Most popular leathers are made from animal hides. Pineapple leather is an exciting material made from natural and synthetic fibers.
Pineapple leather is an imitation leather called Pinatex. It is made from a blend of natural pineapple leaf fibers, thermoplastic polyester, and petroleum-based resin. Pinatex is available in many colors and finishes, and used for shoes, bags, upholstery, and personal accessories.
Using plant materials can help reduce the overall environmental impact of producing faux and vegan leathers. Let’s explore what makes this material useful.
What is Pineapple Leather?
Pineapple leather is a non-woven textile material made to look and feel like leather, though is not made from animal hides. Also called Pinatex, it is made from a combination of natural fibers from the pineapple leaf, and a combination of plastic and resin. No animal by-products are used in it’s production.
The pineapple leaves are sourced from the Philippines, processed, then transported to Spain where the unique finish is applied. The manufacturer’s main office is located in London, England, a company called Ananas Anam.
Pineapple leather generally requires occasional re-waxing with a clear wax to help maintain the surface finish. It is available in a wide range of standard colors, as well as custom colors upon request. Pinatex can be used for many goods including shoes, boots, automobile upholstery, furniture upholstery, bags, belts, and personal accessories.
Where Do the Pineapple Leaf Fibers Come from?
The pineapple leaf fibers used in pineapple leather come from the Philippines. 10% of the country’s agricultural exports come from pineapples. The pineapple fruit is sold while the leaves are generally treated as waste. These leaves then become one of the raw materials used in pineapple leather.
It takes approximately 480 pineapple leaves to produce 1 square meter of pineapple leather. With an abundant supply of leaves, Philippine farmers benefit by producing less waste while also having the ability to sell more of their crops for industrial consumption and use.
What is Pineapple Leather Made From?
Pinatex is generally made from three substances. Let’s look more closely at each.
Pineapple Leaf Fibers
These are stripped from the leaves using a processes called decortication. With the fibers separated, they can then be used to make the non-woven pineapple leather mesh material.
Polylactic Acid (PLA)
The plastic used is a polylactic acid (PLA). This is essentially a polyester, though it can be made using some plant starch. While recyclable, PLA requires specialized process, often at the industrial level to break it down and turn it into reusable plastic. Most community and local recycling programs can not handle this type of plastic. Thus, while it’s a step towards a more sustainable material and PLA is biodegradable, it takes a very long time to biodegrade on it’s own.
These are used for the surface finish. They help provide protection to the fibers underneath it, while also providing some water resistance and abrasion resistance characteristics to the material.
How is Pinatex made?
Pineapple leather is made through a process that involves both the Philippines and Spain. It begins in the Philippines where pineapple leaves are sources from local pineapple plantations. Usually a waste material (everyone wants the fruit!), the leaves are abundantly available.
With the leaves ready, production is set to begin. Let’s dive into the steps. Additional in-depth information is available from Ananas Anam, the maker of Pinatex. Click here to view their website.
The first step in the production of pineapple leather begins by breaking the pineapple leaves down and extracting the long fibers that make them up. These fibers will from the base of the pineapple leather mesh material.
The process of removing the fibers is referred to as “decortication”. This is generally performed at the local farm or planation where the leaves are grown and sourced from.
Once they’ve been decortified, the pineapple leaf fibers still have some sticky, or gummy, residue on their surface. It’s important to remove this so the fibers can be turned into the Pinatex mesh that will become the final material.
So, the fibers are degummed. This removes that sticky surface substance, and prepares the fibers for the next step in the process.
After the fibers have been degummed, they’re ready to be turned into the more final-structure pineapple leather material. This is called meshing. During this step, the long pineapple leaf fibers are processed into a non-woven mesh structure. This will form the base of the material.
Until this point, most of the work has been done at local plantations in the Philappines. For finishing, the pineapple fiber mesh is sent to Spain.
Once in Spain, the mesh is then finished. This finishing process, utilizing petroleum-based resins, results in the final product being much more “leather-like”. It gives it the final colors, look, feel, and also a protective surface that help make pineapple leather water and abrasion resistant.
The finish applied can result in the surface looking very similar to various grain patterns of natural leather. Finishes are also available that appear metallic and smooth.
The finished materials are then distributed to designers. They use the material across a wide range of commercial goods ranging from upholstery to clothing and personal accessories.
Is Pinatex Biodegradable?
In part yes, in part no. Here’s a breakdown:
|Pineapple Leaf Fibers||This is what comprises the non-woven textile material. This is biodegradable|
|Polylactic Acid (PLA)||PLA is a plastic that is biodegradable, though not very easily. It will take years to biodegrade naturally, and often requires mechanical/chemical processes to break it down for reuse in a reasonably quick/efficient amount of time. PLA is a type of polyester, and often forms the basis of the plastics used in home/commercial 3D printers.|
|Petroleum-Based Resins||These are used for the surface finish and are not biodegradable.|
So pineapple leather takes great steps in being a material that sources some natural materials and makes parts of it easy to recycle. However, not all of the material is easily recyclable. Some elements carry the same environmental impacts seen from other faux and vegan leathers.
