How to distinguish imitation leather to real leather blog
24 Mar 2018

How to distinguish imitation leather to real leather blog

Genuine leather or vinyl? How to tell fake to real leather

Imitation leather has improved significantly over the years, as manufacturers have become more skilled to make imitation leather to look real.

There can be an advantage for those on a low budget, as faux leather goods are an inexpensive alternative to genuine leather. However, it may be an unwelcome shock to anyone who has bought man-made items believing them to be leather.

Sometimes it may be hard to tell whether that furniture, bag or jacket is real leather or man-made vinyl. So, here are some tips for how to distinguish real from fake.

Always check the label

Manufacturers should clearly state what the goods are made from. With furniture and car upholstery, it may be that only some of the surfaces are artificial leather. Often in a vehicle the seating area is real leather but the sides and back are imitation. Always read the fine print: you may see words like ‘textile leather’, ‘leathertex’ or ‘leatherette’. Also, beware of terms such as ‘Alcantara’ and ‘napalon leather’ which are also man-made materials. It should say- genuine leather -on the label. When buying from respectable and established retailers you can normally rely on the labelling. But it’s advisable to exercise caution when buying online,markets or auctions.

Examine the surface

Authentic leather has tiny pores on the surface and has an irregular grain pattern. While it is possible to make vinyl surfaces look very much like leather they will tend to have a more regular pattern. Real leather will wrinkle when you apply pressure, whereas artificial materials are more rigid. Also leather should feel warmer and more supple, whereas vinyl is comparatively colder and stiffer. It’s worth noting that there are some very good imitations that can feel warm to the touch. If in doubt, double-check the label.

Give it a sniff

Genuine leather has a distinctive smell so, whether you are buying shoes, bags, clothing,furniture or a new vehicle give them a sniff. You should be able to detect a rich, earthy aroma. Imitation leather can give off an unpleasant chemical odour, or it may have very little scent or no scent at all.

There are areas where vinyl is better suited than real leather, such as motorcycle seats or cushions on boats, as it is better able to withstand sunlight and water. It is also favoured for seating in areas that are in constant use, such as hotel lobbies and restaurants.


Synthetic leather is cheaper than leather, so if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is!

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