Is Faux Leather Waterproof or Water Resistant? (The Difference Matters!)

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Not sure if that vegan leather jacket or outdoor faux leather sofa you’ve been eying up is waterproof and can cope with the rain? The answer depends on the type of faux leather you purchase. There are several different types of vegan leather and each has its own unique composition, properties and level of water resistance which means you’ll need to assess your purchase on a case-by-case basis depending on the material and its construction.

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Fortunately, we’re here to help you make an informed decision.

In this article, we’ll discuss the composition of various faux and vegan leathers and how they are made. We’ll also compare water-resistant vs waterproof faux leathers, look at how well they stand up to wet weather and if they can protect your investment from potential damage.

Keep reading to learn more about the differences between waterproof and water-resistant vegan leathers and how to make sure you purchase the right one for your needs.

Is Faux Leather Waterproof

Not all faux leather is waterproof and can cope with rain – some types will absorb water. For example, PVC synthetic leather can be waterproof depending on its composition and manufacturing process. However, polyurethane PU isn’t as resistant to water. And some vegan leather such as Muskin do not repel water easily at all.

Definition of Faux Leather

Faux leather also known as vegan leather, fake leather, PU, PVC, synthetic leather, plant-based leather, pleather and a bunch of other terms is a multi-faceted definition, as it can include all different types of materials that are combined to create something that resembles genuine leather but is not made from animal skin or any animal-derived products.

From soft, luxurious, buttery vegan leathers to long-lasting, durable pvc faux leathers, there is a vast selection of faux leather materials available with distinct qualities and components. All of which look, feel and behave differently.

Synthetic chemicals, plastic and plant-based textiles are the most common components used in ‘faux leather’ production, but there are many more. However, these vegan leather materials can be grouped into 3 basic categories depending on their origin:

1.     Fossil Based Synthetics – PU/PVC

2.     Plant Based Leathers – Desserto Cactus Leather, Pinatex Pineapple Leather

3.     Laboratory Grown Bio-leather – Muskin Mycelium Leather, Kombucha Leather, Mushroom Leather

Because of their different origins and composition, each type of faux leather has unique physical and chemical properties which affect how long it lasts and how it responds to water.

Difference between Waterproof and Water Resistant

Before we explore the different types of faux leather, it’s important to understand the difference between water-resistant and waterproof materials. The reason for mentioning this is I’ve read a number of articles that claim faux leather is waterproof – even when manufacturers and brands clearly state that they are purely water-resistant.

Doc Martens are a great example of a brand who openly say their vegan docs are not waterproof yet reviewers still claim they are. (1) I don’t think it’s because writers are deliberately trying to mislead but more likely that there’s some confusion about the difference between water-resistant and waterproof.

The bottom line is although water-resistant and water-proof are often used interchangeably, water resistance means that a material can resist water and rain for short periods but will eventually absorb the moisture and potentially damage the faux leather . On the other hand, waterproof materials cannot be penetrated by water(2)

How is Faux Leather Made?

The materials used to construct types of faux leather as well as the structure and composition play an important role in determining whether they are waterproof or not. (3)

Synthetic leather is created by combining a textile base with two or more layers of synthetic polymer, usually in the form of polyester fabric coated with PVC or polyurethane film. The surface can be designed to look like leather by embossing a grain pattern. (4)

Illustration of Synthetic Leather Manufacturing Process

Illustration of Synthetic Leather Manufacturing Process (5)

PVC and PU, two plastic-based materials, are the most durable and commonly used materials in synthetic leathers. Though not as common, plant-based materials like cork, cactus and pineapple leaves can also be used to create vegan leathers.

But as with all vegan leathers, it’s important to carefully examine the production processes and manufacturing practices if you want to understand the level of waterproofing and what you can and cannot do with your faux leather products.

PVC Faux Leather Fabric

PVC leather fabric is created by combining polyvinylchloride with stabilizers, plasticizers, and lubricants to make the fabric more flexible and protect it. The base materials commonly used include polyester, cotton, nylon or rayon.

