PU leather

by Albert Varkki updated 05-25-2023

pu leather

When you’re looking for PU products to buy, you may struggle to tell the difference between real and artificial leather.

Some people seek out genuine leather, though others prefer to save money by purchasing artificial leather.

PU leather is very popular amongst people looking for affordable artificial leather.

In this post, we go into everything you need to know about PU leather.

What is PU leather?

PU leather is also known as polyurethane leather.

It is an artificial leather which is manufactured from thermoplastic polymer and can be used to make products like shoes and furniture.

100% PU leather is totally artificial and is considered to be vegan.

Some materials referred to as PU leather are called bicast leather.

These feature genuine leather with a polyurethane coating on top.

This kind of leather uses the fibrous part of cowhide which is leftover from the process of making real leather.

PU leather goes by various names. These include bicast leather, split leather, bonded leather, reconstituted leather and corrected grain leather.

red pu leather sofa

What are the pros and cons of PU leather?

Maybe you can’t decide whether to purchase artificial or genuine leather? If so, it’s a good idea to weigh up the pros and cons of PU leather.


There are many big advantages to investing in PU leather:

  • This form of leather doesn’t cost as much as genuine leather as it is easier to make.
  • It’s also simpler to clean PU leather because it won’t absorb water. 100% PU leather is vegan-friendly too.
  • You can use this form of leather for various styles and colours, and it won’t dry out with time.
  • PU leather is also better when it comes to sustainability as it doesn’t require as many resources for manufacturing.


The downsides of PU leather are:

  • Some people think it looks synthetic and unconvincing.
  • It isn’t breathable unlike genuine leather and its smell is sometimes compared to plastic and chemicals.
  • PU leather can wear easily over time and it can also crack. This means it doesn’t normally have the longevity of real leather.
  • It can also tear and puncture easily.
  • You shouldn’t expect PU to develop the same patina or lustre with time.
  • As some PU leather products feature leftover real leather, not all of them are vegan-friendly.
  • Although PU doesn’t need as many resources during the manufacturing process, plastics do not decompose.

pu leather shoes

How to tell if something is PU leather

If you are considering buying a product that you think may contain PU leather, look at the tag.

If the tag doesn’t tell you or if there isn’t one, you may be able to tell by the price tag.

PU leather tends to be much more affordable than genuine leather as it’s easier to make.

PU leather also has a chemical or plastic smell that you won’t detect with real leather.

You can also carry out a water test to find out if the product you’re examining is fake or real leather. If the leather is genuine, the water will be absorbed.

PU leather does not absorb water.

Some people can tell the difference between PU leather and other kinds of leather simply by looking at the material. If your product is real leather, it is likely to come with imperfections and a genuine grain. PU leather tends to look fake and normally has a patterned texture look.

Is PU material vegan-friendly?

In its real form, PU leather is 100% vegan. This is because it is essentially a fusion of various artificial chemicals.

However, some people tend to use the term PU leather very loosely, with split leather often referred to as PU leather.

Split leather is a material which takes the leftovers of genuine leather production and is coated with polyurethane.

This means it is a fusion of PU and genuine leather. If you are ethically minded, it may be very important for you to check if your product really is PU leather.

Buying PU leather can help people to avoid contributing due to the death and other suffering of animals.

Related leather articles:

pu leather in a workshop

What is the manufacturing process of PU leather?

A considerable amount of chemicals and petroleum are used to create PU leather. The process involves four steps.

  • Starting with the base fabric
  • Application of polyurethane coating
  • Coloring the material
  • Final texture for finishing is added

Is PU leather always fake?

If PU leather is 100%, this means it is fake leather due to the fact it’s made from 100% plastic material.

There is no genuine animal hide involved. However, some PU leathers do contain animal parts and are therefore only semi-fake. Some argue that these products are hybrids as they are part-animal and part-synthetic.

No PU leather can be regarded as pure leather. If the word “pure” features on the tag, it is not completely made of animal hide.

Related articles:

PU Leather vs PVC Leather: what is the best?

PU and PVC materials are both manmade. They aren’t derived from animal skins, although the end product can contain some animal hide.

To make PU leather, polyurethane is applied to the top of the leather material. The PU offers a fantastic finish. This also ensures that the material is flexible. However, PVC leather comes with a foam layer as well as a plastic coating.


PVC leather is regarded as more durable due to the fact it comes with a foam layer. PU leather is thin and well-regarded due to its flexibility. This explains why it is commonly used to make clothes. PU tends to wrinkle over time. PVC is known for its ability to withstand wear and tear as s well as extreme weather.


PU leather is more breathable due to the fact it is thinner. It can be hard for air to pass through PVC leather as it has too many layers. PU leather is more commonly found in garments like jackets. PU leather is also more porous than PVC leather, which makes it highly suitable for clothes production.

Nonetheless, PU leather is also absorbent due to its pores. This means products made from PU leather are susceptible to stains. This is why furniture makers tend to use PVC leather rather than PU leather.

PVC is the most durable of the two options due to its various layers and lack of pores. It is often used to make shoes and upholstery. Both products can be subject to considerable wear and tear. PU is often regarded as the better option for clothing due to its breathability and flexibility.

Is PU leather waterproof?

PU leather is fairly water-resistant but it is not waterproof. Water can penetrate PU leather due to the pores.

It’s not uncommon for PU leather to be used with other materials. It is commonly used with polyester, cotton and rayon to give a few examples.

Different standards of water resistance are on offer when these materials are blended with PU leather.

It’s important to remember that no PU leather is truly waterproof, nor is genuine leather. Although pure leather can resist water, it is not waterproof. To make a leather material waterproof, you can add wax to it.

Waterproof sprays are easy to access online and offline. You can use these to protect your leather.

Related articles:


We hope you enjoyed our article on PU leather.

If you have any questions or comments, contact us at, or leave them in the comments.

Want to read more? Check out our Leather pages here.

Author: Albert Varkki
Albert Varkki is the co-founder of Von Baer. He understands leather products as a consumer, supplier, and a manufacturer, helping you with the inside knowledge you need, to choose the perfect leather product for you. Connect on Linkedin

We always aim to have the highest editorial standards, and only publish accurate information on our website.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.