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6 Reasons Faux Leather Smell Like Fish & How To Fix The Smell

The question of “why does faux or fake leather smell like fish?” is something I have heard and wondered about a couple of times. I did some research and there are a few reasons I found and I’m ready to share all that I have found.

So why does faux leather smell like fish?

  1. Faux Leather May Smell Like Fish From The Packaging It Comes In
  2. Dyes Used To Add Color To Faux Leather Can Cause Fish Smell
  3. Faux Leather May Smell Like Fish Due To The Preservative Chemical Used During Transport
  4. Faux Leather May Have A Fish Smell From The Glue Used
  5. Faux Leather May Smell Like Fish Due To The Protective Coating On The Faux Leather
  6. Faux Leather Items Will Smell Like Fish If Kept For Long Periods During Storage

In the remaining parts of this article, I will discuss in detail all the causes for the unpleasant odor that many people find when they purchase furniture or clothing made out of artificial or faux leather. I will also give you some tips to remove or minimize the smell from your faux leather.

Why Does Faux Leather Smell Like Fish – Details

1. Faux Leather May Smell Like Fish From The Packaging It Comes In

If the packaging the faux leather item comes in has been recycled and might have been used previously for fish or anything fish-related, then chances are the fish smell can also cling to your faux leather clothing or furniture.

In most cases, the ‘fish’ odor will not only be on the outside but may also infiltrate deep into the lining of the fake leather’s surface if you are not careful with cleaning instructions. The best way to deal with this issue is to make sure transport boxes are properly aerated.

Also, check your faux leather products as soon as they arrive. If you find anything fishy (no pun intended) with the packaging boxes, ask for a refund if the smell is intolerable.

2. Dyes Used To Add Color To Faux Leather Can Cause Fish Smell

The aggravating fishy smell on faux leather can also be a result of the dyes or coloring agents used to add color to faux leather. It’s not uncommon for these artificial additives to seep out and create that offensive odor.

These are usually colorants used during the manufacturing process of the faux leather material. One of such common dyes used for adding color to faux leather during their manufacture is the azo dye.

This is the most common type of chemical dye used for coloring faux leather due to its low cost and wide availability.

While this class of dye doesn’t pose any risks with regards to health, it can cause some level of smell, degradation in quality, or durability when applied over time – especially if not well monitored during their application process.

3. Faux Leather May Smell Like Fish Due To The Preservative Chemical Used During Transport

Faux leather items may smell like fish if the products during shipping were preserved with chemicals like formaldehyde.

The formaldehyde-based preservatives manufacturers use in their packaging and transportation processes is a form of a gas spray that is put on faux leather items before shipping.

And because these preservatives are gases, the gas particles are able to penetrate and seep deep into the faux leather item resulting in a smell that is similar to fish.

Manufacturers who do not want to spend money on expensive preservatives will often use these chemical agents so that products are preserved well enough until they reach their destination location.

And while such chemicals can cause the faux leather item being transported to smell somewhat like fish, it helps to prevent bugs, rodents, mildew, or mold growth during the faux leather items’ transportation.

One thing you will notice in this type of situation is that the fish smell will often be strong in the beginning when you have just received the item but the smell gradually goes away with time.

As if that’s not enough, the length of time the faux leather item spends in storage or while on transport with all the preserving chemicals can also determine how intense or concentrated the fish smell is on your faux leather item.

4. Faux Leather May Have A Fish Smell From The Glue Used

There are two main ways glue can cause faux leather items to smell like fish. This can be from the glue used during the faux leather making process or the glue used to assemble the faux leather items or products.

There are a variety of different types of glues that can be used to create faux leather items. While some glues are formulated specifically for making faux leather goods, others are not, and using them may mean a whole lot of trouble including a foul fish smell.

Let’s take a step back! The fish smell may also be from the glue used during the manufacturing of the faux leather material itself.

The main ingredient in most glue products is usually PVA (polyvinyl acetate) and during the faux leather making process, it is used to bond other materials like polyester (and sometimes cotton) to other polyurethane-based components to make the faux leather material.

