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Leatherette vs Faux Leather (Compared)

A collage of faux leather and leatherette.

Fake leather is very popular as it is environmentally friendly, cheaper, and free from animal cruelty. This man-made material looks the same as the real thing; there are many different names and types of fake leather.

Knowing the different names and what they are used for can be helpful. Let’s find out if leatherette and faux leather are different.

Faux leather and leatherette are the same product, an artificial leather material. The reason these have different names is because of their specific use. Faux leather is used to make chairs, sofas, and headboard upholstery, whereas leatherette is used for clothing and auto upholstery.

Related: Faux Leather vs Real LeatherLeather vs Fabric SofasBonded Leather vs Faux LeatherFaux Leather vs Microfiber | Faux Leather vs Synthetic LeatherFaux Leather vs Vinyl

What Is Leatherette? Is It the Same as Faux Leather?

Leatherette is a type of fake leather or faux leather; they are not necessarily different in many ways except the end products they produce. Faux leather is a French name meaning fake or artificial; this is an artificial material that looks very similar to the real thing making it a great alternative. The name faux is not due to the quality of this product but rather because of what it is made of.

It’s not made from animal skin but rather from natural, synthetic cloth fibers coated in Polyurethane or PVC. Since it does not come from animals, it is a good alternative for animal lovers, vegans, and vegetarians. Many manufacturers choose this material due to it being cruelty-free and animal-free.

There are many other names faux leather is marketed under besides leatherette; these include pleather, vegan leather, leather gel, bonded leather, Kosin, and many more. This is because many companies do not want to use the term ‘fake’ for their products.

Most of these names are given based on the specific use of this material; this is the main difference between these products. Faux leather is used to make sofas, chairs, and headboard upholstery, whereas leatherette is used to make auto upholstery and clothing.

How Is It Made?

This is a close look at a tan piece of leather with texture.

Most faux leather is made from plastic, but many other types of material are used to make leather alternatives. These are not commonly used in commercial products but are also animal-free materials and environmentally friendly. These materials include apple fibers, pineapples, mushrooms, papers, teak leaves, waxed cotton, cork, and tree bark.

These are very interesting materials to use, and there are more being designed and developed frequently. The main materials used are polyvinyl, also known as PVC, and Polyurethane. So after knowing what different materials can be used, let’s discuss how it is made.

Faux leather or leatherette goes through a long process to get the end product, even longer than real leather, which is also processed with chemicals. The process starts with a base cloth material made from synthetic polyester, cotton, or the leftover split hide from real leather after processing it.

A polyurethane layer textured to look like real leather is then attached to this base material. Only a single layer is needed when using PVC material, treated with plasticizers and dyed to look like leather. 

The Characteristics of Faux Leather/Leatherette

There are certain characteristics of this artificial leather that can be very useful to know when buying products such as furniture or clothing to determine whether it is worth purchasing. There is also a difference in characteristics based on which material is used.

It Is Similar to Leather

Faux leather can be made to look like real leather-based on its color, texture, and feel. It has more of a perfect leather look rather than the natural irregularities of natural leather that we see. This is why it can be useful as a cheaper replacement for real leather.

The different faux leathers are very similar in look for the different products they are used for. The kind of material used to make the faux leather can result in them looking different. Polyurethane material looks more like real leather compared to polyvinyl, which looks fake.

It Is a Good Manufacturing Material

These are leatherette swatch samples in various colors.

Leatherette is great to use when manufacturing products because it is easy to cut and sew due to its thinner, softer, and lightweight. This material can also be used for all products that usually require real leather. Polyurethane is great to use for upholstery, garments, and clothing.

Polyvinyl is water-resistant, making it great for bookbinders, phone covers, and other covers for electrical devices. Faux leather is not as flexible and stretchy compared to real leather. It is also not porous and does not allow air to move through it, making it the best for clothing, especially summer clothing.

It Is Made From Plastic, Not Very Eco-Friendly

Faux leather is made from plastic, either Polyurethane or polyvinyl. It is seen as environmentally friendly by many people and companies due to it being animal-cruelty-free. However, it is not good for the environment due to the plastic, which is toxic.

Polyvinyl is more dangerous and bad for the environment compared to Polyurethane which is more sustainable and greener.

It Is Durable But Not Fully

This is a close look at a brown leather bag with stitching and zipper.

Vegan leather is durable to a point but not near as much as real leather. It is not as durable as it is thinner and easy to tear, although it is more durable when a protective coating is applied to it to help protect it from scratches and stains.

Polyvinyl is more durable and tough against tears and scratches, while Polyurethane is very pliable and flexible.

Faux leather is water-resistant due to the plastic coating protecting it from stains. Water-resistance also results in the fabric becoming very dry and brittle. This can be reduced if the material is made from a mix of synthetic and cotton fibers; this will have to be waterproofed to protect it. 

Faux leather is also sensitive to heat; it can melt when heated to a high temperature.

It Is Easy to Clean and Maintain

Faux leather is simple to clean and maintain its appearance; polyvinyl does not need any maintenance or care. Polyurethane does need a little care to preserve its quality. Faux leather does not age the same as real leather, which produces a lovely patina.

The different materials for artificial leather age differently; polyvinyl does not age well and cracks easily, whereas polyurethane ages are better and will not crack or peel.