This type of faux leather is often used in outdoor furniture and car interiors. This is because, when treated, it has a good waterproofing capability and can withstand exposure to the elements for longer periods of time. It also resists wear, abrasion, oils, chemicals, and dirt build-up better than other types of synthetic leathers.

PU Faux Leather Fabric

PU leather fabric is created by bonding a polyurethane (PU) finish onto a base material such as polyester, cotton, nylon or rayon. A roller is used to create an artificial grain-like pattern on the surface of the fabric to imitate the look and feel of real leather, usually with a neat and uniform finish.

This type of faux leather is often used in shoes, purses and other fashion accessories. It is water resistant, which means that it can resist water, but ultimately it will become saturated with longer periods of contact with liquid.

Silicone Leather

Silicone leather is a relatively newer type of synthetic leather. It’s created by combining silicone, usually in the form of polyurethane, with stabilisers and plasticizers to make it more flexible and durable.

Vegan Accessory brands such as Watson and Wolfe have created beautiful, highly water resistant handbags using 100% recycled silicone free from plastic and PVC.

This synthetic leather fabric is constructed of silicone and a textile backing for maximum durability. It’s stain-resistant, waterproof, mildew-resistance and can hold up to UV light without fading. The material offers an eco-friendly option compared to PVC or PU coated fabrics. (6)

Due to its silicone layer, this type of faux leather is waterproof and able to resist water as long as no water gets through the seams or stitching. Silicone leather can also withstand exposure to extreme temperatures, making it a great option for outdoor furniture and car interiors. (7)

Plant-based Leathers

With greater emphasis on sustainability, the use of renewable and natural materials have been taking the place of fossil-based raw materials such as PVC and PU.

In recent years, three popular methods have been developed to create plant-based vegan leathers including the use of cork, cactus and pineapple leaves. Each material offers different levels of water resistance and requires different levels of care when exposed to water.

Plastic Coated Plant Based Leathers

Plastic-coated plant leathers are a more sustainable alternative to synthetic leather. They reduce the non-renewable content by replacing parts of the PVC or PUR synthetic coatings with agricultural waste-derived materials, such as grain, apple pomace, or milled cactus leaves.

Plastic Coated Plant Fibres

Another alternative to the fossil based materials found in coated textiles has been developed with the introduction of Pinatex® vegan leather. This material is composed of renewable pineapple-leaf fibers that are woven into a non-woven backing, while being coated with polylactic acid (PLA), which is produced from corn starch.

Bio-based and Laboratory Grown

Another method of producing sustainable alternatives to leather lies in nature-based, animal-free fibrous materials and Biotechnological processes.

Through the production of fungal, bacterial and yeast networks that attempt to mimic the texture of an animal skin as a single material or coating, these solutions may be able to one day replace traditional leather.

An illustration is Muskin® which is created from mushroom mycelium; but unfortunately its costliness and scarcity have prevented it from becoming a viable substitute for now.

Water Resistance of Faux and Vegan Leathers

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and ASTM International have established guidelines to measure how much water leather absorbs. These standardized test methods create a common language for manufacturers of materials and brands to ensure that materials meet product standards and consumer expectations. (8,9)

On their websites, vegan leather producers like Ananan Anam, the organisation behind Pinatex, frequently include technical documents that demonstrate how well their leathers hold up to these international standard metrics. (10)

If you are familiar with the brand you are buying from, you might be satisfied that the leather is as water-resistant or waterproof as described in the product description. If not, you could email the company and request the metrics or standards that they use for their testing. Walk away from a brand if it isn’t completely transparent.

Fortunately for us, the Freiberg Institute conducted an excellent study in which they compared the water absorption of a variety of materials used in faux leather.

Which Faux Leathers Are Waterproof?

The following list contains a list of faux and vegan leathers and whether they are waterproof or not. These materials were tested by the Freiberg Institute according to the International Standard ISO 17229 which determines the water resistance of textiles. The test measures Water Vapour Absorption (WVA).

