Polyvinyl chloride, more commonly known as PVC leather, is a type of faux leather that is becoming increasingly popular in the clothing and furniture industries.
It is commonly purchased by vegans and animal rights activists who don’t feel comfortable buying or wearing real leather.
Despite its rapidly growing popularity, not everyone knows exactly what PVC leather actually is. It might be the original form of faux leather, but what is PVC leather? What is it made of, and how is it made?
If you want to learn more about PVC leather, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s everything you need to know about polyvinyl chloride leather!
What Is PVC Leather?
PVC leather is a type of faux leather that is made of vinyl materials. It is manufactured by using the chloride group instead of the hydrogen group in vinyl, which is then blended with other chemicals to make a plastic-like material.
This material consists of a fabric leather backing, a foam layer, a skin layer (the vinyl itself), and then a plastic-based surface as a coating. It is surprisingly durable thanks to the various layers, making it resistant to general wear and tear.
This is why it’s such a popular alternative to real leather.
So, PVC leather isn’t actually leather, but is in fact a durable and flexible plastic material. It is also sometimes simply called vinyl.
How Is PVC Leather Made?
PVC leather is made through a series of four steps – choosing the base material, binding and formulating the plastic substances, binding the base to the plastic, and finally preparing the fabric into its final form.
Each manufacturer will have their own production process, but this is the general way to make faux leather.
The base material for PVC leather is typically cotton or polyester. These materials are rough and porous, and deliberately manufactured to maintain this consistency. The porous texture is necessary to build a durable base.
Next, manufacturers will formulate plastic substances to bind with the base fabric. The plastic substances that make up PVC leather include a combination of constituents of petroleum and salt.
The salt is exposed to electrolysis to make chlorine, which is then combined with the ethylene derived from petroleum.
This formula creates ethylene dichloride, which then converts into vinyl chloride monomer. The monomers are then combined with polyvinyl chloride to turn the monomers into polymers.
Then, plasticizers are added to the petroleum to help it bind to the base fabric.
The PVC is then bound to the base textile, which is typically achieved by melting the plastic onto the base fabric. Once the layers have been bound, the fabric is then cut into its desired size and shape.
History Of PVC Leather
One of the earliest forms of faux leather was invented in Germany during the war effort, thanks to the rationing of real leather.
This faux leather was called Prestoff, and is still in production today, although it hasn’t really become popular outside of Germany in comparison to other forms of faux leather.
Naugahyde – a specific brand of vinyl – was invented in 1920 as an alternative to leather. This material was used by Americans during the war effort throughout the 1930s and 1940s.
However, the history of faux leather goes as far back as the 15th century, where it is believed that synthetic leather was used in China. The 19th century, however, was when the rise of faux leather came into fruition.
The 1970s brought about a wave of faux leather awareness thanks to the ever-growing environmental movement, which worked to change the public perception of real leather.
However, faux leather back then was still made of non-biodegradable materials, making it equally harmful to the environment.
Nowadays, PVC leather is the most popular leather alternative due to its similarities in durability, texture, and resistance to wear and tear. While there are vegetable-based forms of faux leather, PVC is still the most favored option.
What Countries Produce Faux Leather?
There are only two countries in the world that produce faux leather – the United States and China. China is the largest producer of PVC leather, exporting their products to consumers in almost every continent.
Not only is the global demand for faux leather increasing because of the awareness of the truths of the leather industry, but it’s also doable thanks to the low price of synthetic leather.
As it’s cheaper to produce synthetic leather, it’s easier to mass produce it, which is also why PVC leather is comparatively cheaper than real leather.
What Is PVC Leather Used For?
PVC leather is used for a variety of purposes, including clothing, accessories, and furniture. Anything that leather can be used for can be replaced with PVC leather, including couches, chairs, jackets, shoes, handbags, gloves, watch bands, coffee tables, briefcases, and more.
The only downside to buying a jacket made of PVC leather is that the synthetic material isn’t as weather-resistant as genuine leather.
As a result, PVC leather is more likely to crack and peel under the elements compared to real leather – but it’s the price people pay for a cheaper jacket.
PVC vs PU Leather
Where PVC is the direct alternative for genuine leather, PU leather is the softer and more flexible option. The reason why PU (polyurethane) leather is more flexible than its counterpart is that PVC leather is made of more layers, making it far more resilient and durable.
As a result, PU leather is more breathable and comfortable to wear as clothing. However, it also means that PU leather can wrinkle and stain more than PVC leather and real leather, and it’s also far more likely to absorb stains thanks to the porous surface.
This is why PU leather isn’t typically used to make upholstery.
So, there you have it! PVC leather is the most popular alternative to genuine leather, and for good reason. Not only is PVC leather cheaper than real leather, but it performs in almost the exact same way – just without contributing to the harmful leather industry.