Properties of Pineapple Leather
Pineapple leather has some properties similar to natural leather, and some properties similar to faux leather. Here are a few of the top ones:
- Heat Resistant
- Water Resistant
Is Pineapple Leather Expensive?
Pineapple leather is less expensive than some natural leather, while being a little more expensive than fully-plastic based faux leather. For example, a 20 sq. ft. high-quality vegetable tanned cowhide might cost around $150, while the same quantity of vegan leather would cost around $12, and the same quantity of pineapple leather would cost around $65.
Pineapple Leather Care & Maintenance
If handled well, maintained properly, cleaned often, and stored safely, pineapple leather can look nice and perform well for a few years. It is generally recommended for pineapple leather, that the surface be re-waxed periodically with a clear, natural wax. This will help month protective finish and the strength/durability of the material underneath.
How to Clean Pineapple Leather
Due to it’s finished surface, pineapple leather can be cleaned gently with a wet cloth. Ensure the cloth doesn’t have loose fibers and lint that could transfer to the surface. A microfiber cloth could work well. Also, test in a small area first to make sure the cloth will not transfer any color to the items surface (bag, purse, shoes, etc.).
If the item needs additional cleaning, a very soft brush can be used to help loosen dirt and grime. Wet it slightly and work it over the leather, being careful not to press to hard. The bristles of the brush should be doing most of the work. After this step, going over it with a damp cloth can help clean off any remaining dirt/dust. Let the item dry off before using or storing.
If what you are trying to clean goes beyond dust/grime, and is a stain from something, additional care might be needed. First, consider what type of stain it is. Knowing the substance can help determine what the best method to clean it is. If it is something common, and gentle cleaner might work.
If it’s something more significant, look into cleaners made specifically for faux leathers. They will be made to treat the stain while helping to maintain the surface finish. As with most cleaners, always test in a small, non-noticeable spot first to ensure it will not discolor the bag. Definitely don’t want to make a second stain while trying to clean the first 🙂
How to Condition Pineapple Leather
Since pineapple leather has a protective surface finish, it doesn’t need to be conditioned. And functionally, it really can’t. The surface finish protects the material underneath which is usually plastic. It also serves as a barrier that conditioner can not penetrate.
Thankfully though, the protective surface makes it’s very easy to clean with a damp cloth. This is an easy way to always keep pineapple leather products looking great. If the surface layer begins to wear away, additional protectant can be applied to help restore it.
Some of these products will be applied with a cloth or applicator, and others sprayed on and wiped off. Make sure to read the instructions on any finish you plan to apply, and test on a small area first (to make sure it will not discolor the surface) before applying to the entire item.
How to Fix a Scratch on Pineapple Leather
Fixing a scratch on a pineapple leather piece is usually as easy as applying a leather repair kit. Since faux leather is a plastic mix, it will require replacement of the material that was scratched away.
Typically, leather repair kits have color-matched liquid that is poured into the crack. It might need to be evened, heat pressed, a grain pattern applied, and/or allowed to dry, and then the scratch should be filled.
How to Fix Tears in Pineapple Leather
Tears in pineapple leather are harder to fix than scratches. Since pineapple leather is a plastic blended with natural fibers, fixing tears might require a repair kit that includes a filler. The space created by the tear might need to be filled.
Depending on the size of the tear, this can be done with fabric, flexible glue, or the color-matched liquid that comes in the repair kit. Since the item will likely be sat or or used and need to flex, the material used as a filler will need to be flexible once dry too. Sewing the tear is an option too, depending on the size.
Once the tear is filled, just fix the remaining scratch that is visible above it. Pour the color-matched liquid that is poured into the crack. It might need to be evened, heat pressed, a grain pattern applied, and/or allowed to dry, and then the scratch should be filled.
How to Store Pineapple Leather
Pineapple leather should be stored in a cool, dry place. Keeping it out of direct sunlight is key, as the sun can discolor the protective finish. If you have pineapple leather bags, shoes, or accessories, storing them in a closet or drawer works great. Keeping them away from extreme heat, and sunlight, are key.
It’s incredible to think that natural fibers can be used to help make a material that has some performance characteristics similar to leather. If you’re going for a leather look without wanting to use any substances that come from animals, pineapple leather (called Pinatex) can be a great option.
What is Pineapple Leather Used For?
Pineapple leather is used for a variety of commercial applications including the production bags, handbags, shoes, boots, clothing, and personal accessories. It can also be used in the production of automobile and furniture upholstery.
Is Pineapple Leather Vegan Leather?
Yes, pineapple leather is a form of vegan leather. Its production process does not use any animal by-products. It is made of pineapple leaf fibers, PLA plastic, and petroleum-based resin. Some parts are recyclable, making it part eco-friendly too.
For more on vegan leather, click here to read an article I wrote about it.