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What is PU leather? Understanding leather polyurethane

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PU leather, or polyurethane leather, is a popular alternative to synthetic leather and is made from thermoplastic polymers. It is widely used in many industries due to its cost-effectiveness and versatility. So what exactly is PU leather? What are its advantages and disadvantages compared to genuine leather? This article will detail the properties, advantages and disadvantages as well as common uses of PU leather.

What is PU Leather really?

PU leather, also known as polyurethane leather, is a type of synthetic leather made from thermoplastic polymers. Unlike leather made from animal skins, PU leather is completely vegan. It is made by applying a layer of polyurethane to a fabric backing, usually polyester.

What Is PU Leather?

How is PU Leather Made?

PU Leather Making Steps

  • Fabric Preparation: The first step to prepare PU leather is to start from the fabric. Usually cotton or polyester is used as the base material. These materials need to be cleaned and organized first to ensure that the subsequent coating will adhere evenly.
  • Polyurethane Application: The thermoplastic polymer polyurethane is then applied to the fabric. This can be done by spraying, coating, etc. The thickness of the coating will directly affect the texture and durability of the final product.
  • Embossing: Once the coating has dried, the PU leather is embossed. This step is designed to mimic the texture of genuine leather and is usually done with an embossing roller to create a specific texture on the surface of the material.
  • Surface treatment: Finally, PU leather also requires a surface treatment, which may include coloring, sanding, and adding a protective layer. These treatments not only enhance the appearance, but also increase the durability and stain resistance of the material.
PU Leather Making Steps

Common Uses of PU Leather

  • Home Furniture: PU leather is often used for furniture making such as sofas, chairs and headboards. It is durable and easy to clean, making it perfect for home use.
  • Fashion clothing: In the field of fashion, PU leather is used to make jackets, bags, shoes and so on. It offers a rich choice of colors and styles.
  • Automobile accessories: PU leather is also used for car seats and interior decoration, which is popular because of its wear-resistant and easy-to-clean characteristics.
  • Various accessories: Small accessories such as belts, wallets and cell phone cases are also commonly used PU leather. It has low cost and diverse appearance.
  • Sporting goods: PU leather is used for the outer layer of basketballs, soccer balls and other sports equipment because it is strong and durable.
  • Office supplies: Office chairs, laptop bags and folders and other office supplies are often made of PU leather, which gives people a professional feeling.
  • Interior Decoration: Interior decorations such as curtains, wall coverings and carpet edges also use PU leather to add beauty and durability.
  • Technical products: Technical products such as headphones, camera covers and electronic device cases use PU leather to provide good protection.
  • Medical equipment: PU leather is also used for the outer layer of hospital mattresses, operating tables and some medical equipment as it is easy to sterilize and clean.

Advantages of PU leather

  • Cost Effectiveness: PU leather is less expensive to manufacture than leather because the production process is simpler. It is affordable and more economical in mass production.
  • VEGAN FRIENDLY: 100% PU leather is completely man-made and suitable for vegans. It contains no animal ingredients, making it perfect for consumers looking for ethical and sustainable alternatives.
  • Versatility: PU leather can be made in a variety of colors and styles for a wide range of applications. It can be found in everything from fashion accessories to furniture.
  • Low Maintenance: PU leather does not absorb water and is easy to clean. Unlike leather, PU leather does not dry out over time, making it easier to maintain.

