Eco-leather: characteristics and benefits

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Eco-leather: characteristics and benefits

Some people mistakenly believe that the term «eco-leather» was invented by cunning leatherette manufacturers in order to «ennoble» an unnatural product. In fact, eco-leather is not natural. But it has practically nothing to do with leatherette. Let’s try to figure out how eco-leather differs, what are its disadvantages and advantages, and whether it is worth buying eco-leather bags.

How it all began?

The impetus for large-scale research in the field of creating leather substitutes was the automotive industry. At some point, the designers and designers were given the task of offering upholstery material that would not be inferior to genuine leather in quality and visual characteristics, and would not be so expensive at cost. As a result of numerous experiments and experiments, the arpatek material appeared. Soft, durable and pleasant to the touch, it did not fray or crack. The leading automakers of the world, such as Ford, Lexus, Nissan, still decorate the interiors of their cars with arpatek. We can assume that this material was the first type of eco-leather that was widely used.

However, for household use (furniture upholstery, tailoring of jackets and bags), arpatek was still too expensive, so chemists continued their experiments and developed a number of eco-leathers. By the way, eco-leathers are different: for example, there are types that can withstand 50 thousand cycles for abrasion, and there are those that are not afraid of even 250 thousand cycles. The composition of the material may also be different, in particular, its base (cotton, polyester, mixed). One thing is invariable: the top layer of eco-leather is always polyurethane.

What is eco-leather made of?

Eco-leather is a soft to the touch elastic material. It is a base (cotton, polyester film or a mixture of these two materials), on which a polyurethane film coating is applied. The excellent hygienic characteristics of eco-leather are due to the fact that during the production process, the polyurethane film forms pores and the material eventually “breathes”. The base of eco-leather can be processed (for example, many manufacturers spray it from leather dust), or it can include ground natural leather waste.

In general, the polyurethane component of eco-leather does not exceed 20%. For comparison: ordinary leatherette, or vinyl leather, is the top layer of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC itself is very dense and hard, and in order to make the product softer, plasticizers are added to it during production; such additives in leatherette can be up to 60%. Interestingly, due to their properties, chemical additives cannot be integrated into polyvinyl chloride, therefore they evaporate during operation. It is for this reason that PVC leather cracks very quickly, becomes stiff and becomes unusable. Polyurethane, which is used to create eco-leather, does not need additives and additional processing, because all the necessary properties are inherent in the very structure of the polymer.

Advantages of eco-leather

  • Eco-friendly and hypoallergenic. The absence of chemical additives (plasticizers, stabilizers) makes eco-leather absolutely harmless to humans and the environment.
  • Abrasion resistance. From this point of view, eco-leather is comparable to the best materials of artificial or natural origin: it does not crack, rub, or deform.
  • Excellent tactile characteristics. In terms of thermal conductivity, eco-leather is close to wood; it is a “warm” material, touching which does not give rise to a feeling of discomfort.
  • Hygiene. Able to pass water vapor and air.
  • Frost resistance. Withstands temperatures down to -35 degrees.
  • UV resistant.
  • Texture. Its structure completely imitates natural leather.
  • Wide color palette. Unlike natural, eco-leather can be of any color and shade.
  • Ease of cleaning. Does not require special care.

Of course, eco-leather has its drawbacks, like any other material. If a product made of genuine leather after damage can be “repaired” with the help of special polishing, glue and impregnation, then it is impossible to eliminate a scratch or cut on eco-leather, because the thread base will be immediately visible at the cut site.

How to distinguish eco-leather?

Unlike natural leather, eco-leather has no smell. Natural is usually denser and thicker, and the edge in the product is rough. In eco-leather, the edge is even and smooth. You can check the product for bending or stretching: genuine leather, after being pressed, stretched or bent, very quickly returns to its original shape. Eco-leather remains deformed for some time. When pressed or bent, a product made of genuine leather does not change color, and in an eco-leather product, the area at the bend becomes darker or lighter. You can also focus on the texture: natural pores are randomly located, while eco-leather pores are arranged in an orderly manner and have the same shape and size.

Finally, an extreme way of testing: bring a burning match or lighter to the product for a couple of seconds. Genuine leather is not afraid of open fire, and eco-leather will immediately begin to melt. Although in recent years a number of manufacturers have been treating natural products with aniline impregnation, which eliminates odor. This coating can also catch fire when heated, so it’s better not to resort to this method of checking.

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