Why Faux Leather Smells Like Fish & How to Combat It


The anticipation of flaunting or utilizing a fresh faux leather acquisition can sometimes be dampened by an unwelcome and unexpected fishy aroma. This peculiar scent has bewildered and disappointed many enthusiastic buyers over the years. In this exploration, we’ll delve into the causes of this puzzling odor, shedding light on its origins and providing effective strategies to tackle and prevent it.

Understanding Faux Leather

Before we address the main concern, it’s vital to comprehend what faux leather truly is. A synthetic alternative to genuine leather, faux leather is made by treating a fabric base with substances such as wax, dye, or polyurethane to mimic the look and feel of real leather. Praised for its ethical, environmental, and often more affordable attributes, faux leather finds its place in a plethora of products, from fashionable apparel to sophisticated furniture.

Decoding the Fishy Scent: Common Culprits

Several factors contribute to the sometimes pungent fishy scent associated with faux leather:

The packaging process plays a role. When faux leather items are tightly sealed within packages, certain odors, particularly those resulting from the combination of chemicals, can intensify. This confined environment can accentuate and exacerbate the chemical smells inherent to faux leather production, leading to a pronounced fishy aroma upon unboxing.

Dyes used in manufacturing, especially some specific azo dyes, can emit unique smells. These odors can be intensified due to interactions with other chemicals or specific environmental conditions during production or storage.

The use of preservative chemicals is a double-edged sword. While they are essential for maintaining the appearance and longevity of faux leather, they can occasionally produce a strong fishy odor, especially when interacting with other substances in the faux leather mixture.

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The presence of specific glues and binding agents used in faux leather products might be another source of the smell. As these adhesives age or react with surrounding materials, they sometimes release unexpected fragrances, fishy ones included.

Protective coatings, applied to shield faux leather from potential damages like moisture or abrasion, can sometimes give off particular odors, especially when they begin to degrade or are exposed to specific environmental conditions.

Prolonged storage in certain atmospheres or conditions can lead to faux leather items absorbing and retaining various odors, with the fishy scent being one of the potential culprits.

Lastly, the quality of the faux leather can significantly influence the aroma it emits. Inexpensive, lower-quality faux leather products might use chemicals that are more inclined to produce potent, unpleasant smells.

Battling the Fishy Nemesis: Effective Solutions

For those grappling with this unsettling scent, there’s a silver lining. The fishy smell is often temporary and can be remedied:

A simple solution often lies in a mixture of mild dish soap and lukewarm water. Gently massaging this solution onto the faux leather surface can neutralize many surface odors, ensuring the material remains intact and undamaged.

For more stubborn or pronounced smells, a diluted mixture of white vinegar and water can come to the rescue. This blend, when applied correctly, can significantly diminish even the most persistent odors. However, it’s crucial to wipe down the surface thoroughly after treatment to ensure no residual vinegar smell remains.

Tips for Maintaining & Storing Faux Leather

Maintaining the allure of faux leather extends beyond just cleaning. Proper ventilation can play a crucial role, ensuring that the material doesn’t become a breeding ground for unwanted scents. When storing, opting for protective cloth bags can be beneficial, as they shield the item while allowing it to breathe. Regularly airing out faux leather items, especially after cleaning or if they’ve been stored for extended periods, can also prevent odor accumulation. Furthermore, it’s wise to store faux leather products away from potent odor sources, ensuring the material doesn’t absorb any unwanted smells.

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Prevention is Better than Cure

While remedies exist, prevention remains the most efficient strategy. Being discerning during purchases can pay dividends. Prioritize high-quality faux leather, inspect packaging for any immediate odors, and buy from established, reputable manufacturers or sellers. By adopting a proactive approach, you not only ensure a delightful faux leather experience but also sidestep potential pitfalls.


Faux leather, with its myriad of advantages, remains an excellent choice for many. While the occasional fishy odor can be off-putting, equipped with the knowledge of its origins and solutions, you can confidently navigate and enjoy the world of faux leather. Embrace its ethical and environmental benefits, and with a touch of care and vigilance, relish in the luxury it offers.

Certainly! Let’s delve deeper into the realm of household solutions that can aid in eliminating the fishy odor from faux leather.

Household Remedies to Banish the Fishy Odor

While many commercial products can tackle odors, sometimes, the most effective remedies are found right at home. Here are three household methods to consider:

  1. Baking Soda: Known for its absorbing properties, baking soda can be a savior for faux leather items with stubborn smells. To use this method:
    • Lightly sprinkle baking soda over the faux leather surface, ensuring it’s evenly distributed.
    • Allow it to sit for a few hours, preferably overnight.
    • Dust off or vacuum the baking soda. It would have absorbed much of the odor, leaving your faux leather smelling fresher.
  2. Coffee Grounds: If you’re a coffee lover, you’d be pleased to know that beyond perking up your mornings, coffee can also perk up your faux leather. Coffee grounds can absorb and neutralize odors, making them a suitable remedy for the fishy smell.
    • Place fresh coffee grounds in an open container alongside your faux leather item within a closed space, like a drawer or a closet.
    • Let it sit for a day or two, and the coffee grounds will absorb the odors.
    • Ensure the grounds don’t directly touch the faux leather to avoid stains.
  3. Sunlight and Fresh Air: Sometimes, the simplest solution is just to let nature do its thing. Sunlight and fresh air can work wonders on odors.
    • Place your faux leather item outdoors on a sunny day, ensuring it’s in a location with good air circulation.
    • Let it air out for a few hours, but avoid prolonged exposure, which can dry out or fade the faux leather.
    • The combination of UV rays and fresh air can help in breaking down and dispersing the fishy odor molecules.
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Steve Coltharp

Hello, my name is Steve and I’m an author of the blog “Leather Toolkits“, sharing everything related to leather and leather care. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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