How To Care For Vegan Leather (Avoid These Mistakes!)

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Vegan leather is a great alternative to traditional leather, but it’s important to take care of it properly in order to prolong its life. But how do you care for vegan leather? And do some of the newer plant leathers require a different approach to their upkeep?

In this post, we’ll start by looking at the three key areas of maintenance that apply to all types of vegan leather followed by more specific tips for some of the new plant-based leathers such as pineapple, mushroom, and apple.

How To Care For Vegan Leather?

There are 5 simple rules for maintaining vegan leather:

  1. Keep it clean
  2. Attend to stains immediately
  3. Keep it conditioned
  4. Keep it stored
  5. Follow specific guidelines for plant-based leather

How to Clean Vegan Leather

Every day articles such as jackets, shoes, bags, and sofas quickly accumulate dirt and dust that lead to premature wear and tear. However, according to Zachary Pozniak, VP of Operations of luxury dry cleaning brand Jeeves of Belgravia, cleaning vegan leather is pretty straightforward.

He suggests that the most effective way to help vegan leather last longer is to give it a regular wipe-down with a damp cloth. Preserve your leathers by wiping them down weekly, or even after wet weather, with a soft non-abrasive cloth or even tissues. 1

If there is any metal hardware on your products, for example, buckles or chains, then gently clean them with a soft toothbrush dipped in warm soapy water.

Can I Use a Washing Machine?

Cleaning vegan leather in the washing machine depends on the care label and product as not all faux leather is waterproof. That said, many vegan leather garments can be machine washed on a cold cycle. Tip – use a net bag, skip the spin, and air dry. Do not use the dryer. Dry items flat or hang.

Do not machine wash vegan shoes, handbags or purses as it is likely to damage the straps, handles, and hardware.

Can You Use Baby Wipes on Faux Leather?

According to Ioanna Topouzoglou, the founder of vegan handbag brand Mashu the answer is yes to cleaning vegan leather with baby wipes – as long as they are water-based. 4 Look for bio-degradable, plant-based wipes which are cruelty-free and kind to the environment. Baby wipes are fine for small stains on vegan leather but would be expensive for larger areas such as sofas and seats. 5

How to Remove a Stain From Vegan Leather

  1. Blot Stain Immediately

    To remove a stain from your vegan leather, you will need to react quickly and blot the stain with paper towels as soon as possible  

  2. Check the Care Label

    Check the care label particularly if you are dealing with some of the newer plant based leathers on the market.

  3. Test First

    If you are using a new method of cleaning – test a small, hidden patch of leather before you begin

  4. Prepare a Damp Cloth

    Use a damp cloth and soapy water or a water based wet wipe

  5. Remove Excess Water

    Make sure you wring out excess water from the cloth before you apply to the bag

  6. Start From Edges of Stain

    Gently rub the stain until it disappears. Start from the outside of the stain and work inwards.

  7. Rinse Cleaning Cloth

    Rinse the cloth in fresh water, wring and dab away excess soapy water from the leather

  8. Dry Affected Area with Soft Cloth

    Immediately pat and dry the area you have cleaned with a soft cloth

  9. Try a Multi-Surface Cleanser

    If the stain is still apparent – you can try a natural multi-surface cleaner but avoid chemical based cleaners (don’t forget to patch test first!). Follow instructions in step 6.

  10. Patch Test Vinegar and Water

    For very stubborn stains, patch test equal parts of vinegar and water and apply to stain 2,3

  11. Avoid Beach

     Avoid trying harsh detergents or bleach on vegan leather – they will almost certainly dry out the fabric and cause damage.

  12. Call in the Professionals

     If you have followed all the steps and the stain is still resisting – you will need to call in professional cleaners


Conditioning Vegan Leather

Vegan leather needs to be conditioned to stay supple and prevent it from drying out, cracking, and fading. However, you should note that vegan leather materials that are coated in plastic such as PVC or PU will not absorb the conditioner.

The leather can be conditioned with:

  1. A cream or liquid leather conditioner, which helps to keep it from drying out and cracking. It can also help to break in faux leather shoes and stop faux leather trousers from squeaking by softening the leather.
  2. A natural, colorless wax that creates the appearance of hydration and protects the leather 6

Leather conditioners or waxes should gently rubbed into the leather. Do this every six months, or sooner if your leather looks dry. Warning! Test a small area first to make sure the color won’t be affected.

Lanolin in Leather Conditioners

If you are a strict vegan watch out for lanolin in traditional leather conditioners. Lanolin is a natural waxy secretion from sheep and is found in many products from moisturisers and cosmetics through to leather conditioners.

Can You Use Shoe Polish on Vegan Leather?

Yes – shoe polish can be used to clean and return color and shine to vegan leather but you will need to patch test a small area before you begin.

