Does Faux Leather Smell Like Real Leather? (A Must Read!)

Does Faux Leather Smell Like Real Leather?

One easy way to tell the difference between real and faux leather is by smell. But this can be a bit tricky. So in this article, I will discuss how to tell the difference between faux leather and real leather based on smell.

To summarize, faux leather has a distinctive smell mainly because it is made from plastic materials, and real leather comes from the hides of animals. But, instances like using leather care products on faux leather can make it smell like real leather.

Full disclosure, doing a smell test is an important step in learning to distinguish between real and faux leather. But it’s not the only way.

In the rest of the article, I will be talking about the following;

  • reasons why faux leather does not smell like real leather,
  • instances faux leather may smell like real leather,
  • what faux leather actually smells like,
  • what real leather smells like,
  • how faux leather can be made to smell like real leather.

Let’s get into it!

Reasons Why Faux Leather Does Not Smell Like Real Leather

There are many reasons why faux leather does not smell like real leather. Here are a few of the main reasons why faux leather does not smell like real leather.

1. Faux Leather Is A Plastic Material

The main reason faux leather does not smell like real leather is that it is made from plastic. Faux leather is made from PVC or polyvinyl chloride.

PVC is a type of plastic that is used in many different applications. It is cheap to produce and has a long lifespan.

PVC is made by combining two elements, chlorine and ethylene. The combination of these two elements creates a strong and durable plastic material.

PVC is also water-resistant and easy to clean. These properties make it ideal for many different applications, including upholstery, footwear, and clothing.

Because of the several chemical processes involved in making PVC, it gives off a strong chemical smell. This is one of the main reasons why faux leather does not smell like real leather.

2. Real Leather Is Made From Animal Hides

Another reason why faux leather does not smell like real leather is that real leather is made from animal hides.

The raw animal hide is turned into leather using a process called tanning. The process of tanning the hide to turn it into leather also helps to add to the distinct smell of leather.

Faux leather, on the other hand, is made from synthetic materials that do not have the same scent.

Even if you were to buy a faux leather product that was scented with a Leather fragrance, it would not have the same smell as real leather.

3. Faux Leather Will Have Only One Smell

Over the course of its lifespan, real leather will adapt to different smells, scents, and fragrances it is exposed to.

This is because real leather is a natural material that is porous. This means that it can absorb different smells over time.

Faux leather, however, will not change its smell over time. This is because it is not a porous material and does not have the ability to absorb different smells.

Instances Faux Leather Smells Like Real Leather

Faux leather will usually not smell like real leather. However, there are some instances where it might.

If The Real Leather Has A Polyurethane Finish

This is very common in real leather car seats and other upholstered furniture.

A polyurethane finish is a type of synthetic resin that is applied to the surface of the leather. It helps to protect the leather and give it a robust and durable finish.

This way, real leather will usually smell like faux leather because the polyurethane coating will give off a chemical smell.

If The Real Leather Has Been Chrome Tanned

Chrome tanning is a type of leather tanning that uses chromium salts. It is the most common method of leather tanning worldwide and produces soft and pliable leather.

Chrome-tanned leather usually has a very distinct smell that is often described as chemical-like.

If the real leather has been chrome-tanned, it might smell similar to faux leather because of the chromium salts and the other chemical used in the tanning process.

When The Faux Leather Is Treated With Real Leather Products

Many manufacturers of real leather care products are today tailoring their products in a way that they can be used both on real and faux leather.

This means that treating your faux leather with real leather care products might start to smell like real leather.

The main reason for this is that the care products will often contain natural oils and waxes that will be absorbed by the faux leather. These oils and waxes will then help to give the faux leather a pleasant smell that is similar to real leather.

What Does Faux Leather Smell Like?

Now that it has been established that faux leather doesn’t smell like real leather, let’s take a look at the different smells that faux leather can have.

1. Faux Leather Smells Like Plastic Or Vinyl

The most common smell of faux leather is plastic or vinyl. This is because, as we established earlier, faux leather is made from PVC, which is a type of plastic.

The strong chemical odor of PVC can be very off-putting to some people. This is usually not the best natural-smelling product to have in your home.

While this smell can be strong, especially when the product is new, it can become faint over time or grow on you.

