4 Best Methods to Get Fish Smell Out of Faux Leather at Home

Faux leather may sometimes smell unpleasant even if it is brand new. These problems mostly plague buyers who have bought their faux leather goods online and have had it shipped to their location. The problem may also lie in the manufacturing of the item. Learn all about why your faux leather may have a bad odor and how to get rid of it.

Does leather smell like fish?

Leather is not supposed to smell like fish at all. There are various reasons why your leather item might smell like fish that range from shipping conditions, coatings, glues, preservatives, and possibly absorbing smells from somewhere. If your new leather item has a fishy smell, it may be because of the chemicals used.

Does faux leather absorb smells?

Yes, faux leather will absorb the smells in your surroundings and if you expose it to smoke, it will start to have that lingering smoky smell over time. However, it is fairly easy to get rid of bad odors stuck on your faux leather item. You can check out our other article on how to get smoke smell out of leather as the methods can be used in almost any type of unpleasant smell.

Why is Faux leather smelling like fish

There are many reasons why your faux leather may be smelly and a bit fishy. If you haven’t spilled any fish sauce on it or gone near any fish, here are a few reasons that may explain why your new faux leather item may smell like fish.

Shipping preservatives

To protect your item from insects, mold, mildew, and other pests, they will often fill the shipping containers with a preservative gas. These gasses are often formaldehyde-based and can smell quite bad, and possibly like fish.

There are more expensive preservatives that do not smell as pungent, but that is added cost to the manufacturer. The manufacturer may cut costs in that department if your item is not particularly high-quality or luxurious.


Glues and adhesive liquids are used in the manufacturing of faux leather items. The plastic outer layer adheres to a fabric backing and that involves a sort of glue. Lower-quality glues usually have much stronger smells compared to faux leather manufactured in a better facility that has higher standards, even for odor.

The manufacturer of the item that buys the faux leather and assembles them into your items also uses their own glue to make your faux leather good. This may be another point in the manufacturing process where the fishy smell may come from.

Storage conditions

Faux leather slowly degasses the chemicals used in its manufacturing process. If these gasses are not ventilated away, like in enclosed storage conditions, it may stick back to the faux leather and break down into unpleasant smells.

It’s best to store faux leather goods in well-ventilated areas, especially if it is new to prevent the smells from manifesting.

Dyes and colorants

Special dyes and colorants are used to create faux leather. Some of those may contain chemicals so that it will last long and stay on the faux leather material. These chemicals may be a source of the fishy smell, or at the very least, a factory smell.

How to remove fish smells from faux leather

We don’t want our items to smell like fish, especially if we’re wearing them for special occasions. If you want to save your nose and avoid being embarrassed, here are accessible methods to remove fishy smells from faux leather. These methods may also work for other smells.

Baking soda

Baking soda is used in all sorts of cleaning applications, especially when it comes to smells. Baking soda is a pretty good go-to product for removing smells from all sorts of items, and fortunately, it also works very well for faux leather.

Things you will need:


  1. Make sure your item is completely dry. Wet baking soda may react to the material unpredictably.
  2. Place your item in a plastic bag or garbage bag. Make sure the bag is large enough to contain the whole item.
  3. Place an appropriate amount of baking soda. You may use a lot of baking soda if needed.
  4. Close the bag and gently shake it to distribute the baking soda all over the item.
  5. Leave the item in the bag for 20-30 minutes.
  6. If there is still a smell, leave it for longer until it disappears.

Dry coffee grounds

When you’re done making your daily cup of coffee, don’t discard the used coffee grounds yet. Instead, you can dry them and use them to remove the fish smell from your faux leather item. Here’s how:

Things you will need:

  • Dry coffee grounds
  • Cheesecloth or coffee filter


  1. Make a pouch using a cheesecloth or the coffee filter and pour the dried coffee grounds inside.
  2. Tie the pouch to avoid any spillage and place it next to your faux leather item with a bad smell.
  3. Leave it there for a few days to let it absorb all the fishy smell. You can make several pouches and place them strategically including in between areas where there might be moisture.
  4. Once all the unpleasant smell is gone, discard the dried coffee grounds or use them for compost.

Vinegar spray

We have mentioned in our previous articles why how vinegar is an effective solution for removing leather stains and odors because of its acidic properties. A vinegar solution spray is also great for removing that fishy smell in your leather item and here’s what you need to do:

Things you will need:


  1. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water. Place it in a spray bottle.
  2. Make sure that your faux leather item is free from dust or any loose dirt. Wipe it down using a soft cloth.
  3. Spritz the vinegar solution onto the faux leather surface and let it sit for 3-5 minutes.
  4. Wipe it down using a soft cloth that is dampened with water to remove the acids.
  5. If the fishy smell is really strong, you can use undiluted white vinegar, but leave it for a shorter period of time. Be sure to wipe it down with a clean damp cloth after.
  6. Once you get rid of the smell, wipe down the entire surface using a dry microfiber cloth and apply leather conditioner.

Tips and extra information:

  • If you don’t want to directly apply the vinegar solution onto your faux leather item, you can just put an undiluted solution in a bowl and set it next to the item. It will still absorb the unpleasant smell, but it will take a few days to work.

Febreze for faux leather

Sometimes, the simplest solution works the best. Febreze may be an effective way to remove those smells from your faux leather. This is quite safe to use on faux leather as it generally does not react with the materials used in the faux leather.

Spray onto a cloth first, never spray it directly onto the faux leather (test in an inconspicuous place, first).

However, it may not solve the problem completely if the smell is too strong or has penetrated too deeply. In this case, it may make the problem worse if the strong smells mix together. The methods mentioned above may be better if Febreze does not work.


If you have a brand-new faux leather item that has a fishy smell, it’s not necessarily a cause for great concern. It just simply means that there were a few steps in the manufacturing process that caused it to smell in a certain way. Getting rid of that unpleasant fishy smell is easy and you can just DIY it at home using the methods we mentioned above.


Does faux leather have a smell?

Yes, faux leather has a distinct smell because of the materials that were used to create it. Most of the time, you can tell if it’s faux leather because it smells like plastic or vinyl. It can also sometimes smell like rubber because of the polyurethane coating that is used as a protective layer of the item.

Does vinegar damage faux leather?

Because vinegar is acidic, it can break down the protective layer of your faux leather item. Once the protective layer is gone or damaged, the faux leather will be more prone to dryness which can lead to cracking and peeling. So, yes, vinegar can damage faux leather if you apply it directly and leave it for a longer period of time beyond what’s necessary.

That is why we always recommend diluting the vinegar with equal parts of water and if you want to use undiluted vinegar, then just place it in a bowl next to the faux leather item.


  • Luke

    With a 14-year journey dedicated to preserving and enhancing leather goods, his unwavering passion continues to fuel his expertise. When he's not immersed in the world of leather, you can find Luke enjoying exhilarating bicycle rides or exploring nature through invigorating hikes.

  • Ralf

    Ralf is a multifaceted creative enthusiast with a deep passion for various crafting hobbies, including sewing, pottery, and the captivating world of leathercraft.