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Faux Leather vs. Vinyl

Here's a closer look at faux leather and vinyl including their differences, design features, materials, and cost of each. See their pros and cons to help you choose the better product for you.

Artificial leather samples in various shades and texture.

Faux leather is one of the several names that could be given to artificial leather. It is designed to look like real leather, but the surface is synthetic. Faux leather feels cold and unnatural. Because of its production, faux leather usually smells like plastic.

Vinyl, scientifically known as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), is a tough and durable synthetic plastic polymer with flame-retardant properties. Vinyl is labeled as the world’s most versatile plastic, which makes it suitable for a wide range of applications.

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How Are Faux Leather And Vinyl Different?

Close-up of black artificial leather with folds.

Features

Faux leather

Much like real leather, faux leather is soft to the touch and is water-resistant. Therefore, faux leather is highly resistant to staining and is easy to clean. While faux leather is definitely much less durable than real leather, it is resistant to both cuts and abrasions, which makes it a beneficial fabric for upholstery in homes with pets or young children.

Most synthetic leather manufacturers can make this substance identical to real leather, but it is possible to make faux leather in any color imaginable.

Vinyl

Vinyl has become one of the most widely used materials worldwide because of its cost efficiencies. These efficiencies start when Vinyl is produced and continues with its lifecycle, encompassing elements like raw material usage, energy used when produced, energy used in distribution, durability, maintenance requirements, and disposal costs.

Vinal consistently surpasses any other materials in many environmental and economic performance categories. Today, Vinyl has more depth and texture than ever, so it can look like stone, tile, or even hardwood while coming in various colors. Vinyl is soft under your feet and is also warmer to the touch than hard surfaces like tile, stone, or wood.

Materials

Man cutting artificial leather through laser.

Faux leather

Faux leather manufacturers use polyester or cotton as the base material for their fabrics. In some rare cases, the manufacturers of faux leather could also make their base materials. Still, it’s much more common for them to obtain their base materials from third-party production facilities.

Next, manufacturers need to formulate the plastic substances that they will need to bind with the base fabrics. Manufacturers produce chlorine by exposing salt to electrolysis and then combining the chlorine with ethylene derived from petroleum.

The made substance is ethylene dichloride, which is then converted into a vinyl chloride monomer at high temperatures. Next, these monomers are transformed into polymers with polyvinyl chloride resin.

The PVC used in faux leather has to be flexible, so manufacturers add plasticizers to bind to the base fabric. This generally involved melting the plastic and overlaying it on the base textile.

Once the plastic has been bound to the underlying fabric, it is cut into the desired shape and size. Faux leather is usually sold by the yard in length or cut-off strips.

Vinyl

To put it in basic terms, Vinyl is made from only two substances. These substances are called salt and oil, things we use in our everyday lives. The process to manufacture Vinyl is called cracking. By combining both pressure and high temperatures, petroleum oil is broken down.

As it breaks down, it becomes ethylene butadiene, propylene, and several other by-product substances. The process continues until there is only ethylene left, and that is what you need to produce Vinyl. The salt is how they get the chlorine, and it needs to be done through a procedure called electrolytic dissociation.

These two processes provide all the elements that they need to make Vinyl. Through compounding, where vinyl resin in the form of powder is mixed with a few products, you will get the result of Vinyl. The consistency will solely depend on how it is made and what is added to it.

Design features

Man cleaning vinyl siding with brush.

Faux leather

Because faux leather is a direct replacement for leather, it can, thus, be used for the same applications for which genuine leather is used. Sofas, car seats, chairs, and coffee tables all commonly feature faux leather applications.

 When it comes to apparel and accessories, faux leather can be used in hats, gloves, shoes, and boots. Other examples include smartphone cases, watch bands, briefcases, and suitcases.

Vinyl

Vinyl is especially widely used in construction for house siding, water pipes, gutters and downspouts, window frames, electrical wire, and cable insulation. Flexible vinyl film is also a leading packaging material for wrapping produce and meats.

