11 Simple Differences Between Patent Leather and Vinyl

Difference between patent leather and vinyl

So, how do you distinguish between patent leather and vinyl when these two types of materials look so similar to each other? In this article, I’m going to share with you all the major and minor differences between patent leather and vinyl. So what’s the difference between patent leather and vinyl?

The main difference between patent leather and vinyl is that patent leather is made from animal hides, tanned, and then finished with polyurethane coating resulting in a smooth glossy surface while vinyl is made from strong polyester fibers that are coated with vinyl and made to look like natural leather.

There are a couple more differences between patent leather and vinyl I would like to share with you that will help to further clearly distinguish between the two. Keep reading to find out more!

What Is Patent Leather?

Patent leather is natural leather usually made from kids skin that has undergone surface polyurethane or acrylic treatment processes that gives it a glassy or glossy finish. Patent leather is a really durable material that is hardwearing and waterproof.

All the processes used to make patent leather is just about same for fine leathers except for how patent leather is finished. At the last stage of tanning, the would-be patent leather is coated with a lacquer to give it its characteristic glossiness and glassiness.

You can learn more on how patent is made here from this earlier article I wrote!

While high-quality real patent leather are pricy because they’re naturally made, the majority of patent leather out there today are just cheaper versions and are made synthetically. They’re often marketed as faux patent leather.

Patent leather is commonly used for shoes, belts, and handbags. This is because it’s a very durable material, trendy, and highly fashionable.

Patent leather products are the most easiest items to keep and care for unlike the usual leather that will need a lot of tender loving care. With patent leather, you can simply use household items like hand wash soaps, toothpaste, shaving creams, mineral oil, acetone free nail varnish removers, window polish, furniture polish petroleum jelly, vaseline, etc.

These are things you might already have and if you’re able to utilize them properly, you wouldn’t have to buy any kind of fancy patent leather cleaners which in retrospect are sometimes the best way to go to remove all the guess work.

One minor source of worry when using patent leather products is the patent leather getting wrinkled, scratched or patent leather becoming sticky.

What is Vinyl Leather?

Vinyl leather is a type of leather that’s simply considered synthetic leather. Vinyl leather is commonly used in making clothing, upholstery, product covers, and it’s particularly ideal for products that need to be water or moisture resistant such as cases for delicate products such as devices, book, etc.

A bit of background on vinyl, it has been produced particularly in the United States since the 1940s and was typically strictly for products such as shoes, upholstery, and automobile interiors.

Now, spare me a couple of seconds while I explain a few nerdy details about vinyl! A typical vinyl material will have two basic synthetic materials. These are strong polyester fibers that are coated with vinyl, made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and plasticizers (phthalic acid).

So, what is basically done is, the vinyl is melted onto the surface of the strong polyester fibers and as a result, sealing it closed and virtually giving it a waterproof surface treatment.

Vinyl just like all other synthetic leathers. It’s very easy to clean and requires no form of special conditioning. However, there are really great products out there like this vinyl cleaner from Amazon that can help to keep vinyl products look great all the time.

The only major downside to vinyl is that it will crack and peel after a while of extended use.

How To Determine If What You Have is Patent Leather Or Vinyl

1. The first and most easiest way to find out if a material is vinyl of patent leather is to read from the product label.

2. Another way will be to engage with the seller and ask. They’re often nice and will be kind to share a bit more information!

3. Another easy and practical way to figure out the difference between patent leather and vinyl especially if you have the materials in hand or have access is to check the flesh-side!

Checking the flesh side or the back side of leather is the easiest way because real patent leather will have a fuzzy or a suede look and feel while vinyl will be nothing close to the natural fuzziness natural leather has.

4. If it’s an online purchase, you can, with the help of any of the differences below figure it out or know exactly what to ask the sellers of the information in the product specifications and descriptions aren’t enough.

The 11 Difference Between Patent Leather and Vinyl

Patent Leather Vinyl Leather
1. Source It’s primarily got from animals It’s chemically made
2 Flesh-Side Patent leather has suede or a fuzzy matte from the flesh of the animal Mostly have a fabric or mesh backing
3. “Grain Surface”
The grain surface of patent leather is treated with polyurethane finishing Vinyl is essentially coated with vinyl from polyvinyl chloride
4. Basic Components Natural leather and polyurethane coating or finish Strong polyester fibers coated with vinyl, made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and plasticizers
5. Overall Look Patent leather has a shiny glossy glassy look Vinyl leather generally come with variations in grain, color and textures like real leather
6. Overall Feel Flexible A lot more flexible
7. Economical Compared to Vinyl, patent leather is slightly more expensive Typically much more affordable than patent leather
8. Aging With time, the only the coating on the patent leather surface will scratch and peel off. It also develops wrinkles that’s very hard to get rid of The vinyl material itself will crack and peel
9. Breathability Wouldn’t say it’s breathable but it’s a lot more comfortable due to its natural flesh side Vinyl is not as breathable as PU Materials
10. Durability Compared to vinyl, Patent leather is more durable. Relatively durable but not puncture or tear resistant like real patent leather
11. Workability Activities such as sewing will be a bit more challenging than a on patent leather than vinyl Very easy to work with

Similarities Between Patent Leather & Vinyl

  1. Both are very easy to clean.
  2. Both patent leather and vinyl do not stretch quite well due to the kind of surface treatments given to it.
  3. Patent leather and vinyl are water-resistant.
  4. Both are low maintenance materials.
  5. Both types of materials are consistent in look.
  6. Will obviously not develop the same kind of luster and patina over time like leather will.
  7. Both have a chemical smell due to how they’re finished.
  8. In some instances patent leather will be coated with vinyl.

Patent Leather vs Vinyl: Which is Best?

Short answer! real patent leather is the absolute best in terms of quality. But today, since real patent leather is rare, there’s an abundance of faux patent leather which is essentially fake leather.

What vinyl is best for when compared to real patent leather is how inexpensive and affordable it is while retaining some level of quality and beauty.

So, what it will come down to is your personal preference either for real patent leather or vinyl and your budget since these two types of materials, from the outside will look, act, and feel just about same.


With almost the same number of similarities in comparison to the differences, it’s not surprising how most people often get confused on the differences between patent leather and vinyl especially by just looking at them both.

I hope this post helped clarify the differences between patent leather & vinyl and that you’ll be able to spot the differences or know what questions to ask when you see it.

Related Questions

What is the difference between leather and patent leather?

The main difference between Leather and patent leather is that leather (natural or real) is generally more breathable and comes with surface markings, while patent leather on the hand, is not breathable and has a very smooth glossy surface.

Both leather and patent leather are both of natural sources, that is animals, undergoes similar tanning processes, but the only difference is that patent leather is finished with some sort of lacquer or if I should say polyurethane treatment that renders it mirror-like.

Is patent leather more expensive?

Yes, patent leather is less expensive especially when compared to high-quality leather because majority of the patent leather you will come across are either synthetic that is urethane/vinyl or made using less expensive or less quality splits of hides.

Why do they call it patent leather?

The reason why patent leather is called so is because it was originally made using a patented processes. As a result, most producers of leather are able to make patent leather but they still use the name.

What’s different today is, there’s way less real patent leather products now as the majority of the patent items manufactured are faux patent leather, made from cheap materials like plastic or vinyl.


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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