With all those chemicals combining and reacting, it is no surprise faux leather will have a smell that is not very pleasant.

5. Faux Leather May Smell Like Fish Due To The Protective Coating On The Faux Leather

Faux leather is often coated with a protective layer to prevent moisture from damaging the material. Not only does the protective coating keep water and moisture at bay but also, it also gives the faux leather a distinctive sheen.

A lot of these coatings are petroleum or plastic-based and that can be one reason for the smell. The good news here, though, is it’s easy to remove this coating if you want to get rid of your fish smell problem.

All you need to do is to scrub the leather with baking soda and then use warm water and dish soap to clean the faux leather surface.

6. Faux Leather Items Will Smell Like Fish If Kept For Long Periods During Storage

Another possible reason could be due to how much time has passed since it was manufactured and/or the environment where the piece sat before being shipped off to your location. The more time passes, the less likely chemical agents will cause odor problems.

If you have faux leather items that are more than a few years old, it is possible that the material has absorbed odors which will then be released if you store them without air circulation. This can lead to these items smelling like fish because of the smell absorbing from other sources such as food and drinks.

This means you should always make sure there’s enough airflow around your belongings or else they might start giving off an unpleasant odor in time.

If this does happen, don’t worry; all you need to do is wipe down the surface with baking soda for 30 seconds before wiping it clean with warm water and dish soap! Your faux leather item won’t smell anymore within minutes after treating it.

Tips On How To Remove The Fish Smell From Faux Leather Items

You may be experiencing a fishy smell from your faux leather article, but there are ways to remove the odor.

  • Make sure there’s enough airflow around your belongings or else they might start giving off an unpleasant odor in time.
  • You’ll want to make sure that you’re NOT storing your faux leather items in tight spaces for long periods of time as this can lead them to absorb smells from other things like food or drinks without proper ventilation.
  • Usually, proper storage practices will work just fine but if the fish smell does happen, don’t worry; all you need to do is wipe down the surface with baking soda for 30 seconds before wiping it clean with warm water and dish soap! Your faux leather item won’t smell anymore within minutes after treating it.
  • If you want to keep the same look of your item but get rid of that nasty smell, try using an anti-bacterial spray on surfaces instead; some may even work better than baking soda!
  • To prevent the smell from returning, avoid applying any cosmetics or perfumes to your faux leather item.
  • If you need a quick fix for the fishy odor spray Febreeze on surfaces and wipe them off with dish soap!
  • You can also try placing an open box of baking soda within reach so that it will continue circulating through the air.
  • If you are one of the lucky few who has a lot of space, try letting your faux leather item air out in the sunlight and fresh air for an hour or two from time to time.
  • You can also use natural scents like lemon and lavender to combat the fishy smell!
  • If you don’t have time to wait, simply use your favorite air freshener.
  • If it’s a leather item and the smell is coming from inside of it, then try wiping down the interior with an odor eliminator like vinegar or baking soda!
  • You can also rub talcum powder on the inside of your faux leather as well for extra protection against unpleasant smells in the future.
  • If you can’t get the smell out, try storing your faux leather items in a container with baking soda or other natural scents.
  • This is not an exhaustive list and these will only work for certain types of faux leathers. If none of this works, consult a professional!
  • The lucky few who have a lot of space, try letting your faux leather item air out in the sunlight and fresh air for an hour or two.
  • Use an odor eliminator like vinegar or lemon juice as soon as possible after noticing that your faux leather item has picked up a bad smell. For some items (especially clothes), the longer they sit there smelling foul, the more difficult it will be to get rid of them because bacteria start eating away at the fabric. This is referred to as “bacterial rot” and can lead to the item being unsalvageable.
  • If your leather article has strong odors like fish, garlic, or onions, then you need to use a stronger odor eliminator that is designed for these types of smells.
  • Wash the faux leather item separately from other items and in cold water as hot water will set the smell into the material; also do not dry clean it. Use enzymes specially formulated to break down proteins (lipids). Examples include Biozyme brand cleaner/degreaser that can be found at some grocery stores or pharmacies.

Macwilliam K. Appianing

Hi! I’m Macwilliam, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leatherwork 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!

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