What is faux suede made of?

Updated February 21, 2017

Suede was traditionally the treated inner side of an animal skin, but now faux suede is available. This fabric is hardier than natural suede leather. Faux, or fake, suede is entirely synthetic. Manufacturers can source the chemicals that make up faux suede directly from factories or they can opt for a source of recycled chemicals. The potential applications for fake suede range from furniture upholstery to footwear and clothing. The fact that faux suede is easier to clean than real suede also makes the fabric suitable for car seats and items such as dog cushions.


Synthetic fabrics such as polyester are composed of molecules arranged in long fibres. Older generations of synthetic chemical fabrics were not as comfortable to wear as some natural fabrics, but this problem was partly solved when chemists figured out a way to process the raw chemical to get a thinner, more delicate fibre. Faux suede is either 100 percent polyester or a blend of both polyester and polyurethane, which are both plastics.

These plastics are polymers, which means that they are made up of one type of molecule that repeats over and over. It is this propensity of the materials to line up one after the other that is useful for artificial fibre manufacturers, and especially for microfibre manufacturers.


Polyester is a plastic fibre that a chemist with the DuPont company discovered before World War Two. Polyester manufacturers make the material from alcohols and carboyxl acid molecules. The fibres are strong and durable polymers.


At about the same time as the chemist invented polyester, another polymer called polyurethane found a place as an artificial rubber- and corrosion-resistant coating for objects such as aeroplanes. Polyurethane manufacturers combine molecules called polyols and two types of another kind of chemical known as diisocyanates to make the product. The manufacturers can then make hundreds of different forms of polyurethane from these ingredients.


Faux suede material is either a medium-weight material or a lightweight material, due to the relative lightness of polymers compared to other fibres. Fabric manufacturers can produce the material in different formats. One example is a woven wool-backed fabric, and another form is a fabric made from non-woven polyester. The manufacturing process also reproduces the natural suede nap texture on one or both sides of the fabric. It burns easily, as it is synthetic, but on the other hand does not shrink in the wash or stain with waterspots like real suede. As polyester retains its original shape well, faux suede does not stretch permanently. The polyester component also resists wrinkling.

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About the Author

Jillian O'Keeffe has been a freelance writer since 2009. Her work appears in regional Irish newspapers including "The Connacht Tribune" and the "Sentinel." O'Keeffe has a Master of Arts in journalism from the National University of Ireland, Galway and a Bachelor of Science in microbiology from University College Cork.