I am confused as to what PU leather means? Thinking of buying PU leather accessories or furniture? We’ll explain how PU leather differs from real leather.
The leather market has always been robust, with consumers being presented with alternatives if they can’t afford or simply do not want to buy 100% genuine leather. To guarantee that you can make an educated decision when buying furniture or any other item with leather, it is essential that you were able to differentiate PU leather from real leather.
PU leather is one of the cheapest alternatives to genuine leather. Still, you should be able to differentiate between the two because stores and manufacturers often advertise their products as real leather even if it is not real leather. It’s time to arm you with the right information so you can make the best decisions when you are out shopping!
Difference between PU leather vs Real leather
Polyurethane leather or PU leather is made of a plastic polymer and does not contain any real leather at all. Compared to faux leather or bonded leather, which can have as much as 20% genuine leather fibres, PU leather is 100% inorganic, which makes it more attractive for vegans, as vegans prefer cruelty-free products.
PU leather is rightly called artificial leather because of its composition, and it is usually used for making shoes, furniture, and leather accessories like belts, bags, and wallets.
Bicast leather is another type of faux or bonded leather that contains small quantities of real leather. Bicast leather is not vegan. The shimmer that you see on the surface of bicast leather is due to the polyurethane finish that is applied during the manufacturing process, which improves the overall appearance of the final leather product.
Don’t be confused with the terms faux leather, bonded leather, and bicast leather – all of these things refer to the same general class of leather that makes use of scraps or leftover cuttings of genuine leather. Faux leather is manufactured by combining small quantities of genuine scrap leather and artificial fillers to create semi-real leather. The leather fibres are bound by adhesive, and a separate layer of polyurethane is applied as a top coat to make the faux leather look better. Faux leather is also machine-embossed to create consistent details across its surface.
PU leather, on the other hand, is first composed of petroleum products and other catalysts for creating the polyurethane. This material is spread on top of the base fabric, which serves as the blank canvas for the PU leather being created. Another layer of colour is added to colourize the canvas of the PU leather, before a final layer of texture is applied to finish the leather. The resulting PU leather is durable, beautiful, and is adequate for many kinds of applications, whether it be covering furniture or covering your feet (in the case of shoes).
Is PU leather a better leather alternative?
This depends on your reasons for buying PU leather in the first place. If you are buying PU leather because you support cruelty-free leather, then it is an optimal choice. However, if you are shopping for something that will withstand the test of time, then PU leather (and faux leather) falls below the average lifespan of genuine leather products.
So if you look at the situation from the perspective of someone who wants a good investment, the best possible placement is still genuine leather. Genuine leather ages well and does not split and rub off, unlike faux leather and PU leather. On average, PU leather begins to disintegrate after a full year of use, unlike genuine leather, which only needs simple maintenance to maintain its strength and durability.
On the bright side, PU leather is cheaper than genuine leather, comes in many colours and varieties, and is easy to adapt to an existing aesthetic in your bedroom or living room. PU leather also deflects water (it is a waterproof material) and is also easier to clean than genuine leather, which is not waterproof, as it absorbs moisture quickly.
All organic leather products absorb water, so they are not spill-proof and are not the best choice if you have pets and kids at home, as accidents do happen quickly at home. In terms of sustainability, PU leather products are more sustainable because they don’t rely on the supply chain of cows that require a lot of resources from land to food.
On the downside, PU leather can look synthetic and somewhat fake, and this can be troubling to some who are used to buying genuine leather. You can spot PU leather by looking at its grain.
PU leather expressed uniformity in its grain because that grain is machine-embossed/pressed. Genuine leather is irregular and inconsistent because that’s what real animal skin looks like. You can also try smelling the PU leather. PU leather will smell faintly of the chemicals that have been used to create it. You will even likely detect the strong adhesives used to bind the layers to the base fabric.
Genuine leather smells organic and like all kinds of animal skin. It will have that unmistakable aspect that artificial leather will never have, even if they spray or coat the outer surface of the PU leather with chemicals.
The best way to test whether a piece of leather is the real thing or not is by dousing it a little with water. Organic or genuine leather absorbs water quickly, so that water is going in if what you are holding is natural leather.
On the other hand, if you have faux leather with a polyurethane coating for the texturing and colour or PU leather, the water is going to slide off within a second. Because polyurethane is a type of plastic, it doesn’t absorb water at all. It can hold water within a shape if the insides of the material are made of polyurethane, but the content itself will resist the water. At no point will PU leather absorb any water, even if you wet the base fabric.