Faux Leather vs. Microfiber

If you are in a dilemma between faux leather and microfiber, here are the major difference between the two materials showcasing their feel, style, advantages and disadvantages.

A close look at a sofa with faux leather throw pillows.

Investing in furniture is always a decision that requires a lot of consideration, and the materials used to make the latest addition to your home are an important factor. So, let’s look at the differences between faux leather and microfiber and which is a better choice for your home.

Microfibers are synthetic materials made up of millions of tiny fibers, while faux leather is made from PVC and polyurethane. The differences in the quality of the materials and the efficiency of the manufacturing processes lead to very different pricing, durability, maintenance, and longevity.

Both microfiber and faux leather have various benefits and drawbacks. If you’re considering which is a better buy for your home, it will help to understand what these are to see which material is suitable for you or your family’s needs.

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What is Faux Leather?

This is a close look at various colorful faux leather sample swatches.

Faux leather is an animal-friendly, affordable alternative to genuine leather and comes in two forms – PVC/Vinyl and polyurethane. It emerged as a manufacturing material after the development of plastics and polymers in the 1950s.

Maintenance on faux leather is fairly simple, and they can be cleaned with faux leather cleaner and a microfiber cloth.

Faux leather isn’t prone to cracking, is UV resistant, and won’t fade easily. However, it isn’t very durable and tears fairly easily, so its longevity is often about half those of microfiber materials.

What is Microfiber?

This is a close look at a blue microfiber cloth.

Microfiber is a lightweight synthetic material that’s commonly used for clothing and upholstery. It is a popular choice for furniture because it comes in almost every color. Microfiber is made to imitate the properties of suede, with natural fibers like cotton, silk, and wool used in conjunction with synthetics like rayon and acetate. We have been using microfibers for furniture and other everyday items since the production of ultra-fine fibers bean in the 1950s, while synthetics were added in production processes in the 60s

It is water- and stain-resistant, resilient, durable, and reasonably affordable. They often have hypoallergenic properties and make for comfortable couches. Microfiber can also repel water, but they are not immune to stains and shouldn’t be cleaned with soap and water, but rather with specifically designed fabric cleaners.

What is Genuine Leather?

This is a close look at a dark brown genuine leather.

The very expensive alternative to faux leather and microfiber is genuine leather, a material that has been used for clothing, furniture, and other items for more than 7000 years. Animal hides are prepared with hair removal, bleaching, and other pre-tanning processes before tanning, a chemical process that preserves the proteins and durability of the treated hides.

Genuine leather is criticized for its unethical manufacturing process, which involves killing animals, but it is by far the best quality material that can be used for your furniture. A leather sofa can last for more than 25 years, so your bigger upfront expensive could work out cheaper than other options. Genuine leather is also ideal for people suffering from allergies.

It is very easy to clean and doesn’t absorb smells while remaining firm and retaining its shape. However, there is less variety in colors and patterns, costs significantly more, and is not ideal for households with pets or children.

What is Microfiber Leather?

A man wiping the car seat with a microfiber cloth.

Another alternative for your furniture upholstery could be Microfiber leather, a synthetic material, a microfiber non-woven fabric combined with an added layer of polyurethane resin. You will find microfiber leather is commonly used for a car’s upholstery.

It has a real leather feel, good longevity is highly durable, easily manufactured, affordable, and has anti-bacterial and anti-odor chemical properties. It is lightweight, breathable, and water-resistant. It’s also an environmentally friendly product that is easily washable and requires low maintenance.

And, the best part is that microfiber leather. At the same time, it retains the leather feel that microfiber and faux leather don’t, is cheaper than genuine weather because it doesn’t produce as much waste, and is easier to manufacture due to the superior quality distribution compared to animal hide.

An ethical alternative? Vegan Leather

These are coffee beans on a piece of leather.

Suppose you’re averse to buying a leather couch due to the killing of animals that forms part of the manufacturing process and are wary of the environmental impacts of microfiber and faux leathers. In that case, there is an ethical and environmentally friendly alternative that leaves a fraction of the carbon footprint compared to its counterparts – so-called vegan leather.

Vegan leathers are made from coffee, banana, apple, grape, pineapple, mushroom leather, coconut water, hemp, stone, cork, recycled rubber, wood, and roses, among countless other plant-based materials. They aren’t put through the same pollutive, unethical manufacturing processes and are equally affordable as microfiber and faux leather, with a sofa setting you back between roughly $250 and $1100.

The manufacturing processes that only used plant-based components produce a negligible carbon footprint compared to genuine leather while retaining many of the real product’s features. The process is more efficient and cost-effective, so it is an affordable option. At the same time, cleaning and maintenance are easy, requiring nothing more than a microfiber cloth and any leather cleaning agent.

Furthermore, vegan leathers have great durability and longevity that are comparable to real leather.

Which Should You Buy? Faux Leather Or Microfiber?

This is a close look at a woman browsing over sofas at a furniture store.

Because genuine leather and the tanning process used to manufacture it has been perfected over thousands of years, it will always be the best quality product, but it isn’t very affordable.

So, unless you’re willing and able to spend as much as $4500 on a leather sofa, for example, you’re going to have to opt for microfiber or faux leather materials that will cost between roughly $200 and $1000, and between about $250 and $1400, respectively. Microfiber leather sofas, for interest’s sake, will cost you roughly $300-$1700.

Microfiber and faux leather fall into similar price brackets, so you need to explore some of the various pros and cons of each.

MaterialMicrofiberFaux Leather
Price±$200-$1000±$250-$1400
Longevity7-10 years3-5 years
Cleaning & MaintenanceEasy-to-clean, low maintenanceEasy-to-clean, low maintenance
DurabilityMore durableLess durable

 Microfiber furniture will cost slightly less than faux leather alternatives depending on the brand, quality, design, and size. Still, it will last roughly twice as long, making it a better long-term expense. Faux leather can tear fairly easily, especially if you have pets or animals that are hard on furniture.

Microfiber is relatively easy to clean and requires a vacuum cleaner,  fabric cleaner/conditioner, and stain or odor remover, which can be applied with cloths, sponges, or brushes. You can clean faux leather with a microfiber cloth, but spills need to be tended to immediately because they can leave stains and remove coloring from the material. Neither requires much maintenance, and you can get away with getting your furniture professionally cleaned every year or so, just for the sake of being thorough.

However, bear in mind that faux leather isn’t very porous, making it a nightmare for people with allergies, especially if there are kids in the house. Most microfiber materials are hypoallergenic.

Microfiber is far more durable, given that it won’t age as badly if exposed to direct sunlight, while faux leather can crack and begin to fade over time under certain conditions. However, microfiber is prone to threading and can deteriorate in the long term, and they are susceptible to water stains.

So if you’re faced with the decision between microfiber or faux leather furniture, these are important considerations. Consider the design of your house, where you will place the furniture (is it in direct sunlight or exposed to potential leaks), who will be using it (is it an all-adult household? Do you have or plan to have kids or pets?), and, of course, whether you can afford it.

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