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How to Wash Faux Leather for Long-Lasting Use

Last Updated: April 14, 2024

In our efforts to become eco-friendly, vegans all over the world are looking to find cruelty-free sustainable faux leathers. Still, there are many synthetic faux leather items that have landed in our wardrobes, and we need to know how to clean and maintain these items to get the most out of them as we find better alternatives.

Are you looking for a straightforward guide on how to wash faux leather without ruining it? You’ve landed at the right place. This article offers clear, step-by-step instructions to clean your faux leather items while guarding against wear and tear. 

With these simple precautions, you can ensure your faux leather maintains its texture and appearance for years to come.

Key Takeaways

  • Faux leather, also known as vegan leather, is an affordable alternative to genuine leather (animal leathers), available in different types like PU, PVC, and silicone-based leather.
  • Proper care for faux leather includes checking care labels, hand-washing with mild detergent in cool water, and avoiding the use of harsh chemicals or high heat, which can lead to cracking or warping.
  • Maintaining faux leather involves conditioning with natural oils, using protective sprays, carefully removing stains and odors, ironing with a pressing cloth on low heat, and storing in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to prolong its lifespan.

The Basics of Faux Leather

Woman working with faux leather garments

Faux leather, sometimes referred to as "vegan leather," is a popular material crafted from plastic-based substances like polyurethane, treated with dyes and wax to emulate the texture and appearance of real leather. 

Faux leather furniture, unlike genuine leather, features uniform artificial leather with created textures and pores, thanks to advancements in manufacturing that allow it to mimic real leather’s luxurious touch closely.

These faux leather pieces are a cruelty-free and generally more affordable alternatives to genuine leather products.

Today, faux leather clothing and accessories, including faux leather jackets, faux leather clothes, faux leather leggings, and faux leather pants, are sought after for their affordability and environmental friendliness.

These items are popular for their reduced dependency on animal products and the avoidance of animal cruelty, making them a perfect fit for a vegan lifestyle.

Synthetic Types of Faux Leather

Synthetic faux leathers, while not considered eco-friendly, use various forms of plastic, and have been a sought-after alternative to animal leathers.

Faux leather comes in various types, including:

  • PU leather: created by applying a polymer coating to a base of cotton or polyester, mimicking the texture of real leather
  • PVC leather: involves coating polyester fibers with PVC and plasticizers, leading to a durable, water-resistant material
  • Silicone-based leather: a type of faux leather made by combining silicone with a fabric backing

Each type of synthetic faux leather has its unique properties and applications.

The newest addition to the faux leather family is silicone-based leather, made using organic polymers. This alternative option combines the ease of maintenance of PVC leather with the softness and breathability of PU leather, making it a versatile material for various applications.

Preparing Faux Leather for Washing

care label on faux leather item

Before embarking on the washing process, it’s crucial to prepare your faux leather items correctly.

  1. Start by checking the care label for any specific hand-wash only instructions to prevent potential damage.
  2. Next, remove any detachable hardware from the faux leather items to prevent them from getting damaged during the washing process or causing damage to your washing machine.
  3. An often overlooked yet crucial step is turning faux leather items inside out before washing. This simple action not only protects the outer surface but also ensures the detergent and water access the interior surface, which is often more soiled due to body oils.

Hand Washing Techniques for Faux Leather

hand washing faux leather

When it comes to how to wash faux leather by hand, follow these steps:

  1. Use cool to slightly warm water.
  2. Use a mild detergent to prevent the material from warping or melting.
  3. Always perform a pre-wash test on a small, inconspicuous area with water and the detergent to ensure no damage occurs.

To effectively clean and wash faux leather garments, gently agitate the faux leather in the soapy water by swishing the garment and squeezing it gently, allowing it to soak for about five minutes.

Rinsing and Drying Faux Leather by Hand

After hand-washing, rinse the faux leather items in cool water until there are no suds left to avoid stiffening and cracking. Then, dab the faux leather with a soft, absorbent microfiber cloth to gently remove additional moisture.

You can either arrange the items on a drying rack or hang them up to air dry for best results. Both methods are effective for drying clothes or other items. Remember, air drying is crucial for faux leather, preventing shrinkage, distortion, or melting of the synthetic material.

Machine Washing Faux Leather

mesh laundry bag for machine washing

For those who prefer machine washing, faux leather can be safely washed in a machine, albeit with some precautions.

  • Always place faux leather garments into a mesh laundry bag before washing to prevent snagging or tearing.
  • Set your washing machine to the delicate cycle with cold water and the lowest available spin speed to minimize potential damage to the faux leather material.

