Cactus Leather: A Complete Guide to Natural Vegan Leather

Written by José Max Lin
Last updated
May 9, 2022

Much like real leather from different animal skins, cactus leather is a vegan leather alternative to non-animal materials. You may not know that non-animal materials are generally made from plastic-like materials such as PVC and PU (polyurethane). They can contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to the environment and pose health risks when exposed over time through wear or digestion by animals. These "vegan leathers" are mostly known as PU leather, faux leather, PVC leather, or leather made of synthetic materials.

According to a study by Infinium Global Research, the vegan leather industry has had a huge annual growth in recent years. Innovators and scientists have successfully created a few different types of materials made from plants. Cactus leather, pineapple leather, and apple leather are some plant-based leathers becoming more and more popular as people learn about vegan leather alternatives and the environmental and health concerns associated with genuine leather.

What is cactus leather?

Cactus leather is a natural, sustainable, and ethical vegan alternative to leather. It is an eco-friendly material made from the Opuntia Cacti (an abundant plant in Mexico), also known as Nopal or prickly pear cactus. Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez, founders of Desserto, created this innovative biobased material that is impacting the environment around the world.

Desserto cactus leather

How is Desserto cactus leather made?

Desserto cactus leather is made through a sustainable and eco-friendly process that harvests the nopal cactus. This plant grows in Zacatecas, Mexico, where the cacti are grown with rainwater and no artificial fertilizers are added.

During harvesting, the core remains intact as only the mature leaves are harvested and regenerated after 6-8 months. Then the leaves are cut, cleaned, crushed, and dried under the sun achieving desired humidity levels.

The contents are then combined with non-toxic chemicals to make them resilient and prevent corrosion. The result is Desserto, an organic and plastic-free vegan leather alternative since 2019.

Is Desserto cactus vegan leather sustainable?

Yes! Nopal cactus plantation is perennial, meaning that it's planted one time, and their plantation lasts for a cycle of 8 years. It's different from other plantations that must be cultivated and harvested annually.

Cactus absorbs carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, which is less harmful to the environment. And unlike other plants, the cactus only needs a fifth (200 liters) to produce the same amount.

Since the harvest is fully organic, they use natural fertilizers and never apply herbicides or pesticides. All leftover cactus material not used in the process is exported or sold nationally in the food industry. Nothing goes to waste.

Cactus leather sustainable

Vegan brands using cactus leather

As a plant-based leather, the cactus industry is still in its early stages. Still, it has great potential to become a more mainstream material for high-quality shoes, handbags, wallets, belts, notebook covers, and more.

Some of the most notable brands using cactus vegan leather in their fashion lines are:

How to care for cactus leather?

To extend the lifespan of cactus leather products, avoid exposure to direct sunlight or extreme heat. Store the items in a cool, dry place when not in use. For clothing made from cactus, spot clean as needed and hang or lay flat to air dry.

How durable is cactus leather?

Cactus leather is extremely durable and can withstand heavy wear and tear up for many years. The material is also resistant to mold, mildew, and environmental damage from rain or snow. However, cleaning cactus material should be taken to avoid damaging the material with harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners.

cactus leather durability

Does cactus leather biodegrade?

Cactus leather is environmentally friendly and biodegrades naturally over time. Unlike synthetic leather alternatives, cacti are a renewable source that can be harvested without harming the environment or affecting local ecosystems. Furthermore, cactus plants help to improve soil quality by adding nutrients and preventing erosion. Using cactus vegan leather has clear environmental benefits, and it is considered a sustainable alternative to conventional leather.

Is cactus leather waterproof?

Yes, cactus leather is waterproof and can withstand heavy rain and snow. The material is also highly breathable, making it an ideal choice for activewear and outdoor gear. Desserto leather is also resistant to mold and mildew, making it a durable and long-lasting option for products.

How do you clean cactus leather?

You can clean cactus leather with mild soap and water. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, which can damage the material. For best results, allow the leather to air dry naturally after cleaning.

Cactus leather cleaning

Final thoughts

Overall, Desserto leather is a unique and sustainable material that offers many benefits over conventional leather. It is durable, water-resistant, breathable, and resistant to mold and mildew. Additionally, products made from cactus leather are often more affordable than similar products made from animal leather. If you are looking for an environmentally friendly and cruelty-free alternative to conventional leather, cactus material is a great option to consider.

HANDBAGIO product specialist
José Max Lin
I am product specialist and content marketing specialist for Handbagio. If you want to wholesale vegan handbags or vegan related products, feel free to ask me any questions.
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Cactus Leather: A Complete Guide to Natural Vegan Leather

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