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What is Vinyl?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Vinyl is best-known for being a substitute for leather. It may be called "faux leather" or "fake leather." A kind of plastic resin, its made from chlorine and ethylene. The name is actually derived from the full name of the material, polyvinylchloride (PVC).

Crafters such as doll makers use vinyl to make leather look-alike doll clothing. Toy manufactures have used this material to produce all types of children's toys for decades due to its toughness. Also, it is considered safe for children and is fairly inexpensive.

Some upholsterers also use vinyl rather than leather on some projects. Chair seats in cafes or in recreational vehicles may be more practical when made in this material rather than leather for both cost and ease of cleaning. It is also available in many colors, textures and patterns.

Scrapbooking is a popular craft that uses this material. You can buy vinyl lettering in many different types and sizes. The lettering can also be attached to walls for unique messaging as part of your decor.

As vinyl is a synthetic material, it is not breathable like leather and therefore is not usually used regularly to make jackets and other pieces of clothing. It is also not as durable as leather and often splits or cracks much more easily. However, vinyl is used to make inexpensive belts and bags as well as place mats since it can be easily wiped clean.

PVC was invented in 1920 and has remained in use mainly due to its toughness. It was used for vinyl records for record players and is still used in many types of medical accessories such as gloves, valves and catheters. Vinyl siding and flooring are two of the most common uses of the material.

This material is good for do-it-yourself projects that require a low-cost, tough and moisture-resistant fabric. When leather is just too expensive or impractical, it offers a more affordable and practical option. Also, unlike most other plastics, vinyl usually recycles well, which makes it a big plus for the environment over other synthetic materials.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon256188 — On Mar 20, 2012

I just had shoulder replacement surgery and found out the glenoid (socket) is made of PVC! What is the life expectancy of PVC in this application?

By anon242886 — On Jan 25, 2012

PVC/vinyl contains phthalates which are dangerous to children and adults. Pregnant women in particular need to stay away as these can cause low birth weight and birth defects. California has banned the sale of items with phthalates based on scientific evidence of increased health risks resulting from exposure. Under no circumstances should these materials be considered safe and it is irresponsible for the author of this article to make that claim.

Look for items with this warning:

"WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer, or birth defects or other reproductive harm."

By anon159395 — On Mar 11, 2011

Vinyl is *not* safe for children (or adults)! There is research to support this. Avoid vinyl/PVC products at all costs.

By anon119180 — On Oct 16, 2010

the best way to have good take care of a vinyl record is to use alcohol to clean it. It will be clear and clean. please try it. you will surprised. Such a good thing.

I'm not sure if it's safe for children, or vinyl is safe, but colors are toxic. thank you.

By lightning88 — On Sep 04, 2010

I've recently started buying rare old vinyl records, but I am still new to this, so can somebody tell me the best way to take care of vinyl records and albums?

I would also be interested if anybody has any vinyl records for sale -- there's no vinyl record shop around me, sadly enough, so I have to get all my records off the internet.

Thanks!

By EarlyForest — On Sep 04, 2010

I never knew that vinyl and PVC were related -- the things you learn on wisegeek!

By rallenwriter — On Sep 04, 2010

This may just be me, but I have never been a fan of the "pleather" jackets. I suppose that it's a cost effective solution, but I just think that vinyl leather jackets look cheap.

Vinyl belongs in record stores, not on your body!

And don't even get me started on vinyl pants...

By kukeit — On Apr 29, 2008

how do you know that it's safe for children? Why then is PVC called the poison plastic all over the internet?

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