Vinyl can be used for parts for appliances, automobiles, and computers. Regarding medical applications, Vinyl’s medical uses include packaging for pharmaceuticals, heart catheters, tubing, surgical gloves, and even blood bags.

Durability

Close-up of red synthetic leather with folds.

Faux leather

Faux leather is quite durable and can last a long time when looked after correctly. It can withstand light scratches and scrapes but are prone to crack and feel. It does not stretch, breathe or wear like leather and is not puncture or tear-resistant.

Vinyl

Vinyl has excellent insulating properties and is also chemically resistant to acids, bases, fats, salts, and alcohols. It can also be made resistant to some but not all solvents.

Cost differences

Artificial leather samples in rolls.

Faux leather

Since faux leather is produced in a fabric form with no need for weaving, the cost of this textile is accumulated in price per yard instead of price per pound. While the prices per yard of faux leather may vary based on the type, this type of fabric commonly ranges from $10-$25 per yard.

Vinyl

Vinyl sheets can cost as little as $2 to $12 per square foot to have installed. You can cut the costs down by installing it yourself if you are handy. That will save you approximately $1 to $2 per square foot.

Benefits

Faux leather

Faux leather is much more affordable than real leather and is durable if well-looked after. It is low maintenance, as faux leather materials can just be wiped clean with a cloth soaked in warm water. It will not fade as easily in ultraviolet light and is stain resistant.

Faux leather has been modified and improved with several grains, colors, and textures to create a visual appearance consisting of realistic leather quality. It is also easier to cut and sew than genuine leather. In addition, needle marks are generally much less noticeable, and threads easily blend with the faux leather material.

Vinyl

Over 50% of the vinyl polymer comes from an inexpensive and renewable resource. Selected vinyl products are shown to have a great lifecycle advantage over competitive materials. Vinyl can also be safely incinerated or landfilled with no environmental harm done.

One of the most significant benefits of Vinyl is that it has already demonstrated its utility and value worldwide, and it conserves natural resources and is good for the environment!

History

Man wrapping a car with vinyl foil.

Faux leather

Faux leather was invented in Germany and was used mostly in war since the use of genuine leather was strictly rationed. However, the manufacturing of faux leather never became widely popular outside of Germany, and consumers rapidly came to prefer other leather alternatives with more desirable properties.

Faux leather was firstly formulated by the U.S. Rubber Company, which was founded in 1892. After numerous years of research, engineers developed this excellent alternative to leather, and it was originally used in handbags.

Vinyl

Vinyl, or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to provide its full name, is a synthetic plastic polymer that is both durable and tough and has flame-retardant properties. These qualities make it very suitable for a wide range of applications, leading to it being labeled as “the world’s most versatile plastic,” and rightfully so!

Vinyl was first created in 1872 by a German chemist named Eugen Baumann. However, the earlier forms of Vinyl were brittle and rigid. Therefore, the uses were limited. Thankfully, this changed in the mid-1920s when Waldo Semon came up with a method for plasticizing the material and making it a more flexible and suitable material that was ideal for all kinds of purposes.

During the Second World War, Vinyl was already produced in larger quantities for a wide range of uses in the military. For example, Vinyl was used to insulate wire abroad the U.S. warships, and after hostilities ceased, it quickly became a very common feature of civilian life!

Conclusion

As the information above states, both Vinyl and faux leather have their positives and negatives. While faux leather still contains some form of leather, Vinyl is completely synthetic. Both these materials are quite affordable and budget-friendly while containing valuable benefits and properties.

However, while Vinyl does not stay great over time, faux leather maintains its quality over a longer period, making it a better candidate for usage than Vinyl.

References:

WhatIsVinyl.com: What Is Vinyl? Vinyl Material Properties, Discovery & Applications

AIibaba: Faux Leather Prices

Buffalo Jackson: WHAT IS FAUX LEATHER MADE OUT OF?

Sewport: What is Faux Leather Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where

iLookWar.com: Faux Leather vs Vinyl

All Vinyl Fabrics: How Vinyl Fabric is Made