How Do You Make Leather From Mushrooms?

Leather made from mushrooms is a cruelty-free and environmentally friendly alternative to animal hides, including cow and lamb.

How is leather made from mushrooms?

Explainer Food Innovations

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You can find leather in just about everything from sports equipment to household furniture these days. Yet some companies are working to develop new sustainable and animal-friendly alternatives. In this explainer, we look into one innovative example: leather made from mushrooms. 

What Is Mushroom Leather Made Of? 

Mushroom leather is manufactured from mycelium, the branching structure of threads that makes up fungus colonies, and out of which mushrooms grow. Mycelium grows by breaking down molecules like sugars in materials such as wood and plant waste and absorbing those smaller components. Its branched cellular structure gives mycelium a natural strength and durability, which makes it an effective alternative to leather.

How Is Mushroom Leather Made?

Mushrooms are a fruiting organism that spreads spores — but it’s what grows under the surface that we’re really interested in. The main structure of the fungus, known as mycelium, comes from the tiny threads that form a dense underground network. As time goes on these threads begin to fuse to each other, eventually growing into a solid, foam-like material. Mushroom leather can then be made by flattening this foam into a fabric.

One producer of mushroom leather, Mylo, uses industrial byproducts such as sawdust as food for their fungus. As it develops, the mycelium arranges the protein and sugar molecules from the substrate it breaks down in order to form the desired foamy material.

Some companies are working to find more innovative ways of turning mycelium into the highest quality of mushroom leather. MycoWorks, for example, relies on engineering the mycelium as it grows to produce an even stronger and more durable final product.

Is Mushroom Leather Sustainable Compared to Animal and Synthetic Leathers?

For mushroom leather to be a material of the future it needs not only to be made without the use of animals, but also to have a minimal environmental impact. The manufacturing process needs to consume as few resources as possible and the product should be recyclable.

Consumption of Resources

A significant factor in the sustainability of mushroom leather is the way in which the fungus itself grows. For mycelium to develop and grow into that foam-like material, it needs to have a “food” to break down. A variety of substrates can be used for this, including wood chips, straw, sawdust and other forms of agricultural waste. 

As it obtains the vast majority of its nutrients from this single substrate,  mycellium requires very little energy or water to grow. When we compare its water consumption to that of animal leather, mushroom leather is far more environmentally sustainable. It takes 17,100 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of animal leather, 14 times that required to produce synthetic polyurethane leather, and mushroom leather requires less again.

Ability To Recycle and Reuse

Another advantage of mushroom leather over animal leather is that it can easily be reused at the end of the lifetime of the original product, thanks to its durability. Once they have reached the end of their uses, all forms of fungus leather are biodegradable and compostable.


Because mushroom leather is manufactured by growing fungus in a waste substrate, it requires very little energy and doesn’t involve any polluting materials. It is a material with a very small overall environmental impact. Traditional animal leather, on the other hand, is a product of the animal agriculture industry, which is one of the world’s major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and a large drain on global fresh water availability.

What Are the Advantages of Mushroom Leather?

Mushroom leather is rising in popularity because of the many advantages it has over both animal leathers and other forms of vegan leather. This product requires minimal time and resources  to produce, is strong and durable and is made with byproducts. 

Strength and Durability

Traditional leather products are strong and long-lasting but mushroom leather outperforms traditional leather in both of these attributes, making it a very promising alternative.


As with other vegan leathers, no animals are used or killed in the production of mushroom leather. Traditional animal leathers are co-products of the animal agriculture industry, making them as harmful to animals as meat and dairy products.

Manufacturing Time

Following slaughter of the animal, traditional leather takes around six to eight weeks to produce but mushroom leather can be made more quickly. Depending on the species of mushroom, the substrate and the growing environment, mushroom leather can be grown in just two to three weeks.

The Smell of Mushroom Leather

Although synthetic leathers have a lot of the same features as traditional leathers, one aspect that is often less appealing is their scent. They generally smell of plastic or chemicals used in the manufacturing process. An advantage of mushroom leather over synthetic leathers then is its more natural scent. Mushroom leather smells more like real leather than any other alternatives.

What Are the Disadvantages of Mushroom Leather?

While mushroom leather is a promising alternative, it does have some disadvantages when compared with other plant-based and synthetic leathers.

Cost To Make

Mushroom leather is currently only made in small quantities and has a relatively expensive production process. Current products on the market are priced beyond the budget of the average consumer. As demand for the material increases however, mushroom leather items can be manufactured on a larger scale and slowly become more affordable.

Can You Buy Mushroom Leather?

Mushroom leather is still a fairly new material, and mushroom leather products are neither cheap nor particularly easy to come by. As time goes on, however, they will likely become more readily available.

Is Mycelium Leather Expensive?

At the moment mushroom leather products are still expensive to buy. This is largely because they are a more recent product concept that is produced in very small quantities.

Where To Buy Mushroom Leather

Some major brands are beginning to add products made from mushroom leather to their collections.

Mushroom Leather Products

As demand for more environmentally friendly products grows, a number of companies are looking to include mushroom leather products in what they offer. 

  • Stella McCartney. In July 2022, Stella McCartney launched the Frayme Mylo Bag, its first ever mushroom leather bag. The product was launched with a production run of 100, at a retail cost of £1,995.
  • Nat-2 and Zvnder. A collaboration between the Nat-2 technical team and a Zvnder designer produced the “vegan fungi sneaker” made primarily from mushroom leather. The shoe also makes use of other environmentally friendly materials, including microfiber suede from recycled bottles and real cork.
  • Lululemon Athletica.  The world’s first mushroom leather yoga mats were launched by this premium athletic brand in 2021.

Does Mushroom Leather Last?

Much like traditional leather, mushroom leather is a highly durable material. This is because of the densely intertwined threads known as mycelium, and how they fuse together to form a larger structure. The durability of specific products will of course depend on the brands that manufacture them.

How To Care for Mushroom Leather

To make mushroom leather products last for as long as possible and minimize waste, it’s important to take proper care of them. Consumers can wax, wash and dry them correctly, and store them properly to boot. 


Regularly waxing your mushroom leather products helps give them extra protection to keep them in good condition for longer. Rub an environmentally friendly waxing product in with a soft cloth and leave it to dry.


It’s important to only hand wash mushroom leather products to ensure they last. You can do this by using cold water and gently rubbing with a soft cloth. Again, the product should be left to dry before using it again.

Drying and Ironing

Clothes made from mushroom leather should never be dried in a tumble dryer because the high temperature could make the material melt. The best way to dry mushroom leather products, and of course the most environmentally friendly method, is to let them air dry on a clothesline. They should not be ironed either due to their low thermal resistance.


To help them last as long as possible mushroom leather products should be kept at room temperature in a well-ventilated environment. They should be kept away from chemicals such as glues, perfumes and nail polish remover.

What You Can Do

If you want to see more leather made from mushrooms, you can let manufacturers know on their social media pages. You can also opt for vegan leather products as opposed to traditional leather products as much as possible. 

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