Shopping for leather products has become a challenge these days, as differentiating between real and faux leather can be quite difficult.
Some people are committed to wearing true leather and would never replace it, even for the most accurate leather replica. Others, on the other hand, don’t even want to hear about real leather, let alone wear it, so they opt for fake leather.
Finally, some people like having one or two things that are made of real leather but prefer to save up money, so they seek good quality artificial leather.
One common example of artificial leather is PU leather. Many people gladly pick it as their go-to artificial leather option. But what is it exactly, and what is it made of?
In this article, we’ll give you a detailed guide on PU leather, its good and bad sides, and how to differentiate it from other artificial and real leather leathers.
What Is PU Leather?
PU leather, also known as polyurethane leather, is a type of artificially made leather. It is made of thermoplastic polymer, commonly used for shoes and furniture. Polyurethane is a type of plastic that looks and feels similar to real leather, but it’s made of artificial materials.
This type of leather is considered fully vegan, as no animal is harmed in the production process of PU leather.
There are different ways of making PU leather. The most common one is to use a plastic polyurethane or polyurethane coating and apply this plastic to a fiber polyester base.
The not-so-vegan version of PU leather is when it is combined with real leather to create the “double-cast” type of leather. In this case, the real leather base is divided and covered by a PU or PVC layer.
The texture of PU leather is almost the same as the real one; however, it’s often lighter and less durable, so it wears out more easily. On the other hand, it’s more sunlight resistant, which is why it is a common choice for car seats or furniture covers.
Unlike real leather, PU leather can easily be manufactured in various colors and textures.
PU leather has several names: bicast or double-cast, split leather, reconstructed leather, bonded leather, etc. The names usually differ depending on the structure of the leather (split or bicast is the combination of real and PU leather).
PU leather is fairly easy, as you can find it on online marketplaces such as Amazon or Alibaba. In China, this type of leather is highly common, so it might be easier to search for it on China-based online marketplaces. The price may vary depending on quantity, but it is usually low (compared to real leather). The average price is around $1 and $3 per meter of fabric.
Pros and Cons of PU Leather
When buying PU leather, there are several factors to consider, the first one being which type of leather are you looking for? Do you want it to be fully vegan or are you looking for a mixture of materials? Here are some pros and cons of buying PU leather.
- PU leather is not expensive to produce, so it costs less to purchase;
- It’s easy to clean since it’s made of plastic;
- It doesn’t absorb water;
- A larger color palette and a variety of styles to choose from;
- Can be 100% vegan;
- Long-lasting and highly durable (compared to other faux leather alternatives);
- Maintains the same level of flexibility and softness;
- The closest to real leather regarding texture and feel;
- It doesn’t dry out with time.
- It can look very fake and synthetic;
- Less breathable than real leather;
- It has a specific scent that may resemble chemicals or plastic smell;
- Although it’s more durable than other fake leathers, it’s less durable than real leather, so it will wear and tear in a few years;
- Unlike real leather, it doesn’t develop a patina over time;
- Sometimes they are not fully vegan but a mixture of real leather and plastic;
- Although production requires fewer resources and often doesn’t involve animal harm, disposing of PU leather is not eco-friendly. Since it’s shorter-lasting than real leather, you will probably need to change it in a few years, meaning that the old one will be thrown away. As you know already, plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose.
How to Tell if It Is PU Leather?
Knowing how to discriminate between real and PU leather is important regardless of whether you’re looking for the faux one or the real one, as this knowledge will help you make the right choice in both cases.
The easiest way, of course, is to take a look at the declaration or the product description and determine the composition of the fabric. However, this isn’t always available, and sometimes, you’ll need to take some additional steps to determine what kind of leather are you dealing with.
The first thing to pay attention to is the price. Faux leather is significantly cheaper than real leather, thanks to its much simpler production process and materials used.
Furthermore, you’ll be able to recognize real leather thanks to its smell. Genuine leather has its characteristic odor, while faux leather smells of plastic or chemicals.
If you have a sharp eye, you may be able to distinguish the types of leather. Real leather usually has imperfections in its pattern or a genuine grain. Faux PU leather will have a flawless pattern and smooth texture.
Finally, another method you can try to determine whether you are dealing with real or fake leather is to do a water test. PU leather if it’s fully waterproof, whereas real leather will most likely absorb the water. If you don’t already own a product, it’s not recommended to dip it in water, as the salesperson probably won’t be too happy about it. However, if there is a possibility to test a small sample of the material, you will know what you are dealing with.
How to Clean PU Leather?
PU leather is easy to clean. However, the material is not resistant to hard chemicals, so you may consider lighter detergents for stains.
If the stain is persistent, you can try scrubbing it gently. Also, you may want to consider mixing the detergent with water to mild it down. Instead of using a sponge, which can damage the material, you can try spraying the mixture onto a towel and then rubbing the stain off. However, if you notice that you are damaging the material, you should stop scrubbing and go back to gentle wiping.
PU leather or polyurethane leather is an artificial type of leather, usually considered a good alternative to real leather. If you’re looking for a vegan option, this type of leather can be a good choice for you; however, you will need to read the product description to make sure that it’s not a blend with real leather.
Furthermore, PU leather is a good option if you want to save money or have a wider variety of pattern, color, and style choices. However, if leather features are what you are looking for, then you should know how to differentiate PU leather from leather so that you don’t end up with the fake one or mixture.
There are many ways to differentiate between the two types of leather, like price, colors, smell, or waterproofness. Sometimes you may be able to observe the difference with your naked eye.