What is PU Leather? PU Leather vs Real Leather: Which one is better? (2024)

There are different types of products known as "Leather", but do you know the difference between PU Leather (Polyurethane Leather) and Real leather? Let us explain it to you.

It's clear genuine leather is a preferable material for a wide range of products. It's known for its sturdiness and its attractive appearance. There are many inexpensive knock-offs that are meant to mimic the genuine offer in look just. These goods are made from cheap materials that can't endure the test of time. As a buyer, it is essential to comprehend the difference between genuine leather and imitation products-- especially PU leather.

PU leather, also known as synthetic leather, it's an imitation of the real leather created from polyurethane, a plastic with a similar feel and aspect to the leather, but without involving animals. 100% PU leather is an artificial material or artificial leather that does not involve animals. PU leather is considered Vegan leather.

The most common way to create PU leather is using a cover of plastic polyurethane or a polyurethane coating and apply it to a base made of fiber (generally polyester). The PU leather can be combined with real leather to make something called "double-cast" leather. The "double-cast" leather can use a base of divided real leather which later is covered by PVC or PU layer.

The PU leather generally has the same texture as the animal skin (real leather), but in most cases, it's lighter, and at the same time it is not as durable as real leather and tends to tear easily. It is also more resistant to sunlight, and this is why it is frequently used to cover car seats and faux leather furniture.

What is PU Leather? PU Leather vs Real Leather: Which one is better? (1)PU Leather vs. Real Leather | Steel Horse Leather">

Regarding maintenance, the PU leather can also be manufactured in a larger set of textures and colors. You can even g

As opposed to genuine leather, PU leather is not as breathable. However, it is more breathable than other types of synthetic leather, such as PVC. While genuine leather tends to become more attractive and softer overtime, this is not the case with PU leather, which will maintain a uniform look and feel throughout its life. And finally, PU leather tends to be substantially cheaper than genuine leather.

Howcan you identify PU Leather?

Depending upon whether you are searching for PU leather or authentic leather, it is best to understand how to discriminate between them. Say you are buying a leather bag, the simplest method to discriminate is by looking at the tag or description. In some cases, products might not have a tag, so being able to know the distinctions will be useful.

The primary difference you will find is the expense. PU leather will normally be less expensive than genuine leather since it is simpler to produce and a much cheaper material.

PU leather will have a unique smell to it since it is a synthetic material. PU will have a plastic or chemical smell to it that real leather will not have.

Doing a water test is also an easy way to figure out if it is real or fake leather. Although it wouldn't be advised to do a water test to an item you do not 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 product. Real leather will have some imperfections and have a genuine grain, this is what gives our bags their vintage look. PU leather will in fact look phony, and will almost have an ideal, patterned texture look.

Artificial Leather

Artificial leather is known under many names, including "leatherette", "faux leather", "vegan leather", "PU leather" and "pleather"

What is Faux Leather?

Faux leather is one of several names given to artificial or synthetic leather. These names are often used to describe specific end uses of synthetic leather products such as faux leather (sofa, chair and headboard upholstery), leatherette (auto upholstery, clothing), and koskin (consumer goods). There are two primary types of faux leather construction: polyurethane ("PU"), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Is PU Leather the same as Synthetic Leather?

The short answer is, yes. PU leather, also known as synthetic leather, is a synthetic version of real leather. It looks like real leather and has the same feel and appearance but it doesn't hurt animals in any way. However, it does not last nearly as long as real leather and will begin to crack over time.

Pros & Cons of PU Leather

When it comes to purchasing a leather product, there are a lot of considerations to make. The most basic question of course is what type of leather do you want? There is of course genuine leather, but there are also synthetic materials like pleather that are made to look like leather; and there is PU leather, which is not technically leather at all.

PU Leather Pros:

- PU Leather is cheaper to produce, therefore cheaper to purchase

-Since PU Leather is made of plastic, it tends to be easy to clean

PU Leather Cons:

-PU leather will not last very long

- It does not bend well

- PU Leather will crack and peel over time

- PU Leather does not develop a patina

Does PU Leather Peel?

