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The Journal

How to Distress Faux Leather

Many people fail to realize just how many different types of leather there are. Although, two of the main categories of leather are determined by whether the leather is real or fake. Faux leather is the name for a synthetic leather.

Distressing your faux leather is an option if you feel as though your leather has too much shine. In this article we will go over what faux leather is and the steps a person can take to distress faux leather.

What Exactly is Faux Leather?

As stated above, faux leather is the classification of synthetic or fake leather. There are three specific names given to faux leather that describe what they are used for. These three are koskin, which is consumer goods, faux leather, which is furniture or headboard upholstery and lastly, leatherette, which describes auto upholstery or clothing. 

Aside from those three names, faux leather can be grouped into two different categories, polyurethane and polyvinyl chloride or vinyl. Around the 1940’s manufacturing of vinyl faux leather began and approximately ten years later polyurethane development began. Because of the fact that polyurethane is more breathable, it is more commonly used for clothes, while vinyl is less breathable and can be used more frequently for cases for electronic devices or book bindings; basically items that would need to repel moisture. 

Vinyl or PVC Material

Polyvinyl Chloride, also known as PVC or Vinyl, is made up of two different synthetic materials. The fibers within this upholstery are constructed from tough polyester fibers and then coated with a vinyl. The surface of the fibers is covered with melted vinyl which seals it and makes it waterproof. This material is easy to maintain and clean, and does not require any special care. Although, with long term use, you may find that this material can crack. 

Polyurethane or PU Material

This type of faux leather is made to resemble animal hyde. It is constructed by coating a material such as cotton, shredded leather or polyester with a polymer that is flexible. This upholstery is known to be one of the more realistic imitation materials. You will find that it actually “breaks” on the surface similar to real leather. PU will remain soft and will not crack because of the fact that it lacks plasticizers. It also doesn’t create dioxins, making it a more environmentally friendly option than vinyl. 

How to Distress Leather

Some people may want to distress their faux leather, or remove the shininess or luster because it is simply too bright for them or would prefer their leather to have an older look to it. The first step you would take is to apply rubbing alcohol generously to the leather. Next, you would want to beat up your leather in a sense. You can use either your hands or something like a fly swatter to smack your leather. Now you are going to want to break out the sandpaper. Then, locate a heavy bristle brush. Lastly, kick up some dust by rigorously scrubbing your leather with the materials we have discussed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you lighten faux leather?

There is an option of bleaching your leather to lighten it. This can be done by either leaving your leather out in the sun or using leather bleach. Leaving your leather out in the sun may take longer but is a safer option. Leather bleach needs to be diluted before use. Make sure to not use ammonia or chlorine bleach because these can ruin your material. 

Does faux leather last?

Even though it is not actual leather, faux leather will still last you a long time and has been known to be very durable. It can actually hold up to scrapes and scratches that real leather could not. Although, even though it will last a long time, it does not age the same as real leather, meaning you will not get the same patina or luster.

Can you use vaseline on faux leather?

Petroleum jelly is actually a recommended item to use on your faux leather. It provides a conditioning agent and will also help make it shine. The vaseline lastly will add a protective layer to your leather.


It really depends on the person whether it is worth the time or money to invest in actual leather or whether they should settle with faux leather. Either choice is a good one, but if you don’t want to spend the money, faux leather is a good option. There are also ways to alter the faux leather to look more realistic, such as distressing it. We hope that our information has inspired you to invest in some sort of leather, no matter what type!