There are three basic color options: black, brown, and neutral. The extra pigments can brighten up any discolored leather item. However, while black is a safe bet for black items, there are too many shades of brown to match things up exactly. Stick with neutral polishes to avoid changing the color of your leather inadvertently.

Fair Zone vegan shoe polish targets vegan leather and can be used on a variety of products including shoes and jackets. It’s free from drying alcohol, beeswax and synthetic additives and is made from olive oil, caster seed oil and carnauba wax. 7,8

Storing Vegan Leather

One of the simplest methods to prevent damage and keep a high-quality finish is to store your leather correctly:

  1. Leather should not be subjected to direct sunlight, as this will cause fading.
  2. Store handbags in a dustbag to avoid scratches from hardware such as zips or buckles
  3. Leather should be kept away from sources of heat, such as radiators, which can cause it to dry and split.
  4. Plastic bags should not be used since they obstruct airflow.
  5. Although most vegan leather is water resistant, damp storage spaces should be avoided 9

Care For Specific Types of Vegan Leather

There are many types of plant-based leathers on the market, all with slightly different care instructions. Here is a quick guide to some of the most popular materials:

Pinatex Leather

Pinatex is a sustainable product that was created from the by-products of pineapple leaves. The robust plant-based leather feels and looks like real animal leather and is water resistant.

  1. To maintain Pinatex leather, simply wipe it with a soft damp cloth.
  2. For stains, you can use a mild soap and water solution if necessary.
  3. Avoid using any harsh chemicals or cleaners as this could damage the surface of the leather.
  4. Moisturize it regularly with a natural, colorless wax.10

Cactus Leather

Cactus leather is made by Desserto from the leaves of nopal cactus. According to Desserto, its durability and features such as elasticity and breathability are similar to those of animal leather.

  1. Avoiding direct sunshine or extreme heat will help your cactus leather goods last longer.
  2. When not in use, store the items in a cool, dry location.
  3. Spot clean as needed and for clothing, hang or lay flat to air dry.
  4. Although Cactus leather is durable, when cleaning, care should be taken to avoid damaging the material with harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners. 11

Apple Leather

Apple leather is derived from the waste material left behind from the industrial processing of apples. This waste material is recovered and transformed into vegan leather. The result is a long-lasting, ecologically friendly, breathable fabric (due to its organic composition) that has a smooth texture. 12

  1. Remove dirt with a soft clean cloth. For stubborn stains, you can use soapy water.
  2. Do not place hot objects on the material
  3. Do not use harsh chemicals, acetone, or household cleaning products

Mushroom Leather

Mushroom leather is a vegan leather material derived from fungi commonly associated with luxury brands such as Stella McCartney and Hermes. The material which is grown in trays over a period of weeks replicates the look and feel of animal leather while outperforming it in terms of durability.13,14

  1. Mushroom leather can be delicate – read the care instructions first to establish whether it is washable
  2. Use a damp cloth or sponge in cold water to clean
  3. Do not use a washing machine
  4. Do not use harsh detergents or chemicals
  5. Do not tumble dry – dry naturally by hanging or laying flat on a towel

Cork Leather

Cork leather is made from the bark of cork oak trees. The material is water-resistant, durable, and environmentally friendly. 15 In addition, cork is naturally antimicrobial which means it suppresses the growth of mold and bacteria. 16

  1. To clean cork leather simply wipe it with a damp cloth and warm, soapy water.
  2. Avoid using any harsh chemicals or cleaners as this could damage the surface of the leather.
  3. Pat excess moisture with a clean cloth and allow to air dry
  4. Moisturize it regularly with a natural, colorless cream. 17

Mango Leather

Mango leather is made from discarded mangoes to produce a durable, water-resistant leather-like material. 18

  1. To maintain mango leather wipe using a damp white cotton cloth.
  2. Do not allow the material to stay wet for any length of time
  3. Use a wax regularly to protect the leather 19

As you can see, there are a variety of vegan leather materials on the market, each with their own specific care instructions. By creating a routine to properly care for your vegan leather goods, you can ensure that they will last for years to come.

We hope this guide has been helpful!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use Coconut Oil on Faux Leather?

Yes, you can use coconut oil on faux leather however it is important to test a small area first as some materials may be sensitive to oils. Coconut oil is a great natural product to use for cleaning and conditioning your vegan leather goods.

Can You Wear Vegan Leather in the Rain?

Yes, you can wear vegan leather in the rain! However, it is important to note that while vegan leather is water resistant, excessive water can damage it. If your piece gets drenched, be sure to dry it off naturally as soon as possible. Additionally, you may want to consider investing in a waterproof spray for extra protection. Finally, it’s important to check the care instructions for your vegan leather before exposing it to the elements.

Sources for Vegan Leather Care

1.      Zachary Pozniak VP Operations Jeeves speaks to



4.      Ioanna Topouzoglou, founder and creative director of Mashu via