Home Randomness What is PU Leather: The Difference Between PU Leather and Leather?

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You’ve probably heard of pleather and faux leather, but what are PU leather, bi-cast leather, or any of those other leather replacements? For that matter, what exactly is leather? And what’s the difference between PU leather and leather and faux leather and pleather and all those others?

What is Leather?

Leather is a flexible, hardy material made from the tanned hides of animals. The most frequently used animal hide for this is cattle. Leather is used in a variety of goods which includes footwear, clothing, furniture covers, and in bookbinding.

What is the Process of Making Leather?

The process of making leather is a manufacturing process which is divided up into three distinct steps, with an optional fourth step. These three steps of leather making are called preparatory, tanning, and crusting. The last optional step is called surface coating, however, not all leather is subjected to this final step.

Preparatory Step

In this first step of making leather, the animal hide itself is prepared for tanning. Included in the preparations are:

  • Liming
  • Hair removal
  • Bleaching
  • Degreasing
  • Pickling


This is a process which helps to stabilize the proteins of the raw hide so that it does not begin to rot and putrefy. A properly tanned hide will become flexible and does not become putrid if it becomes wet again. There are a variety of methods by which tanning can be done.


In this process, the leather is thinned, re-tanned, and lubricated. Most often this step will also include a coloring process. The end of this step will also include drying and softening operations.

Surface Coating

A final, and optional, step is called surface coating. This step is also sometimes called the finishing process. This can involve polishing, oiling, glazing and other methods.

What is PU Leather?

PU leather is a leather substitute that was invented in the early 20th Century. It became a widespread commercial product in the 1960s because of a refinement of manufacturing processes.

There are two main types of synthetic leathers. The two types of synthetic leathers are PVC and PU. PVC – also known as polyvinyl chloride – is a type of leather substitute that is made from adding plasticizers and dye to PVC which creates a flexible fabric in a color that is more natural.

PU – also known as polyurethane – is a much more widely used product that involves the use of coating cotton or polyester with a polymer. This coating makes the synthetic leather a much more breathable product for wear.

After the coating has been applied, the PU leather is taken and treated to make it look like real animal leather by adding pore patterns and dye to make it look like the required color.

Another name for PU leather is bi-cast leather. This kind of material is made of a combination of polyurethane and low-grade leather, or polyurethane and with cotton backing.

PU leather was originally created for the fashion industry. The material was used to create glossy patent leather shoes.

Later on, PU leather was adopted by the furniture industry, and has been used to make things like leather sofas, chairs, and ottomans.

What is Vegan Leather?

Vegan leather is a buzz word that has been taken up by the fashion industry in recent years. Vegan is a term to describe a product that does not contain any animal product or byproduct in it.

In most cases, there are few, if any difference between most artificial and vegan labeled leathers outside of the terminology that is used to describe them. There are two types of leather that use plant fiber in their product, these are vegan and lorica. These are made from a microfiber.

Comparing Leather to PU Leather

There are many qualities that set regular leather apart from PU leather. For instance, normal leather is made from animal hide that is treated with chemicals and is very durable – approximately lasting from ten to fifteen years if it is properly maintained and kept up.

PU leather is not as durable as genuine leather and is made from plastic. Due to the lengthy process that goes into creating it, real leather is considered a luxury item and is priced much more expensively than PU leather.

Another thing which sets PU leather apart from normal leather is that PU leather is non-biodegradable. This means that PU leather will not rot like normal leather and PU leather will spend several centuries slowly decomposing.

The Basic Difference Between PU Leather and Leather

What is PU leather? It’s an artificial leather-like product made to substitute for genuine leather, which is made from animal hide. It can be used for fashion, book-binding, and furniture. Not all PU leather is vegan leather, however, so if that matters to you, check out the label for the list of materials used to create the product you’re interested in.

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Rob Davis

Rob started writing from a young age. In high school, he was the editor-in-chief of a magazine he created with his best buddies. With a degree in Political Science, he is now an expert in political behavior and international organizations. When he writes, Rob constantly considers how to provide the best answers to historical dilemmas people might have in mind. He is a knowledge seeker and a very organized person. In his spare time, he enjoys the company of his friends and family. He also has three dogs begging for attention. If puzzled by his posts or want to share your ideas, please do not hesitate to contact him by simply leaving a comment.


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