You may have gone to a furniture company to purchase a leather chair or sofa and may have been presented with similar items yet having varying prices. This difference in price boils down to the material of which they are manufactured, and an authentic leather bag, leather clothes, or anything leather naturally would cost more than an artificial one.
One of these synthetic leathers is PU leather, and there are many leather gloves, bags, leather chairs, and shoes made of PU leather, but you may not know it. You may even be told that the item is of genuine leather, but it is not. Although artificial leather-like PU leather may save you some dollars due to their low cost, you may have to replace it sooner than later as they are less likely to stand the test of time.
Since PU leather is not always easily distinguishable from genuine leather, it becomes imperative to know what PU leather is and how it can be identified.
What is PU leather?
PU leather replaces the leather invented at the start of the 20th century. It became a commercial product that spread in the 1960s through the improvement of production processes.
There are two main types of synthetic leather. The two kinds of synthetic leather are PVC and PU. PVC, also known as polyvinyl chloride, is a type of skin replacement made by adding plasticizers and dyes to PVC, which creates a flexible fabric with a more natural color.
PU, also known as polyurethane, is a widely used product that involves the use of cotton or polyester coatings with a polymer. This lining makes synthetic leather a much more breathable product.
After applying the coating, the PU skin is peeled off and treated to look like real animal skin, adding patterns of pores and dyes to show the required color.
Another name for PU leather is bi-cast leather. This type of material consists of a combination of polyurethane and leather or inferior polyurethane and a cotton backing.
PU leather was created for the fashion industry. The material was used to create shiny leather shoes.
PU leather was later adopted by the furniture industry and was used to make sofas, chairs, and upholstery.
PU skin is also known as a double layer or cracked leather. PU leather is the abbreviation for polyurethane because the lining of this leather is polyurethane. What is polyurethane against the skin, and how is polyurethane applied to the skin? The polyurethane coating is stamped on top of the vinyl skin to resemble real older skin. It has a genuine leather case, but the leather case has been split, so the real leather case is thinner than real leather. It was initially manufactured for the shoe industry but later adapted for the furniture industry.
What is PU Leather? ( YouTube Video )
PU leather vs. bonded leather
It is common to find bonded leather and mistake it for PU leather. The significant difference between PU leather and bonded leather is the method of manufacture. Whereas PU leather contains split leather within the polyurethane coating, bonded leather is manufactured by grounding together remnants of real leather and then applying to a paper backer, before covering with polyurethane.
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How to identify PU leather
If the tag on the leather furniture says anything like split leather, bonded leather, bi-cast leather, reconstituted leather, or PU leather, then it is merely not genuine leather. Genuine leather is made of animal hide and lasts far longer than any artificial leather, hence its higher cost. These are all qualities not possessed by PU leather, so when next you see a leather chair, leather couch, shoe, or bag bearing a price tag that looks too good to be true, then you likely must be in close proximity with PU leather.
Most leather bags, shoes, and furniture do not bear price tag, and so it becomes crucial for you to be able to tell the difference by sight, feel or smell.
PU leather typically has a characteristic plastic smell to it. The fact that PU is synthetic plastic produced chemically, the plastic and chemical smell can easily be spotted, especially when it is fresh out of the industry, and this smell is never on genuine leather made of animal hide.
As opposed to genuine leather, PU leather wears and cracks over time due to usage, revealing the material underneath. On the other hand, real leather feels even more comfortable and softer over time.
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Because of its plasticity, PU leather is expected to be water-resistant. You may want to do a water test on your leather shoe or furniture, but never do it if you are yet to purchase it. Genuine leather would naturally absorb water when wet.
By eyesight, you should be able to tell the difference between real leather and PU leather. Genuine leather always has a grainy look with imperfections here and there since it is natural to hide from animals. But PU leather will be cleaned and treated to have a perfect look and smooth finish. Trying to perfect an imperfect material such as PU invariably results in giving it a Duplicate look.
How to clean PU leather
PU does not respond well to conventional leather care treatment, and as such, a very different approach is required in maintaining PU leather. Typical leather care products do not penetrate Polyurethane coatings.
The waxes and oils used in maintaining good leather furniture and shoes would damage the polyurethane coating of PU leather because of its chemical-based structure. In this wise, regular cleaning is what PU leather requires for its maintenance.
To clean stained PU leather, add a little quantity of mild soap or detergent to the water and dip a clean, soft rag in the soapy water. Drain off the excess water by squeezing the rag to avoid over saturating the PU leather. Apply this soft wet rag on the stained part of the leather by wiping softly, after which a dry cloth should be used to wipe off the wetness.
PU leather furniture, bags, and shoes should always be dusted and cleaned using a slightly damp cloth don’t forget to use proper cleaner and conditioner. To ensure optimum protection for your PU leather chairs and sofa, apply Colourclock PU Protector on a soft cloth and use this cloth to wipe your furniture every 3 to 6 months gently.
