Is Vegan Leather Durable?

By Divya Kashyap. Updated: August 2022.
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Real leather is a popular good among consumers due to its unique qualities. Consumers who have heard of or used real leather know the characteristics that make it one of a kind. A notable characteristic is a flexibility and durability that it offers. 

The uniqueness of leather is due to the materials and the process used to manufacture it. Real leather is durable for decades. The material gains a vintage aesthetic as it ages. Leather is known to respond well to daily wear and tear. 

But the process of creating leather raises ethical concerns. The manufacturing process releases toxins that cause damage to the environment around us. 

Vegan leather or faux leather, on the other hand, is the ethical alternative. It does not contribute to animal cruelty. Vegan leather uses plastic and plant material in the manufacturing process. 

Most vegan leather in the market is made of polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride. This has a lifespan of about two to five years. The product is affordable and cruelty-free, but, it adds to growing landfills of waste due to its reduced durability. 

Does Vegan Leather Last? 

Not all vegan leather has the same lifespan. There are some forms that are sustainable and degradable. Vegan leather forms can have less or longer lifespans. Vegan leather is an emerging alternative in the fashion industry.

Vegan leather does not last as long as real leather. It is thinner and lighter than real leather due to the raw materials used. This makes it vulnerable to damage from daily use. 

However, in the duration of usage, it’s important to maintain vegan leather the right way. Using the right cleaning products and regular maintenance can extend its lifespan.

How Long Does Vegan Leather Last?

How Long Does Vegan Leather Last
Courtesy of Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather

It is an established fact that vegan leather is an ethical alternative to animal skin hide. But, did you know that the materials to create vegan leather range from plastic, cork, and wood to wine and mushrooms

The market has seen varieties of existing materials being used to make vegan leather. Brands are on the rise to create innovative vegan leather from plant-based materials. The momentum in the vegan leather industry is set to pick up and accelerate in the years to come.

The most common types of vegan leather are Polyurethane and Polyvinyl chloride leather. Known as pleather, or plastic leather, they are a cruelty-free alternative to real leather. But they are neither biodegradable nor sustainable. 

To create pleather, a fabric base layer is coated with polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride. The plastic layer on top provides durability that helps the leather last a couple of years. The fabric provides flexibility and the plastic mimics the texture of leather. 

Vegan leather is not as durable as real leather. When maintained well, real leather can last a generation. It’s equivalent to buying a coat, purse, or furniture and having it last a lifetime. 

Vegan leather and its different types do not have the same durability. They can potentially last for one-half to one-third the lifespan of genuine leather. PU and PVC leather last about two to five years, before showing signs of wear and tear. 

The durability of vegan leather depends on the grade, thickness, and nature of the fabric used. Besides pleather, natural vegan leathers such as wine, pineapple, or cork leather can last around 3-10 years. New innovations in vegan leather are expected to bring more durable alternatives.

When buying vegan leather goods, choosing a quality producer matters as well. From our experience, vegan leather shoes from Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather and Will’s Vegan Leather Shoes last for years. So do vegan Leather handbags from Matt & Nat.

How Durable Is Vegan Leather?

The durability of vegan leather is due to the resistant coating on the base fabric. Higher quality vegan leather is water resistant, easy to care for, and lasts a couple of years. To prevent the effects of wear and tear, vegan leather must be maintained. 

To maintain durability, drying out of vegan leather should be avoided. In pleather, the top layer is plastic. Under the sun or when exposed to heat, they undergo thermal degradation. The UV radiation affects the chemical bonds and preservatives of the plastic. 

This leads to cracking and breaking of the pleather, resulting in a brittle surface. An additional tip for maintenance is to keep the vegan leather from looking dry. Using a soft cloth and wiping the leather with the right oil or a commercial vegan leather conditioner is recommended.

How To Increase The Durability Of Vegan Leather?

How To Increase The Durability Of Vegan Leather

The maintenance of vegan leather depends on the material that it is made from. For pleather or plastic leather, the products to use may differ from other types of vegan leather. Higher-quality vegan leather tends to be more durable than ones of cheaper quality. 

