or Avoid It

Faux leather has grown in popularity for several reasons. We will cover the basics of faux leather to help you form your own opinion on the material.

Faux Leather What It Is and When to Use or Avoid It

Faux leather is synthetic leather made using chemicals. Usually, a plastic layer is bonded to a polyester fabric base material.

Faux Leather What It Is and When to Use or Avoid It

Different types of plastic are used in fake leather production and the specific type determines its eco-friendliness. Faux leather is commonly used for furniture upholstery, such as chairs, headboards, loveseats, sofas, and sectionals.

Faux Leather What It Is and When to Use or Avoid It

Faux leather, also known as leatherette, vegan leather, or eco-leather, offers several advantages over traditional leather.

Firstly, faux leathers are more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Some newer types of faux leather are made from plant waste, further reducing their carbon footprint.

Secondly, faux leathers are often more affordable than genuine leather, making them a cost-effective choice for consumers.

Thirdly, faux leathers can be more versatile in terms of design and color options. Manufacturers can easily create a wide range of textures and patterns, giving consumers more options to choose from.

In addition, faux leathers are easier to maintain and clean compared to real leather. They typically require less specialized care and can be easily wiped clean with a damp cloth.

Lastly, faux leathers are cruelty-free. No animals are harmed in their production, making them a more ethical choice for those concerned about animal welfare.

In conclusion, opting for faux leather instead of real leather offers multiple benefits, including sustainability, affordability, versatility, ease of maintenance, and animal-friendly production practices.

Faux Leather What It Is and When to Use or Avoid It


Faux leather upholstery is significantly cheaper than genuine leather due to its synthetic composition.

Faux leather is produced in large sheets and can be easily cut into pieces, whereas genuine leather pieces must adhere to the size limitations of the hide.

Faux Leather What It Is and When to Use or Avoid It

Personal Preference

Faux leathers are not real leather and are not animal byproducts. Those who follow a vegan lifestyle often choose alternative materials like these to avoid animal skin.

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Faux Leather What It Is and When to Use or Avoid It

Different Types Of Faux Leather Material

There are different kinds of faux leather materials, but two primary types.

The first is polyurethane, also known as “PU Leather.” The second is vinyl, which is polyvinyl chloride or PVC.

1. PVC Leather

Polyvinyl chloride material is less commonly used now compared to the 1960s and 70s. However, it is still utilized in some vegan leather materials. Items made with PVC are hard to clean and not breathable.

Additionally, PVC releases dioxins, which are polluting compounds. Manufacturing also adds toxic phthalates to make it supple. Greenpeace calls it the “most environmentally damaging type of plastic.”

2. PU Leather

PU-based synthetic materials are preferable to PVC types because they are less dangerous and more breathable. Manufacturers are updating production to reduce hazardous toxins, although PU faux leather is still derived from fossil fuels.

Faux Leather What It Is and When to Use or Avoid It

Technology is Yielding More Alternatives

New technologies are producing alternative materials that resemble real leather. These alternatives are versatile and less toxic compared to fossil-fuel-based materials.

Although not genuine leather, these materials mimic some of its qualities. Additionally, they are more environmentally friendly than materials like PU and PVC.

The new alternatives to real leather include materials made from mushroom fibers, fruit waste, plastic waste, pineapple fibers, and other organic materials.

Faux Leather What It Is and When to Use or Avoid It

Faux leather offers a wide variety of upholstery options in terms of colors, styles, textures, and patterns. Just like genuine leather, it can be made in many chic designs. This is beneficial when working with a specific color palette or design scheme, such as a leather sofa or loveseat style.

Fake leathers are cheaper to produce, which expands the range of style options available.

Faux Leather What It Is and When to Use or Avoid It

Low Maintenance

Fake leather upholstery is easy to clean with a damp cloth. It does not absorb stains like real leather.

Faux leather upholstery fades less than real leather.

Reasons to Avoid Faux Leather

Faux Leather What It Is and When to Use or Avoid It

Ages Gracelessly

Genuine leather ages beautifully to a patina. Imperfections that come with age and wear enhance the luster and feel of real leather.

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Faux leather does not age like real leather. A faux leather sofa will never look better than it does when brand-new.

Also, fake leather materials are not as durable and will peel and split, as will bonded leather.

Faux Leather What It Is and When to Use or Avoid It

Faux leather is not breathable and lacks durability. Some types, like PVC-based materials, are particularly poor in terms of breathability. If breathability is important to you, avoid PVC-based materials entirely.

Faux Leather What It Is and When to Use or Avoid It

Not Environmentally Friendly

Real leather is more environmentally friendly than artificial leather because it is a natural byproduct of cows used for beef.

In other words, faux leather is manufactured, while genuine leather is the upcycled hide of the cow. If it were not turned into leather, it would go to waste, heading for a landfill or incinerator.

Importantly, these popular types of faux leather are made using fossil fuels. The petroleum-based products are not environmentally friendly and like most plastics are not biodegradable.

Faux Leather What It Is and When to Use or Avoid It

Synthetic leather lacks the natural elasticity and structural forgiveness of real leather, making it more prone to punctures and tears. Faux leather is also more susceptible to seam tearing compared to real leather.

Faux Leather What It Is and When to Use or Avoid It


Real leather is hypoallergenic, unlike artificial leather. Artificial leather lacks hypoallergenic qualities and can potentially induce allergies. It may also emit a synthetic or petroleum odor and release toxic compounds.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is faux leather suitable for upholstery?

Yes, faux leather can be used for various furniture pieces, including chairs, sofas, headboards, and other accessories.

Is faux leather comparable to real leather?

No matter the name, a faux leather sofa is less durable than genuine leather. Plastic-based alternatives are cheaper but lack breathability, puncture easily, and crack over time. However, they are stain-resistant and low maintenance.

Is faux leather suitable for a sofa?

A sofa is a significant furniture investment. Unfortunately, faux leather does not wear as well or last as long as genuine leather. While it doesn’t fade or stain, it tends to tear at the seams and edges, which cannot be repaired.

Furthermore, fake leather feels like plastic and is not natural.

Which type of faux leather is the best?

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Of the two main types of faux leather, polyurethane (PU) leather does a better job of mimicking genuine leather. However, the durability of the newer types being developed for furniture is unknown. Currently, these newer types are primarily used in garments and handbags.

Furniture made with PU faux leather typically lasts three to five years, depending on usage. However, it is not as durable as genuine leather upholstery. A high-quality leather sectional can last up to 25 years or more with proper maintenance.

Peeling is not always a problem with faux leather.

Although it contains leather, this material is not animal skin. It is actually made from ground-up leather scraps that are attached to a backing. The material is then sealed with polyurethane and stamped with a leather-like pattern.

While it may not be genuine leather, it is also not of the same quality, and the furniture made from it is prone to splitting and peeling.

Is faux leather toxic? Some types of faux leather, such as PVC leather, are environmentally damaging for various reasons. The dioxins it contains are toxic to humans and harmful to the environment if burned.

Flexible PVC also contains phthalates, which are carcinogenic and believed to disrupt the endocrine system.

Polyurethane (PU) leather is not as harmful, but the manufacturing process does involve the use of toxic chemicals like dimethylformamide, which has been linked to birth defects.

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