Real leather does not peel, chip or flake. While it may just be an unstable finish or after-market paint that is flaking away, more often, peeling leather is actually a cheap polyurethane (PU) synthetic called faux leather.

How do you prevent PU Leather from cracking?

In such areas, the PU leather starts cracking and becomes sticky. Therefore, regular cleaning and maintenance is very important. When required, PU leather should be dusted with a dry or slightly damp lint-free cloth.

Is PU Leather as good as real leather?

PU leather is made from synthetic polymers, which are created by adding plasticizers, colorants, and oils to a polymer resin.

There is no question that real leather is better than PU leather. Real leather not only looks better, but it is also more durable. Real leather is also full of character and will age beautifully. PU leather, on the other hand, is not as durable and will crack and peel over time.

The main advantages that people see with PU leather are lower cost, ease of maintenance, and the ability to have the leather look and feel of various types of animals. The biggest downside of PU leather is that it won't last as long as real leather, because it is not made from natural animal hide. It will also likely have much less of a vintage look, which is a big part of the reason people are buying leather, to begin with.

How to Clean PU Leather?

When it comes to most stains, you want to choose a gentle detergent for the fabric first. Some of the stronger cleaners can actually damage the fake leather! For specific spills such as coffee or juice, it's best to clean with a mild detergent and sponge off when you're done.

- In a spray bottle, mix about a tablespoon of detergent with enough water to fill the bottle.

- Shake vigorously

- Spray the mixture onto a clean towel.

- Wipe up the stain.

- Gentle scrubbing can be applied to more serious stains.

What is Genuine or Real Leather?

The Helka Backpack | Genuine Vintage Leather Backpack

Real leather is crafted from animal skin, which in our case is cowhide, and must be tanned to avoid decomposition and become usable leather.

It can last a long time and generally gains a nice texture as it ages. If given proper care, an accessory made of this material can last between 10 and 20 years. Genuine leather is difficult to tear or puncture and is also much more breathable and humidity-resistant than most artificial leathers, which can begin to crack and warp in just a few years. And also, unlike synthetic leather, some genuine leathers have hypoallergenic features, which means they repel certain allergens.

The maintenance of leather is a little more complicated than that of PU leather. You can clean leather with soap or water over using a damp cloth, but if it gets stained with oil or sweat you will need a special leather cleaner. Genuine leather may need a leather conditioner applied from time to time to keep it supple, or it will become stiff or brittle. This is because the natural oils in leather dry out over time.

What are the Benefits of Genuine Leather?

Is it really worth the additional money to acquire an authentic product over the numerous counterfeit options out there? Exactly what are the advantages of purchasing real products? Besides their remarkable sturdiness, here are a few of the reasons many people choose the real deal over more affordable faux choices:

- Genuine Leather is water-resistant

- It has breathability to it

-The timeless nature of the look of real leather will never go out of style

-Genuine Leather is much more durable as a material and will stand the test of time.

-Genuine leather ages beautifully

Types of Leather

There are many benefits to using real leather. True leather tends to be more durable than other materials and is much more resistant to wear and tear. The reason for this is the natural oils in leather, which help keep the leather flexible and strong. This also gives real leather an elegant look that is difficult to achieve with other materials like vinyl or plastic. Pure leather also tends to age beautifully, giving a unique look to whatever it is made into.

Vegan Leather

Vegan leather is also known as synthetic leather or PU Leather or PU leather vegan. While real leather is made from animal hide, vegan leather is made from either plastic-based materials or nature-based materials. Although vegan leather, looks similar to genuine leather, it is so much different than the latter.

Faux Leather

It looks like leather, it feels like leather but is it real leather? From its name, faux leather is not leather. Conclusively, “faux” is a French word that means “fake”. Therefore, faux leather is fake leather. Many also refer to it as leatherette and/or vegan leather. Since it is fake it is, therefore, inferior to real leather products. It does, however, have its advantages. Get to know the advantages and disadvantages of faux leather as we go along.

