What is Alcantara?
Alcantara is not a type of leather, but a trade name for a microfibre fabric, made from polyester and polystyrene, which originated in Japan. Microfibres are extremely fine - 10,000 metres of fibre weigh less than 1 gram. Currently Alcantara is mainly produced in Italy.
Because Alcantara has a very fine fabric structure that looks and feels similar to suede, it is often mistaken for genuine leather.
In Japan, Alcantara is also known as "ECSAINE", and in the US as "Ultrasuede". It also appears frequently on the Internet with the spelling "Alkantara".
Alcantara looks like suede.
Alcantara is sometimes perforated, and fabric is visible through the holes.
Alcantara weighs only half as much as real leather. It can be washed with neutral detergent in the washing machine at 30 to 40 degrees Celsius. But do not spin! Let it dry on its own and gently brush it afterwards. Alcantara can be ironed at low temperatures. But always put a white cloth between the iron and the Alcantara. Be very carefully with the temperature as Alcantara is very heat sensitive!
An advantage of Alcantara is that it can be cut in several layers one above the other. The structure of Alcantara is completely uniform so, unlike real leather, there is less wastage. Common uses of Alcantara are for clothing, furniture and car seats.
Some manufacturers of car seats upholster the centre sections of the seats in Alcantara and the outer surfaces (bolsters) with smooth leather. When combined with genuine leather, it is commonly referred to as partial leather interior. However, many people think that the material is leather and refer to it as "Alcantara leather".
Alcantara combined with leather = Alcantara leather upholstery.
Less common: Mercedes steering wheel with Alcantara and leather. - Audi with Alcantara steering wheel.
Over time, regular use of an Alcantara steering wheel can cause the surface to become smooth from contact to human skin. As a result, the Alcantara surface can look like smooth leather, and it may be difficult to tell the difference between the two by look and touch alone.
Alcantara looking like smooth leather by beeing in contact to hands a lot of times.
Alcantara seats in a Ferrari.
Alcantara seats in a Lamborghini.
Pilling in Alcantara
Over time it is common to find small balls of fibres on the surface of contact areas of Alcantara upholstery. This phenomenon is called pilling. The friction on the surface causes the fibres to raise up into small knots or nodules. This issue is widely known in the clothing sector.
Typical nodules on Alcantara. In this case, maybe removable (see video).
Alcantara pilling removal & care
Treated too hot with steam cleaner. Result: Permanent entanglement and deformation with no chance of removal.
Fading of Alcantara
Alcantara colour bleaches very rarely. It is impossible to re-colour or refreshing the colour. Since it is synthetic, dyes don’t remain on the fibres and easily rub off, leading to discolouration.
Faded Alcantara is rare.
Other fabrics with a leather-look
Besides Alcantara there are many other types of material that look like suede or nubuck. Therefore, always check the label to find out what material it is. The most common imitation leather is smooth grain-structured imitation leather.
Microfibre with nubuck optics.
-> - CLEANING AND CARE OF ALCANTARA AND SIMILAR FABRICS
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