Artificial leather

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HM Queen Paola, Princess of Belgium, wearing a cap made of artificial leather.
Artificial leather used for the seats in a train.

Artificial leather is a substance used as a replacement for real leather. It is used where the properties or the look of real leather are required, but using real leather is not possible, because it is too expensive, unsuitable, or not feasible for ethical reasons. Compared with real leather, artificial leather is much cheaper to produce. Among the domains where it is widely used are upholstery and fashion.

What it is made of[change | change source]

Steps to make synthetic PU leather: 1 = cotton fabric, 2 = coagulation (wet process) onto fabric with aromatic polyurethane in DMF, 3 + 4 = transfer of coating + finish with solventborne polyurethane formulation.

Usually, there are two components: A kind of textile, and some kind of plastic (such as PVC). Real leather is produced from the skin of animals.

Problems[change | change source]

Artificial leather might look like it is better for the environment, since no animals need to be killed to make it. The problem with artificial leather is different: When the item of clothing is no longer used, it is thrown away. Many plastics take a long time to decay. That way, the plastic part may get into the sea, where animals such as birds and fish eat it. The chemicals used to make artificial leather are toxic, and can lead to pollution.