Difference Between Leather and Leatherette

When you’re looking for a leather upholstery for your car or your furniture at home, you may come across different types of leather materials. So how can you tell if you’re looking at a genuine leather or a leatherette material? There are some ways to identify it.

High-quality, real leather feels and smells good. Real leather is also more durable and expensive, too. Leatherette is known as a synthetic leather, or more commonly known as vinyl or faux leather.

If you're just not sure what the difference between the two are, we've highlighted a few things to keep in mind:

  • Material - Genuine leather is made from animal hide that undergoes chemical treatments while a leatherette is produced from synthetic, PVC or polyurethane (PU) materials. It is usually pressed with a design that may look like the real thing, however, you’ll be able to tell the difference by feeling the texture. Leatherette feels cheaper compared to the richness and smoothness of a real leather.
  • Cost – Real leather costs more than leatherette. Leatherette prices are usually 3 to 10 times less than real leather prices.
  • Strength – Genuine leather is durable and strong. With proper maintenance, you can expect it to last for more than a decade even when exposed to rough conditions. However, direct sun exposure can damage the leather and eventually cause it to fade. It tends to degrade over time. On the other hand, leatherette can last you up to 5 years. The great thing about a leatherette is that it can resist water stains unlike real leather which absorbs all types of liquid. 
  • Colors – Since leatherette can easily be dyed and tinted, it has more varieties when it comes to color and design. Real leather, however, has fewer color choices and is mostly in black, brown or white.
  • Use – Both materials are commonly used in furniture, car interior, clothing, bags, accessories, and shoes among many other.
  • Production – Real leather goes through a preparation and tanning process. Meanwhile, a leatherette goes through bonding, treatment, and coloring.
  • Environmental effect – Depending on it's tanning process, real leather can become biodegradable in 25-50 years. Environmental issues with real leather is the use of dangerous chemicals and water waste not properly processed. Leatherette is non-biodegradable however environmentalist have more concern with the production of synthetic leather because PVC's used can release chlorine gas and dioxins into the environment. So much more can be said about the environmental effect of both materials and you can find more information here.
  • Maintenance – Leatherette is easy to maintain and clean simply with mild soap and water, but real leather requires more attention, care, and maintenance. You have to treat and condition real leather regularly to prevent the surface from drying or cracking. Our KevianClean Leather Cleaner and Conditioner can help prolong the life of real leather and keep it in it's best condition.

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