10 Differences Between Real Leather And Fake leather

What leather is best in for a strop

The confusion with choosing real leather from fake leather is absolutely relatable. I am a leather artist and whenever I put my leather art out there I wonder how people can really tell if my work is genuine leather art product or not. So I research the easiest way for people to generally tell the difference between real leather and fake leather.

What is the difference between Real leather and fake leather?

  1. Real leather has flesh side Fake leather doesn’t
  2. Real leather absorbs water unlike Fake leather
  3. Real leather edges are rough but fake leather has a very smooth edge
  4. Real leather has pores while fake leather doesn’t
  5. Real leather is Expensive while fake leather can be very cheap
  6. Real leather has Musty smell while fake leather has a chemical smell
  7. Real leather does not burn easily. Fake leather burn rapidly
  8. Real leather has natural creases and changes color when folded. Fake leather doesn’t
  9. Real leather products are proudly tagged. Fake leather is usually untagged
  10. Real leather has pebble-like markings and is full of imperfections and pores. Fake leather has patterned surface markings

There are times you will want to settle for fake leather due to some personal reasons which is absolutely fine. However, you don’t want to fall victim to buying fake leather instead of buying real leather. It will be hurtful and costly so don’t hesitate to find out more about real leather and fake leather in this article.

What is Real Leather?

Real leather, also known as natural/genuine leather is obtained from the skins of animals mostly cow. When the skin/hide of the animal is removed, it undergoes a chemical process called tanning. Tanning changes the raw animal skin into leather. The tanning process makes the leather imperishable.

Ther are four types of natural leather and they are:

  • Full Grain Leather
  • Top Grain Leather
  • Corrected Grain Leather
  • Bonded Leather

What is Fake Leather?

Fake leathers are manufactured in industries to imitate the look and feel of real leather. In some places, they call fake leather, leatherette as many think the word “Fake” devalues products. Fake leather consists of Polyvinyl/polyurethane materials and fabric. Fake leather ages poorly and cracks and fades with time. There are different types of fake leather on the market and some of them are:

How to Tell the Difference Between Real and Fake Leather

1. Look for the Flesh Side of the Leather

Real leather has a flesh side. The flesh side is the part of the leather that was attached to the meat of the animal. The flesh side of real leather is usually a bit rough and natural. When buying leather products and you have the chance, ask to see the other side of the leather. Usually, the flesh side is often covered with a lining but you can poke around the product to see if you can find parts with no lining.

2. Do the water drop test on the Leather

The water test is absolutely a must-do. Since most often than not you won’t be able to see the flesh side, or allowed to carry out some other types of real leather authentication test, the water drop is absolutely the way to go. Just put two to three random droplets of water on the surface of the leather. Real leather will gradually absorb the water droplets.

On a fake leather product, the water will remain on the surface. However, it is important to note that, some real leathers may take a longer time to absorb due to the kind of finish that is applied to it. In this case, you have to try the other methods described in this article.

3. Check the Edges of the Leather

Checking the edges of the leather can also be a very useful way of checking for real and fake leather. You can check the edges of the leather around the zipper and in between stitches. You will surely find an edge that is not covered. The edges of real leather is rough. The edge of fake leather is super something and mostly almost perfect. Also, the edges of real leather do not fray but that of Fake leather fray.

4. Look out for Pores on the Leather

Real leather because it is from a real animal will have pores upon closer look. The pores are a result of the fur or hair on the animal. The hair of the animal is removed by a process called dehairing leaving behind pores. Also, just like the human skin, leather from the skin of animals breaths.

The pores on real leather is so important because during the dyeing of real leather, the dyes sink into the pores on the leather making the dye to be more permanent on the leather. Always be on the lookout for pores on leather because it is always thee.

5. Check the Price of the Leather Item

Real leather can be very expensive and will never be sold at a very low price. The priciness of real leather is absolutely understandable because the leather goes through a lot of processes. After the skin is removed from the animal, it is taken to a tannery, the tanning process is done.

Tanning can involve pricy equipment and the tanning process can take a minimum of two days and a maximum of 90 days to complete. Fake leather can be very cheap. So be wary when an acclaimed leather is priced very low.

6. Smell the Leather

Real leather always have a musty smell no matter what. The musty smell of leather is uniques and people like me just love the smell of natural leather. The mustiness of the smell comes from the flesh and grain side of the leather combined. It is such a natural and lovely smell. Fake leather has a fake smile:D.

The smell of fake leather is usually chemical although most synthetic leather manufacturers have really tried over the years to make fake leather look, feel and smell like natural leather. They sometimes use some leather fragrance to achieve the musty smell of real leather. So be aware!!!

7. Fire test the Leather

It is highly improbable that, you would be allowed to try and burn a leather product in most shops. However, some shops may have sample leather items for you to do the fire test so its absolutely worth a shot. Natural leather does not burn easily because it is not flammable.

When you light a match or cigarette lighter on leather, it will not burn. On the other hand, synthetic leather is flammable and will burn immediately. If you are a leather artist, you can do this test to distinguish between the leather material as being fake or real leather.

8. Crease the Leather

Fake leather when creased will straighten and will have no change. Real leather when creased will wrinkle. When the leather is moistened be before the crease is done, the crease remains. Same can not be said for fake leather. Creasing leather when working with leather can be very important as it will give you a lot of flexibility when working with leather.

9. Check the Genuine label tag

Most real leather products will take the leather product with universal symbol for leather. This will be done to affirm the authenticity of the leather you are buying. Fake leather sellers will not dare to put such tags as it will inadvertently be a misleading play which can land them into trouble.

10. Check the surface markings

Both the real and fake leather have markings. But there is a distinctive difference in the markings on real and fake leather. Real leather has markings that are imperfect, irregular and randomized. The markings on the leather can sometimes show how the animal was treated. Fake leather will have perfect markings on it.

The markings on the fake leather is intentional from the leather manufacturers as it is an attempt to imitate real leather and also enhance the leather’s aesthetic appeal.


Going by these real leather and fake leather test, it is highly possible that, you will be able to distinguish between the two and make a happy choice according to your preference. Have fun using leather


Hi! I’m Kwabena, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leathercraft enthusiast and I’ve been that for almost 13 years now. I'm excited to share my experiences and all the new stuff I learn each day about leather craft, leather cleaning & care, and everything in-between!

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