Disadvantages of PU Leather

  • Less Durable: PU leather is not as abrasion resistant as genuine leather. It tends to wear and crack with time, so the service life is relatively short.
  • Less breathable: PU leather is not as breathable as genuine leather and may feel airless and less comfortable when wearing.
  • Environmental issues: Although PU leather consumes less resources during production, it contains plastic components that are difficult to degrade, so it is not the most environmentally friendly choice.
Disadvantages of PU Leather

Difference Between PU Leather and Genuine Leather

  • Composition: PU leather is a man-made leather made primarily from polyurethane (a type of plastic) and is 100% vegan as it does not contain any animal skins. Genuine leather, on the other hand, is made from animal skins and therefore contains animal ingredients.
  • Texture and Appearance: PU leather is usually thinner than genuine leather, has a harder texture and may crack and bend over time. Genuine leather has a natural texture and imperfections, while PU leather has an almost perfect, regular appearance. Genuine leather will absorb water when exposed to moisture, while PU leather will not.
  • Durability: Genuine leather is known for its durability and natural texture. In comparison, PU leather is better at resisting UV rays, but is not as durable as genuine leather and tears easily. Genuine leather becomes softer and more attractive over time, while the look and feel of PU leather stays the same.

PU Leather vs. Genuine Leather

Feature PU Leather Genuine Leather
Material Synthetic (polyurethane) Animal hide
Durability Less durable Highly durable
Cost More affordable Expensive
Maintenance Easy to maintain Requires regular care
Breathability Less breathable Highly breathable

PU Leather Office Chair

BestOffice PU Leather Office Chair

  • Material: Made of high-quality PU leather, which is waterproof and wear-resistant, and the color is not easy to fade even after a long time of use. The support structure of the seat is made of metal to ensure solidity.
  • Features: This office chair is ergonomically designed to provide good lumbar support. The height and tilt angle is adjustable to accommodate different users. The armrests and seat are padded with PU leather for added comfort.
  • Dimensions: Overall dimensions are 28.76 "D x 26.79 "W x 53 "H. Seat height can be adjusted from 19.5 inches to 23.2 inches.
  • Color: Available in a variety of color options, including classic black.
  • Price: Prices range from $59.99 to $319.99 depending on model and features.
BestOffice PU Leather Office Chair

Furmax PU Leather Office Chair

  • Material: Made of high quality PU leather, waterproof and wear-resistant, long-lasting color. The bottom of the chair is sturdy five-star feet, providing reliable support.
  • Features: The high back design is ergonomic and suitable for a wide range of occasions such as home, office, conference room and reception room. The chair can swivel 360 degrees and the base is heavy duty and equipped with smooth rolling casters to form a stable structure. Pneumatic controls are simple and easy to use, allowing for easy adjustment of seat height and chair rocking.
  • Dimensions: Maximum weight capacity is 300 lbs, Seat area measures 19.8″ x 21.8″, Backrest measures 21.8″ x 24.8″, Seat height adjustable from 17.2″ to 21.2″.
  • Color: Available primarily in black.
  • Price: Prices range from $64.99 to $147.65 depending on model and features selected.
Furmax PU Leather Office Chair

Leather Office Chair

Cameron Leather Office Chair

  • Materials: Full grain leather
  • Features: 7-point massage function; 360° swivel and PU silent casters; Adjustable seat height and tilt angle; Load bearing capacity is twice as much as ordinary office chair.
  • Size: 19.69 "D x 27.56 "W x 42 "H
  • Color: Khaki
  • Price: $1,259.00
  • Certification: All parts are certified by BIFIMA, SGS and ANSI.
Cameron Leather Office Chair

Cellier Leather Office Chair

  • Material: High-quality cowhide leather
  • Features: Ergonomic backrest design; 5-point massage function; Adaptive rocking function; 360° swivel and PU silent casters; Adjustable seat height; Extra spacious design; Soft down padded cushion; Suitable for long time use.
  • Size: 48.43 "H x 30.31 "W x 28.74 "D
  • Price: $1,595.00
Cellier Leather Office Chair

Coast Leather Office Recliner Chair

  • Material: High-grade cowhide leather with soft down padding
  • Features: Electric recliner chair design, dual motors independently control the footrest and backrest, one key to adjust to any angle; with charging socket and USB port, suitable for long time working and resting; 360° free swivel and PU mute casters; the weight capacity is twice as much as a normal office chair.
  • Size: 18.89 "D x 21.65 "W x 49.21 "H
  • Weight: varies depending on configuration
  • Color: Black and Gray
  • Price: $2,099.00
  • Certification: Meets the safety and environmental standards of modern office furniture
Coast Leather Office Recliner Chair