Selecting the Right Detergent

Choosing the right detergent is crucial when machine washing faux leather. Go for a mild detergent that is specifically formulated for delicate items to prevent damage to the material.

Remember, regular laundry detergents with harsh chemicals can cause faux leather to stiffen and crack, resulting in permanent damage.

Caring for Faux Leather Accessories

From faux leather shoes to handbags, accessories made from faux leather require special care. Here are some tips for cleaning and maintaining faux leather items:

  1. Clean them by wiping them down with a cloth using a mix of water and a gentle, natural detergent or soap.
  2. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as they can damage the faux leather.
  3. It’s also important to protect your faux leather items from discoloration and damage by keeping them out of direct sunlight.

For accessories made from NOVASUEDE®, a soft bristle brush can be used after cleaning once the material is dry, and regular vacuuming and brushing will help maintain their appearance.

Conditioning and Protecting Faux Leather

conditioning faux leather with natural oil

Conditioning and protecting your faux leather items are key to their longevity. Applying a small amount of natural oils like baby, olive, or coconut oil can keep your faux leather supple, preventing it from cracking and peeling.

In addition to conditioning, it’s also beneficial to use protective sprays on your faux leather items. These sprays create a barrier that repels water and dirt, and depending on weather conditions, can last around five weeks before reapplication is necessary.

Removing Stains and Odors from Faux Leather

From time to time, your faux leather items may become stained or emit unpleasant odors. For ordinary dirt and water-soluble stains such as beverages or milk, a cloth or soft sponge with mild soap and water can be used to dab the stain off.

Tough stains, such as from makeup or oil, can be cleaned with rubbing alcohol or a mix of distilled vinegar and water.

Odors can be quite persistent, but there are several solutions. Baking soda, for instance, has absorbent qualities and can be used to lift odors from faux leather. Another effective method is using a specific leather deodorizer, applying it as per manufacturer’s directions, and allowing it to dry on the surface.

Ironing and De-Wrinkling Faux Leather

Faux leather items may get wrinkled, but there are ways to restore them to their smooth appearance. Here’s how:

  1. Turn the item inside out.
  2. Use a pressing cloth such as a sheet or t-shirt.
  3. Set the iron to the lowest heat setting without steam, to avoid melting and damage.

A steamer or an iron with a steam setting is recommended for removing wrinkles.

Storing Faux Leather Items

Proper storage of faux leather items is crucial in maintaining their quality over time. Store these items in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight or heat sources to prevent fading, discoloration, or cracking.

To keep your faux leather bags and accessories in good shape, store them flat in your closet and fill them with paper to prevent wrinkles and maintain their shape. This will help to prolong their lifespan and keep them looking new.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are faux leather pants machine washable?

Yes, faux leather pants are machine washable, but they should not be put in the dryer. Instead, air dry them on a drying rack or hanger.

Can you wash faux leather with water?

Yes, you can wash faux leather with water using cold to warm water and a gentle detergent by hand or on a delicate cycle, but avoid using hot water, high-heat dryers, or harsh cleaning chemicals.

Can you use Dawn dish soap on faux leather?

Yes, you can use Dawn dish soap to clean faux leather by mixing a small amount with water to create a sudsy solution and applying it with a soft cloth in a circular motion.

How can I remove wrinkles from faux leather?

You can remove wrinkles from faux leather by using a steamer or an iron with a steam setting. Just be sure to use a pressing cloth and the lowest heat setting to prevent damage.

How should I store my faux leather items?

Store faux leather items in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight or heat sources. Use paper to fill bags and accessories to help maintain their shape.


While most eco-conscious vegans are moving away from synthetic faux leathers, sometimes there is no way to get around it. So if you manage to have faux leather items in your wardrobe, consider doing your part to keep those items clean and functional.

Taking care of faux leather items involves a few key steps - proper washing, conditioning, and storage. Whether it’s hand washing or machine washing, using the right detergent and techniques is crucial to prevent damage. 

Regular conditioning keeps the faux leather supple, and using protective sprays helps repel water and dirt. Finally, store your faux leather items correctly to maintain their quality and longevity.

About the author, Leafy Souls


This is the staff-writer's account for Leafy Souls' blog.

We aim to make ethical consumerism simple with helpful guides, tips, and recipes to inspire you to make the best decisions.

And, you can trust us to select, test and present to you the most beautiful vegan apparel and accessories, to help you look (and feel) your best.

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