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What is PU Leather

What is PU Leather

Genuine leather has its pros and cons, which is why people tend to lean towards other alternatives. In the search for these substitutes, you will find polyurethane leather or PU leather, as a popular name in most lists.

However, before you go ahead and switch to this leather lifestyle, you need to know a couple of essential things about this material. From what it’s made of to how you can differentiate between PU leather and genuine leather, we will dive right into it in the following guide.

What is PU Leather made of?

Let’s start this discussion with the basics. So, what is PU leather at its core?

We all know that real, genuine leather is made of animal skin, right? But for those who don’t want to pursue this option, there are some alternatives, artificial methods to obtain a similar material. These other types of leather are generally known as vegan leather or synthetic leather, and can further be broken down into PVC leather and our today’s topic, PU Leather.

Even though it is a type of artificial leather, PU leather is not the same as synthetic leather. Synthetic leather can be made either from polyvinyl chloride or polyurethane. PU leather is mostly cotton or polyester with a coating of polyurethane. This coating is what gives the product its leather look and feel.

Polyurethane leather is an artificial kind of material consisting of thermoplastic polymer. This leather is usually popular to make shoes and furniture. Since it is obtained through artificial methods, PU Leather is 100% vegan (no animals are harmed during the process).

Real Leather vs PU Leather
Real Leather (Left) vs PU Leather (Right)

The difference between PU Leather and Genuine Leather

Now that we’ve established what polyurethane leather is, let’s discuss the difference between this artificial leather and the real, genuine leather. We will break down the differences in the following categories and address them one by one.

Texture

High-quality PU leather has a similar or almost the same texture as genuine leather. However, if you look closely, you will find that real leather is relatively imperfect and grainy compared to PU artificial leather. The latter looks kind of fake and patterned when put side-by-side with genuine leather.

Thickness

Genuine leather is relatively thicker than the artificial kind. In contrast, PU leather has a thin construction and is, thus, prone to easy tearing. This thin structure is also why it cracks and bends over time.

Sunlight resistance

In case you don’t know, exposure to sunlight also impacts the quality and life of the leather. Direct exposure to the sun can dry out real leather because it slowly and gradually evaporates the material’s natural oils. With time, this dryness can cause stiffness and crack.

Fortunately, PU leather is fairly sunlight resistant compared to real leather. This feature is why furniture and items with more frequent exposure to the sun and outdoors, such as bike seats and armchairs, are usually covered with PU artificial leather.

Longevity

Real leather is highly durable. It can last you from 10 to 20 years if given the proper care and conditions. PU leather is not the same. Even though its longevity and life depend on its quality and its making, polyurethane leather is prone to early cracking and creasing and has only a few years of looking good as new.

Strength

In terms of tearing and puncturing, real leather is much stronger and can tolerate such traumas. However, PU leather requires more care in this matter and can easily give up when exposed to harsh impacts.

Breathability

Here, real leather wins again. Genuine leather has much higher breathability than artificial leather types. It means that this material would be a much better choice for wardrobe items, especially for those who find PU leather too uncomfortable to wear. Plus, it is also great for keeping your belongings ventilated when travelling, thanks to this particular feature.

Waterproof Leather

Waterproof Level

The main reason why many people prefer rain jackets, boots, and other wardrobe items in PU leather is that this material is relatively water-resistant. While real leather is also quite resistant to water damage, its threshold is much lower than artificial leather. It means that a real leather product would start its damage process much sooner than artificial leather one under the same level of water exposure.

Toxicity

Products and solvents that are a part of PU leather production can be highly toxic and are not the most environment-friendly substances to use. It is also why many vegans have significant concerns and questions regarding the creation and “vegan-ness” of artificial leather.

Ease of Cleanliness

This type of artificial leather is much easier to clean than the real kind. You can use your regular detergent and lukewarm water without the fear of ruining your leather product’s quality. You cannot use bristle brushes or harsh motions while washing a product made of real leather because it may damage the surface.

However, you need to ensure whether the particular product is washing machine friendly or needs manual washing.

Maintenance

As we just discussed, washing PU leather products is much easier than real leather items. Additionally, it is also easier to maintain daily. You only need a wet cloth or wipe to make sure it looks nice and shiny. PU does not dry out as fast as real leather, and you can put it directly under the sun if you have to since it is resistant to sunlight.

Price

Because artificial leather is made from alternate methods and not real skin, it is easier to manufacture. Thus, it is generally cheaper than real leather. So, if you’re looking for style on a budget, PU leather will be the best way to go.

Old Leathe

Long term changes

Even though PU leather is easy to maintain and can look good as new for extended periods of time, genuine leather ages beautifully and becomes more exquisite as it gets older. It becomes softer and feels much more comfortable compared to its “fake” cousin.