Faux leather is considered vegan leather since it does not use any real animals in the process. Many therefore use fake leather as a cruelty-free alternative to owning accessories such as handbags and furniture. It is however important to consider the environmental concern that pvc leather brings. Since the making of fake leather involves a plastic base such as PVC, many raise its ecological impacts. There are however many brands that produce fake leather that is innovating to keep the ecological impacts low.

Bonded Leather / Bicast Leather

Bonded leather is a combination of leather scraps, shredded leather, leather leftovers, and a bonding agent (typically plastic). It is then pressed into sheets that can be used as is for upholstery or to be made into finished leather goods. The use of bonded leather has been controversial for many years. While it is cheaper, easier to produce, and closer to the look and feel of actual leather, it is not considered real leather by many people. The primary reason for this is that the bonded leather is not an original part of the animal, but rather a manufactured material that can lack durability and often looks different from real leather. It is also sometimes referred to as split leather.

Top Grain Leather

Top grain leather is the second-highest quality of leather among all leather types. This excludes faux leather since faux leather is technically not leather. Furthermore, among all leather types top grain leather is probably the most commonly used. This is because among all other types top grain leather offers a pristine look.

Full Grain Leather

Full grain leather is the best among all leather types. Moreover, only the highest quality of animal skin can be made into full-grain leather. This may also be the reason why full-grain leather is expensive and that is because of its quality.

Just like top grain leather, full-grain leather comes from animal skins. Full-grain leather however will not go through the sanding, burning, shaving process. Therefore it is safe to conclude that full-grain leather is made of the entire thickness of the grain. Likewise, the scars, grains, pores, and other textures are left intact. Steel Horse Leather only uses full grain leather in our products.

What Leather is Best for Bags?

Full grain leather is the toughest and best leather for you leather bags. It will not only last a long time but it will age beautifully, developing a gorgeous Patina.

Differences Between PU Leather and Real Leather

Now, let's list the most important features of each, and compare.

Strength and durability

What is PU Leather? PU Leather vs Real Leather: Which one is better? (3)

The Calder Backpack | Handcrafted Leather Backpack

Being this the biggest difference between them, despite both types of leather have a very similar texture, the leather made with PU material is usually thinner, which means that it has less durability as it can be torn more easily and unlike real natural leather, the PU leather tends to crack and bend over the course of a few years.

Resistance to sunlight

The Bjarke Weekender | Handcrafted Leather Duffle Bag

On the other hand, PU leather is more resistant to the sun's rays than animal leather, which is why it is often used for couches, armchairs and for car and motorcycle seats.


What is PU Leather? PU Leather vs Real Leather: Which one is better? (5)

The Dagny Weekender | Large Leather Duffle Bag

While PU leather has a greater variety of thicknesses, colors, and textures than traditional leather, and often has brighter finishes. It is also easier and more convenient to maintain, with cleaning requiring only the occasional wet cloth, while animal leather tends to dry out and always needs care to prevent deterioration.


Although PU leather is more breathable than other synthetic leathers such as the PVC, it is much less breathable than genuine leather.


While PU leather will always maintain the same feel and appearance, genuine leather tends to become softer and way more attractive over time.


One of the reasons, perhaps the main one, why people are choosing PU leather over genuine leather or full grain leather is that the first one is significantly cheaper. This is the most effective way to find out if the product you are buying is made of one material or another. Even so, if you are doubting, you only have to look at the composition that should appear on its label. However, if you're looking for a lasting experience that you can wear practically all the time, more comfortable and with a more classic look, real leather is your best option by far. We have partnered with many online companies to provide discount codes .

Which one do you think is better? If you're on the team of full grain leather, either because you are a big fan of its vintage look or you are in the search of things that last forever, you should put an eye to the backpacks below!