Specific products to clean vegan leather are available on the market. These are recommended for the cleaning and maintenance of vegan leather. The products are often pocket friendly and are easily available. 

For regular maintenance, the surface of the vegan leather product can be wiped down with a damp cloth. The cloth used must be a microfibre, soft cloth with a tiny amount of mild dish soap or detergent. Using a sponge is also recommended as the material is not harsh. 

For stains, using a small amount of baby oil, eucalyptus oil, or water with a small amount of vinegar is advised. Using a non-abrasive cloth, and wiping gently on the area with the stain can help get rid of it. In the case of vegan leather handbags or pouches, the inside can be cleaned in a similar manner. 

While drying the vegan leather products, ensure that they completely dry before use. The inside material also needs to be dry to avoid any staining. Whenever a new cleaning product is used, it’s always better to test-use it on a smaller patch of vegan leather. 

Any vegan leather product comes with a tag indicating directions for care and maintenance. Post cleaning and drying, storage is a factor that contributes to durability. It is important to keep vegan leather away from sunlight or excessive heat as it is thermally labile. 

The UV radiation can harm the material and lead to cracking and a brittle appearance. Stuffing vegan leather bags with paper on the inside prevents slouching and creasing. Conditioning the leather is an effective practice that removes dirt and dust while protecting the leather. 

 Conditioning products can cover the surface of vegan leather to prevent cracks and brittleness due to daily use. In order to condition the vegan leather every 3-6 months, baby oil can be used in small amounts.

The oil needs to dry and absorb for the conditioning to work effectively. The maintenance of vegan leather is pocket friendly when compared to real leather. Using the right cleaning products can extend the longevity of vegan leather. 

Does Vegan Leather Last As Long As Real Leather?

Real leather is produced in four major qualities. Of these, the highest is full grain leather. Full grain leather is the highest in strength and durability and lasts for decades. Due to the tanning process and the quality of animal skin used, real leather acquires a vintage look over time. Compared to a limited-use item, real leather is a one-time purchase that lasts a lifetime. 

Most types of vegan leather do not last as long as real leather. This is due to the plastic or plant-based materials used. Rather than lasting for decades, some forms of vegan leather aim at being sustainable and biodegradable.

Vegan leather undergoes a process known as tanning. A plastic layer of polyurethane/polyvinyl chloride or a similar biopolymer is used. This layer confers water resistance and adds to the durability of vegan leather. 

Vegan leather that does not undergo the process of tanning has a lesser lifespan. Even with tanning, plastic-based vegan leather lasts for 2-5 years at the most. Plant-based materials such as pineapple, cactus, apple peel, wine leather, and so on last almost 10 years.

Cork leather is the only form of vegan leather that has the same durability and lifespan as real leather. It is water and flame-resistant. Being a hypoallergenic material, it does not require special waxes or sprays for conditioning. 

As a natural process from tree bark to vegan leather, cork is the plant equivalent of real leather. With qualities similar to real leather, cork leather is an ethical, highly durable alternative. 


Vegan leather may not last for decades or a lifespan but have a light carbon footprint. By decomposing naturally and being eco-friendly, vegan leather is a sustainable choice. Even when a consumer requires durability, vegan leather such as cork leather is the natural solution. 

Animal leather has the advantage of lasting decades and having an aesthetic appeal. But the effects of manufacturing animal leather are also long-lasting. Animal cruelty, unsustainable practices, and chemicals that cause extreme pollution are some examples. The humans behind the manufacturing also work in deplorable conditions.  

Real leather may have been the choice for most consumers in the past. Given the extensive knowledge of its environmental harm, a consumer can be aware of the part they play by purchasing leather. Switching to vegan leather instead can contribute toward an ethical, eco-friendly wardrobe.

See also: Is Vegan Leather Waterproof?

Main image credit: Mireia Playa Durable Vegan Leather Shoes

Divya is a content crafter at Vegan Avenue. She is a long-term happy vegan who is also enthusiastic about slow, mindful living in the company of cats.