TypeDescriptionCompositionWVAIs it Waterproof
Bio-based/Laboratory GrownMuskinA single layer of finely fibrous, porous material that is naturally grown and has no coating or textile backing.6.0No
KombuchaThin, single layer of material made by dehydrating a bacterial-yeast culture involving fermentation and microbial activity. No coating or backing.9.2No
Coated TextilePUA coated textile made with a top layer of compact PUR and a bottom layer of PUR filled with modified cellulose particles and polyester,1.4No but highly water resistant
DessertoTextiles coated with thin, compact layers of polyurethane (PUR) and a polyurethane foam layer filled with organic particles derived from Cactus2.5No but highly water resistant
AppleskinTextiles coated with thin, compact layers of polyurethane (PUR) and a polyurethane foam layer filled with organic particles derived from Apples1.7No but highly water resistant
VegeaTextiles coated with thin, compact layers of polyurethane (PUR) and a polyurethane foam layer filled with organic particles derived from Grapes3.0No but is water resistant
Coated Plant FibrePinatexA thin polymeric layer coats a non-woven material composed of cellulose-based natural fibers derived from Pineapple leaves.3.8No but is water resistant

The table shows that laboratory-grown leathers like muskin and kombucha leather would not pass upper shoe material tests – because they absorb too much water. However, the materials containing more polymers and a textile backing absorb much less water.

How to Waterproof and Protect Faux Leather

Even if your faux leather products starts out as waterproof, the age and use of product can make it less water resistant.

If you want your faux leather items to be fully waterproof, you need to treat them with a special sealant designed specifically for synthetic materials such as vinyl or PVC. Once applied, this sealant will provide an extra layer of protection against moisture while still allowing the material to breathe so that mold and mildew do not form on its surface.

You should also learn how to take care of your vegan leather and consider applying a protective spray every few months to keep it looking its best for years to come.

To protect faux leather and keep it waterproof, or to make an item more water resistant you can use several different methods:

• Wax-Based Waterproofing: Applying wax will help create a barrier between the fabric and liquid, which helps to prevent any water or moisture from getting into the fibers of your faux leather product. This method is great for outdoor furniture and car upholstery.

• Water Repellent Spray: If your faux leather is already starting to absorb water, you can use a water repellent spray to help seal the fibers and stop further absorption. This works especially well on lighter colored fabrics.

• Silicone-Based Sprays: These sprays are especially useful for waterproofing items that are often exposed to the elements, like a boat seat or car interior. Silicone-based sprays won’t alter the color of your faux leather, so you don’t have to worry about discoloration.

• Professional Cleaning Services: If all else fails, you can bring your faux leather product to a professional cleaning service. They will be able to deep clean and waterproof the item for you, ensuring that it’s protected from further water damage.


When looking for faux leather fabric, it is important to understand what type of material you are getting and if it will be waterproof or water-resistant. While some types may offer more protection against liquid damage than others, none of them are completely waterproof unless they have been treated with a protective coating.

Be sure to read the product details before making your purchase and if you’re looking for something that can withstand extreme weather conditions, opt for a higher quality faux leather option and check with the manufacturer. Water-resistance of faux leather is a great way to protect your investments while still providing an animal-free alternative!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Faux Leather Be Used Outside?

Yes, vinyl coated faux leather such as stamoid or textilene can be used outside as they are waterproof. However, they must be properly maintained and treated with a protective coating on a regular basis in order to ensure durability in extreme weather conditions. Additionally, when exposed to sunlight for extended periods of time, the material may begin to fade or break down. When possible outdoor furniture made from faux leather should be placed in shaded areas whenever possible.

Do Luxury Brands Use Faux Leather?

Yes, luxury brands do use faux leather in their products. Faux leather is often used by luxury brands as a cruelty free alternative to genuine leather. It has come a long way with many designer brands, like Senreve and Stella McCartney, now crafting beautiful handbags from newer, high-quality vegan leathers. These products show how expensive vegan leather can look and why it is a great luxury alternative for eco-conscious consumers.

Does Faux Leather Get Moldy?

The answer is yes, just like animal leather, faux leather is susceptible to mold growth. To prevent mould try to keep the leather clean and dry. If you notice any signs of mould on your faux leather item, take action quickly. You can use a mixture of germicidal soap and water or white vinegar and water to remove the mould from the surface of the material. After cleaning, make sure to thoroughly dry the area with a soft cloth. (11)

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