Introduction to What is Vegan Leather
Vegan leather, also known as eco-leather or fake leather is an artificially created leather-like material that isn’t made from animal skin.
Vegan leather can be manufactured using a wide range of materials, such as plastic (or similar synthetic materials) and natural materials like cork.
Generally, the process of making fake or vegan leather utilizes materials like polyurethane and polyvinyl chloride.
A commonly used term for this leather is ‘pleather’, meaning plastic leather. While using these two materials helps in creating cruelty-free products, they tend to be hazardous for our environment.
To make faux leather or vegan leather, it is preferable to use natural materials like kelp, cork, and pineapple leaves.
What is vegan leather – The process of making eco-leather
The process of manufacturing synthetic leather involves the usage of a variety of chemicals. This process is entirely different from the process involved in creating real leather.
In order to produce the fake leather fabric, a plastic coating is bonded with a fabric layer, and the measure of synthetic leather’s eco-friendliness depends on the kind of plastic coating used.
While the amount of PVC used in the process of creating faux leather or vegan products is significantly lesser than it was in the 1960s and 70s.
It remains, to this day, a significant part of the composition in some vegan leathers. PVC can be extremely harmful as it expels dioxins, which are dangerous if burnt or constricted.
Its design also includes phthalates, a type of plasticizer that increase the flexibility of the material and is immensely toxic.
The modern approach is to use PU. Polyurethane is comparatively less harmful and is being continuously developed in a technical environment to minimize its flaws, like the release of dangerous toxins during manufacturing and the use of oil-based polymers that are made with fossil fuels.
What is vegan leather – Its appearance and smell
Fake leather or vegan leather, when made from PVC or PU, has a very strong ‘fishy’ smell which is due to the chemicals that are used in the process. This nasty smell also emanates from the dangerous toxins PVC releases.
Some fake leather fabrics are more leather-like than others, and this depends on the kind of materials that are used in the manufacturing process.
While good quality vegan leather isn’t very different from real leather, it doesn’t tend to form a patina like natural leather does. Also, it is comparatively less breathable as the pores on its surface are artificial.
Is vegan leather beneficial for the environment?
While vegan leather is beneficial as it safeguards animals, its manufacturing process is detrimental to the safety of our environment.
This is primarily due to the hazardous toxins that are present in the materials used to create synthetic leather. Moreover, PVC releases dioxins which are harmful to humans as they make us more susceptible to reproductive and developmental problems, along with cancer.
Also, these synthetics aren’t fully biodegradable and release toxic phthalates that negatively impact animals as well as the environment.
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Vegan leather versus real leather
When comparing vegan leather and real leather, there are two significant measures: quality and durability.
As vegan leather is thinner than the genuine leather and therefore lighter in weight, it can be used to create a myriad of styles.
On the other hand, because of its thinness, vegan leather is not as durable as real leather. While natural leather lasts for decades if taken care of, faux leather ends up cracking and drying after a year or two.
When deciding which type of leather to buy, one must focus on the environmental impact of each type.
It has been seen that while faux leather helps in diminishing animal cruelty, it can be extremely harmful to the environment because of the toxins secreted by the plastics that are used in the process.
Furthermore, once fake leather gets stretched, it looks unattractive whereas real leather forms a patina when it ages and thus adds character to your product.
Also, if faux leather is PVC based, it will be less breathable, and clothes made out of this material will be uncomfortable to wear for more extended periods of time.
Additionally, vegan leather is cheaper than real leather products. This is because the production process for synthetic leather is less expensive.
Genuine leather, however, is more durable and of high quality, so manufacturers charge a large sum for it.
How to maintain vegan leather
Vegan leather is waterproof as the plastic coating is used in its preparation process. So, it is easier to clean it.
To clean your fake leather fabric, use a mild detergent or wipe the surface of the leather with a damp cloth.
However, even regular maintenance can’t stop it from eventually drying and cracking, especially if the faux leather is under sunlight for a long time or is made from low-quality materials.
Hence, it is advisable to invest in a product that can cover the surface of your vegan leather to protect it from sun rays and high temperatures.
If a particular area cracks or dries, you can patch it up with a faux leather repair kit. They are readily available and simple to use.