Pros and Cons

As we discussed above, PU leather can have some advantages over genuine leather. Its features are both good and bad, but there are specific pros and cons of using polyurethane leather. Let’s talk about those.

Pros

  • PU artificial leather is easier on the wallet and readily available.
  • It is 100% vegan because it does not involve any animal skin.
  • You can easily clean and wash PU Leather products because they do not absorb water easily.
  • You will find more variety of PU leather products in terms of style and colors.
  • It does not dry out quickly.
  • It is a more sustainable option than genuine leather.

Cons

  • PU artificial leather looks different from genuine leather.
  • It is not as breathable as real leather.
  • It is still plastic, so it’s not as sustainable and eco-friendly as you may think.
  • You can easily puncture or tear through PU leather products, so you must be extra careful and cautious with it.
  • It has a certain smell of plastics and chemicals.
  • It tends to wear off and crack over time, so it is not as long-lasting as genuine leather.

How To Spot a Product Made of PU Leather

While most people know that polyurethane leather is artificial and not the same as the genuine kind, some individuals are unaware of it. Many sellers, accidentally or on purpose, try to sell PU leather products under the real leather label. So, how can you guess whether a product is genuine or fake?

Here are a few effective ways you can do so:

Price

As we discussed earlier, PU leather is generally cheaper. So, if a leather product has unusually low rates, it is probably not genuine.

Smell

You can always find a distinct and unique kind of chemical smell in PU leather products. This smell is not present in genuine leather. If you are uncertain of the material used in a particular item, take a sniff, and you will know immediately.

Wet PU Leather

Water test

Even though you cannot do this right there while shopping, if you own the product and bring it home, a water test is the best way to determine whether the leather is PU or genuine. As we previously established, genuine leather absorbs water while synthetic leather does not. Notice how the material reacts to water and make your guess accordingly.

The texture, look, and feel

If you have more extensive knowledge of and experience with leather, it will not take you long to identify real leather from fake ones just by looking at it. Genuine leather is grainy and imperfect, while PU artificial leather is smooth and uniform in texture. The latter also has patterns, as we discussed earlier.

Maintenance of PU Leather

While we swiftly passed through the topic of easy PU leather maintenance, let us discuss it more in depth now. If you want to increase an artificial leather product’s life and make sure it looks good as new, there are specific expert advised ways that you can use to take care of these products.

Keep it nice and shaded

Artificial leather is indeed relatively more resistant to sunlight than the genuine leather and does not dry as easily. However, the lesser the exposure, the longer the life of the leather.

Make sure it’s dry

No matter what the leather type, the further away you keep it from exposure to water and moisture, the longer it’ll live and look good. So, make sure that there are no humidifiers, showers, or open windows near the leather, and it is always nice and dry.

Clean it regularly and properly

Use a soft cloth to regularly and adequately clean the leather product, whether it’s a piece of furniture or a wardrobe item. Accumulating dust and germs can have a negative impact on the longevity of the material and make the leather look dull. Thus, cleanliness and proper sanitation are essential even for artificial PU leather.

Avoid sharp objects near the product

 Avoid placing knives, needles, and other sharp or abrasive objects near the leather. As we discussed earlier, PU leather is relatively thin and prone to tearing and puncturing. Thus, you must avoid its exposure to such objects to reduce the risk of damage.

Use proper leather conditioners

If you are willing to invest time and money in your synthetic leather product, this industry has grown several folds. It now provides various specialized care products for your artificial leather jackets, furniture, and other stuff. These include leather conditioners, cleaners, bristle brushes, wipes, and whatnot. The significant part about them is that they are specific to PU leather types. Manufacturers keep the material, structure, and composition in mind while developing these substances to make sure that they are suitable for this particular type of product. Because they are so unique and ideal for this leather category, they help maintain the look and feel of your product and increase its life by several years.

Is PU Leather better or worse than real leather?

The answer to this particular question heavily depends on your personal preferences and particular requirements. If you are looking for longevity, style, and authenticity, genuine leather is a classic choice and has been a favorite for years.

However, if you want to stay on a budget, want strength and water resistance, and like to stay vegan and eco-friendly, PU leather is the way to go.

Leather Craftsman

Conclusion

Leather is a classic material and has had a huge fan following for hundreds of years. However, real leather is made of animal skin and can be quite expensive. For vegan consumers or those on a budget, artificial leather, specifically PU leather, is a popular choice.

Whether it is furniture, shoes, or wardrobe items, polyurethane leather is suited for everything. The market is full of unique designs and beautiful colors.

If you’re reluctant to make the switch because you think you’ll miss out on style, stop worrying about it.

We hope we cleared things up a bit in this article and made it easier for you to decide which leather to opt for.