What Is PU Leather?

Can you confidently tell faux leather apart from the real thing? PU leather is a common type of faux leather known for its timelessness and versatility. But what is PU leather in the first place and how can you spot products made from it?

What Is PU Leather?

PU Leather Defined

PU or polyurethane leather is a type of artificial leather made from thermoplastic polymer. A 100% polyurethane leather is considered vegan and is also completely artificial. There are several specific kinds of PU leather, including double-cast or bi-cast leather, that use scraps of genuine leather with a PU coating applied on top.

PU leather is also known in different names that you should be familiar with if you are not really a fan of this artificial leather. PU leather is also called in the following names:

  • Bicast Leather
  • Bonded Leather
  • Corrected Grain Leather
  • Doublecast Leather
  • Pleather
  • Reconstituted Leather
  • Split Leather

The Process Of Making PU Leather

What Is PU Leather?

To make PU leather, a layer of plastic polyurethane is applied on top of a fiber base like polyester or cotton. In general, its texture is similar to although not exactly the same as that of genuine leather.

Faux leather can copy or resemble the appearance of real leather to a certain point depending on the quality of the specific manufacturing process. But it is often naturally lighter with the tendency to shred and tear more easily.

Since it is synthetic, it is easier for PU leather to take on a range of colors that make it more diverse and flexible than authentic leather. PU leather can also resist fading over time. With bonded leather combined with PU and fixed onto the cloth backing, it also scratches, flakes, and peels off over time more easily. Bonded leather can also fade very fast once exposed to sunlight.

Genuine Leather vs. PU Leather: Which Is Better?

What Is PU Leather?

PU leather typically lasts for 1 to 2 years before it starts to show signs of breakdown and tearing. Genuine leather, on the other hand, can last for a lifetime or even more with quality proper care. If you are more concerned about longevity and durability, real leather is a better choice for you.

If the time comes that you need to choose between genuine leather and PU leather, it is recommended that you ask yourself if the cost tradeoff, for now, will be worth the compromise on quality in the long run.

Cleaning and maintaining PU leather is also easier as a whole. Genuine leather needs special care with leather lotion and microfiber cloth. Since PU leather is not breathable or porous, dust and dirt will sit right on top of it, and this makes wiping it off easier and simpler.

PVC Leather vs. PU Leather


PU and PVC leather are somewhat similar, and the difference is that PVC is produced through the combination of polyvinylchloride with lubricants, plasticizers, and stabilizers, and applying this to the base material. These base materials are often cotton or polyester.

PVC leather is also more durable because there are more layers under its plastic topcoat. There is also a foam layer in PVC that makes this more breathable compared to PU. Thanks to its durability, PVC leather is usually found in products such as footwear and upholstery.

Both PU and PVC leather are also considered vegan since these are totally free from all types of animal products, except when it uses the process known as double-case.

How To Identify PU Leather

It doesn’t matter if you want to avoid PU leather, or you are looking for it in particular. It is important that you know how to spot the difference. There are products that don’t have a tag although it is fairly easy and simple to identify PU leather.

If you are observant or you got a keen eye, it wouldn’t take much for you to spot the difference by just looking at the product. Genuine leather has a genuine grain combined with some imperfections. Faux leather, on the other hand, will have an almost perfect-looking pattern that appears almost unreal.

What Is PU Leather?

Other Things To Watch Out For

Water Test

Genuine animal leather is typically not water-resistant, except if specifically noted. Meanwhile, PU leather is extremely water-resistant most of the time and won’t absorb anything.


PU leather is usually much shinier with a lesser texture than real leather. It is because of its lack of ability to develop a patina.


Even though it is a highly subjective quality, PU leather has a very distinct smell from genuine leather. The smell of PU leather is similar to that of chemicals or plastic while real leather has a more natural and almost unnoticeable smell.

Strengths And Weaknesses Of PU Leather

What Is PU Leather?

If you are on the fence about whether you should buy artificial leather or not, it is important to weigh its pros and cons first.

Top Advantages Of PU Leather

  • Since faux leather is a synthetic material, it can take on a bigger variety of decorations and colors.
  • PU leather is generally easier to work with compared to real leather, making the needle marks less visible.
  • PU leather is also technically 100% vegan.
  • PU leather, unlike genuine leather, is not water-absorbent, which makes it easier to clean and more durable over time.

Just Like Everything Else, PU Also Has Its Own Disadvantages, And These Include The Following

  • PU leather can have a strong plastic odor because of the material’s chemical nature.
  • PU leather doesn’t develop a patina like authentic leather.
  • This doesn’t breathe or stretch.
  • It is not resistant to tears and punctures like genuine leather.
  • PU leather has a plastic shine that makes it look cheap and fake.

Environmental And Ethical Issues

What Is PU Leather?

There are a lot of people who don’t use genuine leather because of ethical problems behind how it is sourced. However, what many people don’t realize is that real leather comes from cattle that are raised for beef. This means that the production of leather is actually a byproduct of the beef and dairy industries. It is a good thing since it lessens waste overall.

At the end of the day, PU leather also has its own good sides. Be sure to weigh your options to find the best choice for you.

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