Leather vehicle seats have been popular since the days of the horse-drawn “surrey with the fringe on top.” But now, for car seats as well as furniture, you may be offered the choice of leatherette. So when it comes to leatherette versus genuine leather, what’s the difference?
Leather is an animal product. It’s usually the treated hide of a cow, but tanneries can also make it from hides as various as buffalo, sheep, alligator, and even snake. Automakers usually use leather made from cowhide.
Leatherette, or faux leather, is a synthetic product. It’s made by coating an underlying fabric with a plastic or vinyl material. Unless the leatherette uses scrap pieces of leather in its manufacture, it’s free of animal products.
People regard leather as a luxury fabric, and it’s substantially more expensive than leatherette. Leather manufacturing requires several steps of chemical treatment. Another reason why leather is more expensive is that each piece is unique: different animals have individual features to their skins, and these differences show up in the finished leather.
Leatherette is less expensive and can be mass manufactured, which makes it more readily available in large quantities, bringing down the cost to auto- and furniture-makers. When furniture is less expensive to make, it’s less expensive to buy.
Durability and Sustainability
Leather is exceptionally durable and tear-resistant, although you can scratch it. But as leather ages, it takes on a distressed appearance that many people find attractive. Leather can also fade over time if exposed to bright sunlight. Although it’s made by treating animal hides with chemicals, it’s a natural product, so it’s still technically biodegradable.
Leatherette doesn’t last as long as leather, but it’s less likely to scratch. It’s also available in a wider array of colors than natural leather. Because it’s made with plastic, leatherette is not biodegradable.
Breathability and Ease of Cleaning
Natural leather has irregular pores, so it’s more breathable than leatherette. Faux leather has evenly spaced fake pores that don’t breathe. Therefore, leatherette can get hot in the sun and moist and sticky in hot weather.
Leatherette is easier to clean than natural leather, and you can wipe up spills and moisture without resorting to specialized cleaning products. That’s why leatherette is a better choice for kitchen and dining chairs or homes with sticky little hands prone to spilling things. Reserve leather for luxury items you wouldn’t let toddlers get their hands on.
When you’re looking for contemporary chairs for sale, keep in mind the difference between leather and leatherette. Leatherette is less expensive and easier to clean, and it comes in more colors than natural leather—although it’s less durable. Take good care of it, however, and you’ll be happy with your leatherette chairs.