What is PU Leather? PU Leather vs Real Leather: Which one is better? (6)

What is PU Leather? PU Leather vs Real Leather: Which one is better? (2024)


What is PU Leather? PU Leather vs Real Leather: Which one is better? ›

PU leather, also known as synthetic leather, is a synthetic version of real leather. It looks like real leather and has the same feel and appearance but it doesn't hurt animals in any way. However, it does not last nearly as long as real leather and will begin to crack over time.

Is PU leather better than real leather? ›

PU leather tends to be more flexible, breathable, and softer to the touch than PVC leather, another common type of faux leather, making it closer in feel to real leather. However, both are less durable than genuine leather. Environmental Impact: Both materials have their environmental concerns.

Which is better, PU or synthetic leather? ›

PU fabric has a shiny surface and is soft to the touch. However, this synthetic material will not last as long as faux leather. Pu leather wear down much easier, the top layers begin to crack and tear. Faux leather is a much better quality lamination which lasts considerably longer and rarely becomes warped or cracked.

How long does PU leather last? ›

PU leather furniture designs generally last between three to five years. It depends on how much you use your furniture and how well you care for it rather than how long-lasting the products are. If you invest in a good quality PU leather chair and clean it every three to six months, it will last about five years.

Which type of leather is best? ›

Full-grain leather is considered the highest quality, and is left in the most natural state: It is not split at all, and consists of the entire top layer of the leather. It is durable, and maintains many of the natural characteristics and inconsistencies of the leather.

Does PU leather crack easily? ›

PU leather also is less flexible. That can cause cracking and tearing over time, which means a shorter life than you'd get with genuine leather. The color can fade, too, although you'll get more color options than what's available with real leather.

Do luxury brands use PU leather? ›

Once deemed as a major fashion faux pas, fake leather is now considered a luxury material by fashion brands and consumers alike. This explains the increasing use of leather alternatives by big brands like Hermes, Adidas, Lululemon, Gucci and Stella McCartney to name a few.

How to tell PU leather from real leather? ›

Feel the Fabric

Genuine leather is typically soft, slightly stretchy, and has a grainy feel. Hold a piece in your hand, it will warm with your body heat, and real leather is always flexible. Faux leather feels cold, plastic-like, and it will not stretch.

Does PU mean fake 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.

How can you tell the quality of PU leather? ›

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.

How do you keep PU leather from cracking? ›

One of the most effective ways to prevent cracking of PU leatherette chairs in humid environments is to use a dehumidifier. It can help remove excess moisture from the air, reducing the risk of damage to the synthetic leather. Be sure to set it at an appropriate level to prevent the air from drying out too much.

Can you stop PU leather from peeling? ›

If you're looking to prevent your faux leather from peeling, there are a few things you can do. You should clean it regularly with a mild soap, avoid getting it wet and keep it out of direct sunlight. With proper care, your faux leather will last for years.

Does PU leather smell like real leather? ›

Faux leather usually smells like vinyl and chemicals, while real leather has this distinctive fragrance of leather and animals. It will be helpful to check the smell of real leather and faux leather on a regular basis.

What is the lowest quality leather? ›

In a class of real leather products, genuine leather products are the lowest in quality. These products are made from leftover leather after the high-end products are made.

What is the highest class of leather? ›

Full Grain Leather

Full grain is the longest lasting, highest quality grade of leather available. It holds the pattern of the animal's skin and has a soft, natural look and warm feel. Because it comes from the top layer of the cow's hide, full grain leather is stronger and more breathable than others.

What type of leather is 100% leather? ›

If it's real leather, it will proudly say so. If you see “100% leather,” “full-grain leather,” “top grain leather,” or “genuine leather,” you're headed in the right direction. (Learn more about the different types of leather).

Is PU leather cheaper than leather? ›

The advantages of Pu leather are that it is much cheaper than genuine leather, more durable, easier to maintain, and more resistant to water damage.

How can you tell real leather from PU leather? ›

Press your finger into the leather - the surface will stretch and wrinkle a bit, like skin. How to spot fake leather: When you run your fingers across faux leather, it feels cold and unnaturally even. Also, when you press your finger into the surface, it doesn't act like skin.

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