Vegan Leather - What is it?

So.... What is PU Leather, or Vegan Leather?

PU leather, or polyurethane leather, is an artificial leather made of thermoplastic polymer used for making furniture or shoes. 100% PU leather is completely artificial and is considered vegan. There are some types of PU leather called bicast leather that have actual leather but has a polyurethane coating on top. This type of Leather takes the fibrous part of cowhide that are leftover from making genuine leather and put a layer of polyurethane on top of it.

Real vs. PU Leather PIcture
Real vs. PU Leather PIcture

PU leather also goes by a few names. Whether you are looking for artificial leather or looking to avoid it, it is best to know the many names that make up artificial leather. When looking at tags, artificial leather can be called:

  • PU Leather
  • Bicast Leather
  • Split Leather
  • Bonded Leather
  • Reconstituted Leather
  • Corrected Grain Leather

Pros & Cons of PU Leather

If you are on the fence when it comes to deciding if you want artificial over genuine leather, it is best to look at the pros and cons of PU leather.

PU Leather Pros:
  • PU Leather costs less than genuine leather because it is easier to manufacture.
  • PU doesn’t absorb water which makes it easy to clean.
  • 100% PU leather is vegan.
  • PU leather can be made into a variety of colors and styles.
  • Unlike leather, PU leather doesn’t dry out over time.
  • Better for sustainability because it uses fewer resources to make.
PU Leather Cons:
  • Can look fake and synthetic.
  • Isn’t breathable like genuine leather.
  • Can smell of chemicals or plastic.
  • Easily wears over time and can crack, which means it doesn’t last as long as real leather.
  • Can puncture or tear easily unlike genuine leather.
  • PU leather doesn’t develop the same luster or patina as real leather over time.
  • Not all PU leathers are vegan because some contain leftover genuine leather.
  • Even though it uses fewer resources to make, plastics don’t decompose and aren’t the most eco-friendly.

How to tell if it is PU Leather

Depending on whether you are looking for PU leather or genuine leather, it is best to know how to tell the difference between them. Say you are buying leather furniture, the easiest way to tell the difference is by looking at the tag. Sometimes products may not have a tag, so being able to know the differences will be useful.

The main difference you will find is the cost. PU leather will generally be cheaper than genuine leather because it is easier to produce.

PU leather will have a distinct smell to it. PU will have a plastic or chemical smell to it that genuine leather will not have.

Doing a water test is also an easy way to determine if it is real or fake leather. Although it wouldn’t be advised to do a water test to a product you don’t own, genuine leather will absorb the water. PU leather will not absorb the water.

If you have a keen eye, you may be able to tell the difference just by looking at the material. Real leather will have some imperfections and have a genuine grain. PU leather will actually look fake, and will almost have a perfect, patterned texture look.

Bottom Line

PU leather is also known as polyurethane leather that is artificial. If you are someone looking for a cheaper option, something vegan, or comes in a variety of colors, PU leather will be a great option for you. But if you are looking for genuine leather, PU leather will be something you will want to avoid. 

Article by Taylor Kiley