In this blog, we are NOT going to talk about leather. Instead, we are going to look at the material that imitates it - fake or faux leather. Importantly, you need to maintain and clean it, just as you would with the real thing, to keep it in tip top condition

There are two main types of fake leather or faux leather:

  • Polyurethane or PU leather, also known as bicast or bycast leather is a man-made fabric that looks like leather, but it actually isn’t. It comprises a backing of split leather - which is the flesh side of the leather (suede like) - with an artificial coating glued on top to make it look like animal hide. This type of faux leather is usually glossy and mostly in shades of brown. Also known as leatherette, this material is cheaper and more versatile than real leather, but it is not necessarily of high quality. In comparison to real leather, this material is not as durable and suffers damage quickly if used regularly. Typically, the polyurethane layer cracks and splits and is then irrepairable.

Split Leather

  • The other type of fake leather is PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or simply Vinyl which is a completely man made material. It is also called synthetic leather,artificial leather, imitation leather or vegan leather. Pleather aka plastic leather is growing in popularity and proving to be a bit of a 'cash cow' within the fashion industry. It is made by bonding plastic coating to a fabric backing. It is an inexpensive substitute to real leather but it is not breathable like any of the other fake or faux leather. Whilst these types of leather are animal-friendly, they are not eco-friendly. They are cheaper to make than real leather and aimed mostly at the mass market. In most cases, these types of materials cannot be repaired. Restoring and recycling old leather can be a lot more environmently-friendly than buying brand new artificial leather. But we would obviously say that!
  • Other terms like 'Microfiber Leather' are also in commong use. In theory, it is forbidden to call something leather when it isn't. There are clear guidelines and rules as to what can be called leather. It is slightly misleading, as on one hand the vendors state Microfiber leather is an alternative to the real thing,  yet still insist on calling it 'leather' despite it not representing any qualities of leather apart from the appearance.

So, how do you know what kind of leather you are dealing with? 

This is a question a lot of our customers ask. It is hard to know at first glance without looking at the back of the leather itself, as this will show vinyl having a cloth or fabric backing, but for PU you might need to check the layers on the material to see it clearly. If unsure, always check with the manufacturer.

Both types of material are used to make a variety of items like clothing and shoes, furniture or car upholstery and other articles where using real leather would be too expensive or not resistant enough. PVC is not a breathable material and hence not good for clothing but ideal for covers of electronic equipment. PU leather is more flexible and stronger, so it is used more often as a cheaper substitute for real leather.

Normal leather care products and treatments are not suitable for these types of material. At Colourlock, we have a range of products designed specifically to look after faux leather mainly due to its polyurethane coating which prevents the product from penetrating. Regular leather care products are oil or wax based and these would damage the coating. Regular cleaning is highly recommended for PU leather as when in contact with the skin it will start cracking and will become sticky.

How to clean, care and maintain faux leather?

PU leather should be dusted down with a dry or lightly wet cloth. We recommend using Colourlock PU Protector to clean and protect it every 3-6 months. Apply it with a lint-free cloth, gently wiping the surface to clean it and retain the gloss finish.

Some light scratches can be removed by heating the surface with a hair dryer, but this method has to be used with extreme caution, as excessive heat could damage the coating irreversibly. It is always advisable to test this first in a hidden area.

Damaged PU leather that is cracked, rough, sticky or has gone matt, can rarely be repaired. It is likely it will need to be replaced by an upholsterer.

PU Leather damages

The Colourlock Vinyl Kit contains everything you need for the cleaning and care of strained artificial leather and plastic surfaces. It is very effective to clean heavily soiled surfaces. Use the soft brush contained in the set for the cleaning of grained surfaces. 

With Colourlock Vinyl Protector you can seal the surface after cleaning it, reducing new soiling, bleaching and brittleness. The Vinyl Protector does not supply any gloss. 

                             Colourlock PU ProtectorColourlock Vinyl Kit