2. Faux Leather Smells Like Chemicals

Another common smell that faux leather has is a chemical smell. This is because of the many chemicals involved in the production of PVC.

The strong chemical odor of faux leather can also be very off-putting to some people. The good news is that many brands have found awesome ways to reduce the chemical smell of their products.

3. Some Faux Leather Will Have a Chemical-Like Fragrance

In some cases, your faux leather will have an unnatural chemical-like fragrance.

This is usually because manufacturers will use synthetic fragrances and scents to mask the smell of the plastics and chemicals used in the fabric.

In most cases, this works perfectly but what gives it away is the fact that this is the only smell the leather will ever have–unlike natural leather, which adapts to the smells of its surroundings.

What Does Real Leather Smell Like?

Now that we know what faux leather smells like let’s take a look at the different smells that real leather can have.

Real Leather Will Have An Oaky Smell

There are several times that you will be able to smell the oak tannins that are used in the tanning process of the leather.

There are different tanning techniques that are used, and each one will produce a different smell on leather.

Some of the most common smells you can detect in real leather are oak, smoke, cedar, and even fruity smells.

These smells are common with vegetable-tanned leather. This is because natural plant extracts are used for this tanning technique resulting in rich smells.

Real Leather Will Have A Musky Smell

Another common smell that you can detect in real leather is a musty smell. This is commonly associated with leather that has not been properly cared for or maintained.

Leather that is not kept in a cool and dry place is susceptible to mold and mildew, which will cause the leather to have a musty smell.

If you detect this smell in your leather, it is important to take action immediately, as it can cause irreparable damage to the material.

Real Leather Can Also Smell Earthy

Very similar to the fruity or oaky smell, you might be able to detect an earthy smell in your real leather.

This is usually associated with leather that has been tanned using bark and other natural materials. These tanning methods produce a very distinct earthy smell and are not always oak.

This common scent is associated with real leather goods and usually symbolizes high quality.

Real Leather Can Smell Like The User

If the leather has been in the possession of the same person for a long time, it will start to take on its smell.

This is because the oils from their skin, perfumes, etc., will be transferred to the pores and fibers of the leather over time–and this can result in a very distinct smell.

This is one of the most unique qualities of real leather and is often one of the main reasons people choose it over faux leather and other materials.

Real Leather Will Smell Like The Environment It’s In

As we established earlier, natural leather will also take on the smells of its surroundings. This means that if you keep your leather in a smoky room, it will start to smell like smoke.

The same goes for any other scent that might be in the environment where you keep your leather.

This means it is important to store your leather items in a cool, dry place that is free of any strong smells.

How Faux Leather Can Be Made to Smell Like Real Leather

If you’re looking to make your faux leather items smell leather real leather, or you’re curious about how faux leather can be made to smell like real leather, there are a few things that can be done.

1. Cleaning Faux Leather With Leather Cleaner

You can make faux leather smell like real leather by using a leather cleaner to clean it. This can leave behind the leather scent that you’re looking for.

While this works, it will only last a few days and must be repeated often if you want to keep the scent around.

2. Applying a Leather Conditioner

Another way to make faux leather smell like real leather is by applying a leather conditioner.

Leather conditioners have natural oils in them that can help to put a nice shine on the faux leather while adding a subtle leather scent.

This method will last a bit longer than using a cleaner, but it will still need to be repeated every few weeks to keep the scent going.

3. Using Leather Polishes

Lastly, you can use a leather polish on your faux leather to make it smell like real leather.

Leather polishes are very similar to conditioners in that they add natural oils to the surface of faux leather.

The main difference is that they also contain waxes which help to give the faux leather a nice shine while also adding a leather scent.

This is the best method for making faux leather smell like real leather and can last for several weeks before needing to be reapplied.

Of course, it all depends on how often the item is used and how strong you want the scent to be.

Final Thoughts

To conclude today’s post, you can see there are many reasons why faux leather does not smell like real leather and instances where faux leather can smell like real leather.

I also talked about the actual smell of faux and real leather so that you do not confuse one with the other.

All in all, I will say smell is not the only way to distinguish between real and faux leather, but it is a helpful way to start.

Make sure to look out for other things like labels, and inconsistencies in the leather texture, to mention a few.

Thanks for sticking around till the end of the post.


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!

Recent Posts