Types of PU Leather

1. Bi-cast PU Leather

  • Definition: Bi-cast leather is made from a layered leather backing covered with a layer of embossed polyurethane or vinyl. Originally used for glossy shoe uppers, it was later adopted by the furniture industry.
  • Production process: First the original leather is split, removing the top grain. The remaining bottom leather is covered with polyurethane, which is embossed to give it the appearance of genuine leather.
  • Advantages: Consistent surface appearance, low price, high initial gloss and smoothness.
  • Disadvantages: Less durable, prone to cracking and peeling, especially with regular use.

2. Split PU Leather

  • Definition: Split PU Leather is split from the bottom of animal leather and has a plush appearance. Commonly used in work gloves, furniture, and footwear manufacturing.
  • Features: The surface is coated with a man-made layer and embossed with a leather texture. Although it can be sanded and embossed to look like natural leather, quality manufacturers do not usually use layered cowhide for furniture surfaces.
  • Benefits: High abrasion resistance and flexibility.
  • Disadvantages: Not as strong or durable as top grain leather.

3. Bonded PU Leather

  • Definition: Recycled leather is made from a mixture of shredded leather fibers and leftover fragments that are mixed with a polyurethane adhesive and bonded to a paper or fabric backing. The manufacturer may apply a layer of polyurethane to the recycled leather and emboss it with a genuine leather texture.
  • Benefits: Cheaper than genuine leather, smooth and consistent texture, many colors and styles available.
  • Disadvantages: Not as durable as genuine leather, can wear, peel and fade after extended use.
How to recognize PU leather

How to recognize PU leather?

Examination of appearance

  • Color and texture: PU leather is usually lighter in color and has a more regular, smooth texture.
  • Edges: The edges of PU leather look more perfect than genuine leather, without irregular texture or imperfections.

Touch Comparison

  • Softness: PU leather is usually softer and more flexible than genuine leather.
  • Temperature feeling: Due to the lack of breathability, PU leather is usually colder to the touch than leather.

Durability test

  • Wear Resistance: PU leather does not show a unique shine or color change over time like genuine leather.
  • Tear resistance: PU leather tears or scratches more easily than genuine leather.

Odor Recognition

  • Chemical Odor: PU leather has a distinctive plastic or chemical odor that leather does not have.

Water test

  • Water Absorption: Perform a water test, PU leather does not absorb water while genuine leather does.

Tag check

  • Product Label: Check the product label, PU leather may be labeled as PU Leather, Bicast Leather, Split Leather, Vegan Leather, Bonded Leather, Reconstituted Leather or Corrected Grain Leather.


PU leather offers a versatile and cost-effective alternative to genuine leather. Despite its drawbacks, continuous innovation and improvement in production methods have led to its growing popularity in various industries.

FAQs about PU leather

1. How to take care of PU leather?

When caring for PU leather, avoid using products that contain oil or petroleum, as these may make the material old, brittle and more prone to cracking. You can regularly wipe the PU leather with a clean cloth to remove dust and stains. Alternatively, you can use a specialized PU protector to clean and protect its surface.

2. Is PU leather environmentally friendly?

PU leather relies on fossil fuels for its production and is not biodegradable, so it is not usually considered environmentally friendly. While it is marketed as being more environmentally friendly than leather, in reality, its production process can have a negative impact on the environment.

3. Can PU leather crack?

PU leather does crack over time if it is not properly cared for. Prolonged exposure to heat or sunlight can make the material brittle and eventually lead to cracking.

4. Is PU leather waterproof?

PU leather has decent water resistance, but it is not completely waterproof. It is more like "waterproof" because the polyurethane coating prevents water from being absorbed immediately. However, this water resistance varies depending on how the material is treated and the environment in which it is used.