What is Faux Suede?

Caroline Cloutier

Faux suede is a man-made fabric used in clothing, footwear, and upholstery. It is designed to mimic the look of regular suede, which is a leather product made from the undersides of animal skins. Faux versions are not usually as durable, but they are often much less expensive and are also easier to clean and maintain.

Faux suede is less expensive than real suede.
Faux suede is less expensive than real suede.

Basic Characteristics

In most cases, imitation suede is designed to look indistinguishable from regular suede, at least at first glance. The fabric is usually very soft and has a matte finish. It also typically has a defined "grain," so that rubbing the fabric in one direction yields a different texture and color tone than rubbing it in another.

Faux suede sofas are very popular.
Faux suede sofas are very popular.

How It's Made

Faux suede is made entirely of synthetic polyester. Polyesters are durable chains of polymer molecules bound together through a series of chemical reactions. They are common in plastics and resins, but can also be formed into threads that can be used in weaving.

Faux suede may be used to add a decorative touch to throw pillows.
Faux suede may be used to add a decorative touch to throw pillows.

To make a fabric that resembles suede, manufacturers choose polymer threads that are close to the weight and consistency of leather fibers. The best imitations use multiple threads at once to create a double or triple weave because, although single weave fabrics often look good at first glance, they tend to feel much flimsier. After the weaving is complete, the manufacturer runs a coarse brush over the top of the fabric in order to create the matted, almost fuzzy texture.

Most of the time, color is added to the polymer threads before the weaving begins, although it is also possible to dye the finished product. Imitation suede that is designed to look natural is usually tan or light brown in color. It is not uncommon to find green, blue, or even pink imitation products, however, particularly when it comes to fashion items.

Where It's Used

The fashion industry is one of the biggest consumers of suede, and many designers and top fashion lines sell jackets, skirts, and pants made with this fabric. These products are often too expensive to attract mid-range shoppers, but imitation leather provides a similar look at a fraction of the price. It also appeals to consumers who want to avoid products made from animals. Faux suede shoes, handbags, and accessories such as belts are only a few of the more widely sold products.

There are also many uses for the fabric in the home décor sector. Faux suede sofas and loveseats are very popular, for instance, and can provide soft, durable seating for a much more affordable price than real leather. The material may also be used for decorative curtains or throw pillows.

Care Considerations

Caring for faux suede is usually no harder than keeping it dusted and occasionally wiping it down with a damp cloth. Stains are typically easy to treat, as well, and a bit of soap and water will lift most new blemishes. Tougher spots may require the use of mild detergents or a simple baking soda and vinegar mixture, often applied with a stiff brush. Experts do not recommend that stain solutions be left on the fabric for longer than a few minutes, however, in case they create new stains or water spots of their own.

Differences Between Real and Faux Suede

Aside from the fact that real suede comes from animal skins and faux is created from synthetic materials, there are a number of important differences between real and imitation versions. Real suede is typically more durable, although the quality can vary depending on how it is made. Imitation fabric tends to be more resistant to water and staining, however, and it is often easier to care for.

Natural suede is usually not water resistant, and even the smallest drop can leave a permanent stain. The leather can be treated with different chemicals to help improve its water resistance, but often with only mixed results. As such, most outerwear made from this material is designed to look good, but should only be used indoors or on sunny days. Faux suede, on the other hand, is usually water repellent if not completely waterproof all on its own. It is essentially made of refined plastic, which makes it very weather resistant.

Aging is another area of difference. Regular suede, like most leathers, tends to crack and discolor as it gets older. Different parts of the material react to sunlight and atmospheric elements differently over time, usually corresponding to the part of the animal that they came from. Parts of the body that were used and stretched more than others tend to produce tougher, more crack-prone leather than parts that were covered mostly in fat or protected muscle. Imitation suede is much more consistent and ages uniformly in most cases.

A vinegar and baking soda mixture can be used to clean a microsuede couch.
A vinegar and baking soda mixture can be used to clean a microsuede couch.

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Discussion Comments


They forgot to mention Faux suede is not made out of tortured or skinned alive animals. It is animal cruelty free. It also does not smell like the real ones that smell like an stable full of crap.


Quite a good article on faux suede (a.k.a. polyester suede). Thank you for this helpful overview and discussion. One of the better online articles I managed to find.


I'm looking to buy some faux suede furniture for my conservatory, but want to know if it will fade in the sunlight?


@alex94: It is best to send it to the cleaners for routine laundering, but you can do a mild cleaning at home and remove small stains. I wouldn’t recommend putting it in the washing machine.

Microsuede blankets and comforters are very durable and soft but they show stains easily. If you have a rather large stain on your comforter, sprinkle it with a mild powder detergent. Gently rub it into the microsuede with a scrub brush. Let it sit for about 10 minutes and vacuum it up.

For very stubborn stains, use rubbing alcohol. Put some alcohol on a white cloth and blot the stain with it. Be careful not to soak the fabric because you will end up with water stains.


I bought a comforter set that is micro suede. It says "dry clean only" but I'm sure that would be pretty expensive. Is there a way to wash it at home?

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