What is PU Leather?

What is PU Leather?

Apr 12th 2023

“PU leather” is an acronym for “polyurethane leather,” a popular upholstery fabric product.

While most customers are familiar with “real,” or “genuine” leather, not everyone knows how to identify the polyurethane version.

First off, PU leather is not actually leather. It’s an artificial leather-like product that is made of a thermoplastic polymer. A thermoplastic polymer is essentially a plastic that becomes malleable or flexible at a certain temperature.

The major use for PU leather is in upholstery, apparel, and footwear. The fabric is extremely pliable and its outer layer resembles that of genuine leather products so designers can achieve that natural leather look at a much more affordable price point.

Some key benefits of PU leather include:

  • Affordability - because of its manufacturing process, PU leather is much, much more affordable to work with than real, genuine leather.
  • Durability - PU leather is extremely durable, much more so than natural fiber upholstery fabrics or even genuine leather
  • Malleability - PU leather can come in an array of thicknesses so it's often very easy to work with
  • Colorways - PU leather can be dyed or have different patinas so you can achieve a wide range of colors and styles without damaging the leather
  • Sustainability - due to the manufacturing process, PU leather is a much more sustainable byproduct compared to genuine leather as it utilizes much fewer resources and puts less strain on the environment
  • Water-resistant - unlike genuine leather, PU leather is extremely water resistant so it can withstand more exposure to moisture

More Common Questions (and Answers) About PU Leather

To help our customers understand a bit more about polyurethane leather, we’ve compiled some of the most common questions we get about PU leather below.

What is PU leather made of?

As mentioned above, PU leather is made of a “thermoplastic polymer,” which is a plastic that becomes flexible at a certain temperature. Thin layers of plastic are assembled together to form a sheet of PU leather. With a finished polyurethane leather product, there is a fabric or polyester backing applied to the plastic outer layer that gives it a super soft hand and a leather-like appearance.

Is PU leather vegan?

Due to its manufacturing process, PU leather is a vegan product, meaning it utilizes no animal byproduct in its creation.

Is PU leather toxic?

If purchased from a reputable manufacturer, PU leather does not represent any danger of exposure to toxins. During the manufacturing process, chemicals that are toxic to humans are used to create the PU leather, but those are no longer present by the time the fabric is ready for distribution.

Is PU leather real leather?

PU leather is not real leather, but a leather-like plastic product. 100% PU leather doesn’t utilize any genuine leather, however there are hybrid products that are made of both PU leather and real leather called bicast or bonded leather.

Is PU leather durable?

Yes, PU leather is highly durable. Due to its manufacturing process it is water-resistant, UV-resistant, and can withstand much more wear and tear than real, genuine leather.

Does polyurethane leather peel?

High quality PU leather is manufactured in a way that it should not peel by normal wear and tear alone. Some types of PU leather are made with low quality products, so you may end up with peeling if you’re working with cheap polyurethane leather. But if you buy from Decorative Fabrics Direct, you won’t have to worry about peeling.