What is PU Leather? Everything You Need To Know!
Apr 12 , 2022

What is PU Leather? Pu Leather or Polyurethane leather: Everything You Need To Know!

Pu Leather

Leather is an outstanding fabric for furniture upholstery because the basic material of this can last around 5 years longer when compared to any other fabric available out there. But the problem is pure leather may cost you a whole lot extra than other fabrics.

Since real leather is a bit pricey, henceforth polyurethane or PU leather was created. After its formations, it became a popular substitute fabric for furniture upholstery for those buyers who want to use leather but do not want to harm animals or don’t have high-budget. That’s where PU leather or Polyurethane leather comes into play.

So, let’s dig deeper to know what PU leather or Polyurethane leather is, what are the characteristics are, how to get high-quality PU leather, and finally its pros & cons.

What Is PU Leather?

Pu Leather

PU leather is also known as polyurethane leather is a riven leather that has been coated with a polyurethane coating to make it appear like a high-quality top grain leather. Typically, these leathers come with an antique look and a glossy surface. Such leathers are mainly used for shoes and furniture making.

Other terms for this fabric are "Bicast leather", "Bycast© leather", and also "Polyurethane-layered leather". Often, "PU" is combined up with the "Pull-Up leather". The Pull-Up Leather is waxed/oiled leather. So, PU leather is a type of artificial leather that has taken the market by storm.

Characteristics of PU Leather

synthetic leatherPU leather was formed to have the equal feel and look of real leather, but without utilizing animal skin. The utmost common method of forming PU leathers is to use polyurethane coating (plastic) and apply the coating to a base that is made out of fiber (typically polyester). Such types of leather might be blended with genuine leather in the method called bi-cast leather. Such leather may utilize a riven leather base that is then layered using a PU or PVC layer.

There are numerous types of fake leathers available in the market, and PU leather is among those. Other types of fake leather are PVC leather, faux leather, and synthetic leather. Some formulae of fake leather are also made out of materials like kelp and oak trees.

Real Leather VS PU Leather:

Genuine Leather

However, PU leather characteristically has a similar feel to real leather, but it is characteristically a little lightweight than real leather. PU is not moderately as durable as genuine leather and it tends to rip more easily. Although PU leather does not fade or crack when you expose it to sunlight, unlike some genuine leathers can. This’s why it’s often used for vehicles

PU leather can similarly be formed in a wider range of patterns, styles, and colors than authentic leather can. It is similarly easy to bring a glossy finish to the leather. And when it comes to maintenance, Polyurethane leather rarely needs much maintenance as well as you can normally just wipe down the dust using a damp cloth.

Polyurethane leather might have a few ecological benefits over authentic leather. PU leather does not need animal skins to form, and unlike genuine leather, it does not require to be tanned. It is good because the tanning process of leather produces considerable contamination from the chemicals it used to create leather, such as ammonia and chromium. PU leather, on the other hand, is not as recyclable as genuine leather.

In dissimilarity to genuine leather, Polyurethane leather is not as breathable as real leather. However, it is more breathable when compared to other kinds of synthetic leather, like PVC. While genuine leather tends to get softer and better looking over time, PU leather is not. Pu leather maintains a steady feel and looks throughout its lifespan. Lastly, Polyurethane leather tends to be considerably cheaper than genuine leather.

How To Distinguish PU Leather

Polyurethane leather

You can typically differentiate PU leather from real leather by read-through either the label or checking the price. The price of PU leather will typically be way cheaper, and in case the item comes with a label, it may print Polyurethane or PU on it. If you take a close glimpse at the item, it may similarly reveal whether the leather is artificial or genuine, as the animal skin’s pores are only visible on genuine leather. Lastly, try to smell the leather, if there is a distinct plasticky smell, it’s probably Polyurethane leather.


The key difference you’ll find between real leather and PU leather is the price. PU leather will usually be cheaper as compared to genuine leather since it’s easier to make.


PU leather comes with a particular plasticky smell to it. Unlike real leather, PU leather tends to come with a chemical or plastic smell that will help you to distinguish PU leather.

Water Test

You can conduct a water test to check if the leather is PU or genuine. It is an easy method to check if it’s fake or real leather. After the water test, real leather will almost absorb the water but PU leather won’t be able to absorb it.


Even though it would not be recommended to do a water test on a product that you do not possess.


Touch the leather to feel its material. If it is real leather then you will feel more grains and PU leather can’t imitate the pores of animal skin pores that genuine leather has.

Check With Naked Eye

In case you’ve got a strong eye power, you might be capable of telling the difference between real leather and genuine leather just by observing the fabric. Real leather will come with some imperfections as well as has a real grain. But PU leather will look fake, as well as will nearly have a patterned, perfect texture look.

Pros & Cons of PU Leather

PU Leather Cons

When you are confused about whether to buy PU or genuine leather, it’s best to check the pros & cons to clear your doubts about that.

PU Leather Pros:

It does not absorb water so you can clear the leather easily

Better for sustainability

Costs less than real leather

100% vegan

It does not dry out over time

Comes in a variety of styles and colors.

PU Leather Cons:

Look fake

Is not breathable

Comes with a plastic or chemical smell

Easily crack and wears over time

Can tear or puncture easily

Not biodegradable

Not all are vegan as some PU leather contain leftover genuine leather


After seeing all the information, all we can say is that PU leather is better only if we compare it to real leather just from the ethical aspect. It’s more sustainable but to form PU leather, manufacturers use a lot of chemicals during the process of leather manufacturing.

Typically, these types of leathers aren’t declared as riven leather which is inappropriate customer info. Buyers can't see with their naked eyes that there is low-quality riven leather under the grain surface. In case the film width of the layer is more than 0.15 mm, these leathers should be declared as "layered leather". In nations such as New Zealand or Denmark, the name "genuine leather" for these types of leather is prohibited.

So, if you have doubt, make sure to ask whether the offered fabric is a layered split leather or not. If you’re only worried about the price tag, you can go for it. But when you want high-quality too, a natural and breathable product, layered leather is not for you.

However, the good side of using this PU leather is that it is inexpensive. But being inexpensive, these leathers are tended to be less durable and thus, these often suffer damage after using only for a few years. Moreover, there is a lack of breathability in these leathers. Because of the strong layer, the leather feels cooler than thin coated or uncoated leathers, as well as these, tend to easily stick to the skin.

So, think before going for such leathers over authentic leather. If you have more budget then we would like to recommend you buy real leather over PU leather as it contains a high polyurethane coating.

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