Since 2016


June 01, 2023 3 min read

by Monique Youzwa

Monique has been a full-time freelance writer for over 5 years, plus has a few fiction credits under her belt and is currently working on a novel. When not writing, she spends her time reading, playing video games, hiking, and camping with her husband and daughter.


When most people think of cork, pictures of the stoppers on wine bottles likely come to mind. There is another use for this material, though, which may be a bit of a surprise. Cork can be processed to create a form of vegan leather that is durable and sustainable for a more eco-friendly product. So, what is cork leather, and how does it compare to other leather products? Let’s find out.

How Is Cork Leather Made?

Cork oaks are found in several countries, though Portugal has the largest supply. These trees are in the evergreen family and feature thick, dark grey bark that can be harvested every 9 to 12 years. It’s the bark that’s used to create cork leather, allowing the tree to remain standing to grow new bark for a steady supply throughout the tree’s lifespan of over 200 years.

After cork oak bark is safely removed, it is naturally dried for six months. Then it is steamed, boiled, and pressed into thin sheets. A fabric backing is then applied to finish the process. When complete, cork leather can be used to make luggage, wallets, bags, yoga mats, shoes, and much more.

Cork Leather VS Real Leather

Real leather is created using the hides of animals, which are then processed, tanned, and dyed. Though most leather manufacturers take precautions to minimize pollution, there are some environmental impacts to consider, especially with tanning. Real leather does have benefits, though, since it is durable, long-lasting, and biodegradable. It also comes in varying grades, textures, and prices.

Cork leather doesn’t require chemicals during processing, so it is safe for the environment. Since only the bark is used, the trees aren’t harmed and can continue to produce more for a sustainable product. Cork leather is soft and flexible like genuine leather but is also light, hypoallergenic, and resistant to moisture and flames. Though it isn’t quite as durable as leather, the cork version will still last for years.

PHYSICAL - The Admiral Moto

PHYSICAL - The Suede Double Rider

PHYSICAL - The Technical Bomber

Cork Leather VS Faux Leather

Faux leather, also called leatherette, pleather, or vegan leather, is made from a base layer coated in a polyurethane finish. It uses no animal by-products, so it is considered the more eco-friendly choice than animal leather, but it does have flaws. The base material is typically cotton, nylon, polyester, or rayon, which are all biodegradable, though the PU coating is not. Polyurethane prevents the fabric from naturally breaking down. Faux leather isn’t overly durable, so it can crack and peel over time.

Organic materials are often used for the backing of cork leather, maintaining its ability to biodegrade. Cork leather can often be recycled and reused, increasing its lifespan. When it does wear out, cork leather is compostable to add nutrients to your home garden. The higher strength and durability of this material ensure it lasts for years with minimal wear.

Cork Leather Pros

Cork leather is eco-friendly, sustainable, and biodegradable. It is also durable, lasting for years, even with regular use. This material is light, soft, comfortable, hypoallergenic, and resists moisture and flame. Cork leather can be dyed in several colors and used to make various products. Best of all, it’s easy to clean with warm water and a few drops of soap, so you can keep it looking its best.

What is cork leather

Cork Leather Cons

Despite all its good points, cork leather does have a few disadvantages. Though it is strong, it doesn’t have the longevity of genuine leather, which can last for decades when taken care of properly. Cork leather is smooth and soft, though it also lacks the suppleness and scent real leather is known for.

Final Word

Cork leather has many of the same benefits as genuine leather, with a few extra advantages. It is durable, flexible, and biodegradable, with a smooth softness and a lightweight feel. It is also sustainable since it comes from cork oak bark. As long as the trees are cared for, the supply will never run out, making it a fantastic choice for eco-conscious leather consumers.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.