There is relatively difficulty in removing deep abrasions and scratches from PU leather. Due to its flexible nature, PU leather can be heated around the scratched area, but this has to be done carefully so as not to damage your furniture as damaged polyurethane coatings can never be repaired. The only option would be either replacing the PU leather of the furniture or buying a piece of new furniture altogether.
PU leather is prone to deterioration in areas where they get in direct contact with skin and hair, which usually contain oils from creams.
Merits and demerits of PU leather
As unoriginal as PU leather is, it comes with some good sides. After all, whoever manufactures a useless product? There are many reasons why you may want to opt for PU instead of genuine leather, and these advantages are explained below.
- Due to the ease of manufacture, PU leather is generally less expensive than genuine leather. Polyurethane is a relatively cheap material, and this is reflected in the price of PU leather furniture, shoes, and bags.
- PU is water-resistant. In contrast to genuine leather, PU, which is a synthetic polymer, does not absorb water when exposed to a damp environment and so PU leather can never get damaged by water. This makes it very easy to clean and maintain.
- Being a plastic material, the surface of PU leather can be painted or made into a variety of colors and patterns, which may add aesthetic value to the leather couch, sofa, etc.
- PU is a much-preferred material than pure leather for sustainability because it requires fewer resources to manufacture.
- PU leather is entirely vegan. It has no cowhide in its build.
There are two sides to everything, right? The following are reasons why you should have second thoughts about purchasing PU leather.
- PU leather quickly wears, peels, and crack over time due to continuous usage. It has relatively low durability in comparison to the never-ending life span of genuine leather.
- It gets less attractive over time as opposed to real leather.
- PU leather can look synthetic and unoriginal.
- Plastic never really gets decomposed, and as such, PU leather furniture and wear are considered not eco-friendly.
- PU leather is not as resilient as genuine leather. The likelihood of getting scratched, torn, or punctured is much higher.
- This kind of leather isn’t breathable as genuine leather.
PU Leather FAQs
Question: Is PU leather real leather?
Ans: PU leather is very distinct from real leather. Real leather is made of hides gotten from animals, whereas PU leather is manufactured out of synthetic material known as polyurethane (from whence it derives its name PU).
To produce PU leather, a tiny layer of split leather is coated with polyurethane and then given a glossy look to make it appear as real leather. However, it is still deficient in all the qualities that make genuine leather. Although there are some types of PU leather, such as bonded leather and bi-cast leather, which contains fibrous leftover from natural animal hides, most PU leathers are vegan.
Question: Is PU leather any good?
Ans: Despite being considered as not top-notch real leather, PU leather has some benefits and may be better suited for low-income users. PU leather is typically less expensive, more comfortable to manufacture and maintain than real leather.
Question: What does PU leather stand for?
Ans: The “PU” in PU leather stands for “polyurethane,” a thermoplastic polymer substance composed of organic units joined by urethane (carbamate) links. Polyurethane is one of the most vastly used polymers today, and is used to simulate real leather. A PU leather is an artificial leather made by placing a layer of polyurethane coating upon a thin layer of leather. This thin layer of leather can sometimes be the leftover material from real cowhide.
Question: Does PU leather crack?
Ans: PU leather is just a polymer, a synthetic material just like your plastic bowl, and like your plastic bowl, it is prone to cracks.
Question: Is PU leather waterproof?
Ans: Yes. The waterproof nature of PU leather gives it an edge over real leather made of animal hide. When you furnish your home or office with PU couches and chairs, the fear of their getting damaged by water is eliminated. One could easily clean a PU leather shoe or sofa by wiping it with a wet cloth.
Question: How do you keep PU leather from cracking?
Ans: In areas where your PU leather sofa or chair gets in contact with skin or hair (containing oils), those areas begin to crack after some time. To prevent this cracking, wipe your PU leather regularly using a clean rag sprinkled with a Colourclock PU protector. By so doing, stains and oils would be removed, leaving the surface smooth, glossed, and preserved.
Question: Is PU leather terrible for you?
Ans: There are some downsides to PU leather; however, it is not all that terrible. PU leather can easily be prone to wear and tear if it is not appropriately maintained, less durable than genuine leather. Furthermore, its synthetic chemical smell makes it less breathable than real leather.
Are you considering getting leather bags, gloves, shoes for you or your loved one? Or perhaps, you need a new leather couch, sofa, or chair to redecorate your room, but you can’t because of money constraints? Then you should consider going for PU leather.
PU leather is simply an artificial material made of polyurethane coating, manufactured to serve as an alternative to genuine leather.
Although there are many similarities in the physical appearance of these two, there is a thick line between PU leather and genuine leather. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative to real leather, or something more vegan and colorful, then PU becomes the best choice for you.
But if you desire to get a piece of long-lasting leather furniture or property that will stand the test of time, then you should always avoid PU leather or any other type of artificial leather. Some vendors may not tell you the difference and may try to con you, but you would know PU leather from genuine leather from the appearance, texture, and smell.
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