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Difference Between Leather and Leatherette

Vibhav Gaonkar
Leather is basically made from the skin of animals; on the other hand, leatherette is nothing but plastic/vinyl coated fabric. Home Hacks does a leatherette vs. leather analysis, and lists differences between the two, check them out!
Expose it to Fire

If possible, hold both leather and leatherette over a flame. The former doesn't burn easily; however, the latter would quickly catch fire.
Although they look very similar, they aren't the same. In case your buying an expensive couch claimed to be of pure leather, always ensure that it's truly made of genuine leather and not leatherette or any other artificial form.
Leather is in popular demand, and hence is very expensive as compared to leatherette. Leatherette, on the other hand, isn't rare at all, it is simply a substitute to leather and is pretty cheap as compared to genuine leather. The only positive as well as negative factor of leatherette its sheer resemblance to genuine leather, and its comparatively low price.
The price factor is a pro; however, its resemblance deceives a lot of people into believing it as genuine leather. Confused? Don't be; here are some ways you could use to recognize pure leather from leatherette or artificial leather.

How to Tell Leather from Leatherette

Material

As said before, leather is made out of treated and tanned animal hide. The whole process of leather production is classified into 3 basic categories: Preparation stage, tanning stage, and crusting stage.
A lot of gradations in leather exist; bonded leather is the cheapest, then there is split leather, corrected-grain leather, top-grain leather, and lastly, full-grain leather, which is the most expensive as well as top quality type. Leather is more popular in designer goods like bags, belts, jackets, and shoes.
Its durability is superior to leatherette, and it is specifically used in rugged conditions. This is the reason it is used to make items that are mostly used outdoors.
Synthetic leather, or leatherette as it is popularly known, is basically fake leather not made from animal hide. It is made by covering a synthetic/natural fabric base with polyurethane or PVC. Leatherette is more common in the automotive and home-furniture industry due to its leather-like classy appearance and low cost.
Also, the maintenance requirement for leatherette is very less, and it is very easy to clean. It doesn't require any conditioning supplements or oils to maintain its sheen. Items made from leatherette are mostly used indoors and are less exposed to extreme temperatures and rugged conditions as they are not as durable and tough as leather.
Distinction

It's very difficult to tell leather from leatherette, or the converse, by just a glance. However, minute observation can make things much clear. Genuine leather is breathable and has tiny pores spread inconsistently over the surface. It has a typical pungent odor, and its feel is lithe and smooth.
Genuine leather isn't easily dyed and can be seen in certain shades of black and brown, or sometimes white.
On the other hand, leatherette isn't breathable; sitting on a leatherette couch would easily make you sweat. As it is artificial, it will have consistently spread out pores over it. Leatherette has an overall plastic feel and would not smell anywhere like leather. Also, leatherette can be dyed easily, hence it is available in a wide variety of colors.
Cost

The cost of leather depends on the amount and type of leather used. From amount, we basically mean whether the item is completely made of leather in and out, or whether some other fabric is used in combination with leather.
Most of the time, leather goods manufacturers use leather on the outside and canvas or other fabric on the inside; the leather used could vary in grade. Alternatively, some highly priced leather goods have every inch crafted from genuine, top-grade leather and count as luxury items.
Authentic leather has a great demand and is surely expensive than artificial leather or leatherette.
Maintenance

Although leather is durable, it needs a lot of maintenance to retain its sheen. Different types of leather have different maintenance requirements. For instance, smooth calfskin leather needs to be oiled and polished; however, suede or nubuck needs to be brushed and conditioned.
To know more about the type of leather, it's best to refer to the user guide or cleaning manual of the leather good purchased. Leather is prone to drying and cracking if not maintained properly, do not expose leather to moisture or heat.
Leatherette, on the other hand, is very simple to maintain but not as durable as leather. You don't need expensive cleaning products to clean leatherette; it can be easily cleaned by using a soft cloth and a dish-washing soap liquid.
Now that you know the distinction between the two, always check the authenticity of leather before purchasing leather goods. Also, inquire with the retailer regarding the type of leather used and the steps to care for it. Leather beats leatherette anytime, hence always choose leather if your pocket permits you to.