How to Care for Synthetic Leather

by Hallie Engel

Synthetic leather, typically made from petroleum-based plastics or polyvinyl chloride, is an inexpensive alternative to the real deal. The lifespan of synthetic leather tends to be shorter than that of the genuine article, however, and it doesn’t take on the same rugged, aged appearance over time. With proper care, you can keep it looking good for the long term and with minimal effort.

Cleaning Procedures

Clean synthetic leather gently by hand, for the best results. Although some synthetic leather items may claim to be washing-machine safe, tossing them in the washer may harm their finish and overall appearance. Remove stains from faux leather bags, coats and other items with a mixture of dish soap and warm water applied with a soft bristled brush. Take your item to a professional if a thorough cleaning is needed.

Protective Measures

Many products made to protect genuine leather also work on synthetic items, but use them sparingly. Leather stain removers and water repellent products, for instance, are usually fine for synthetic leather. Gently rubbing a thin layer of baby oil over synthetic leather goods keeps them looking like new by forming a protective barrier, according to leather artisan Jean-Marc Chateigner on his website about faux leather.

Hang Dry

After cleaning synthetic leather clothing, place it on a hanger and allow it to air dry. Putting a faux leather item in the dryer can melt or otherwise damage the garment beyond repair. Avoid drying synthetic leather goods in direct sunlight, as this may fade their color. UV rays also break down the plastic used to create imitation leather, causing it to crack.

Special Care for Shoes and Boots

Clean synthetic leather footwear with a mixture of warm water and mild dish soap, or clear hand soap. Spot-treat stains as needed to keep your boots looking good, and wipe them down with a damp cloth to remove dirt and dust. Always let synthetic leather shoes and boots dry thoroughly before wearing them again.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Hallie Engel is a food and lifestyle writer whose work has appeared in several international publications. She served as a restaurant critic for "Time Out Abu Dhabi" and "Time Out Amsterdam" and has also written about food culture in the United Arab Emirates for "M Magazine." She holds a bachelor's degree in communications and film studies from University of Amsterdam.