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PU Leather: Is It Really Vegan?


PU leather, also known as polyurethane leather, is quickly becoming more and more popular as a substitute for genuine leather. One of the reasons is because it’s considered to be a vegan alternative to real leather. But is it actually vegan? How do you know what you’re getting?

Read on to find out everything you need to know about PU leather, from how it’s made, to if it’s actually vegan and how to clean it.

What Is PU Leather?

PU leather, also known as polyurethane or synthetic leather, is an imitation of genuine leather made from polyurethane, which is a plastic that has a similar look and feel to real leather. PU leather is usually made by applying a cover of plastic polyurethane or a polyurethane coating to a base made of fiber (usually polyester).

PU leather offers many benefits. Firstly, it is much less expensive than genuine leather. It also doesn’t absorb water, which makes it very easy to clean. PU leather can be made in a variety of colors and styles and doesn’t dry out over time.

Is PU Leather Actually Vegan?


The answer to this question depends on what type of PU leather you’re talking about. 100% synthetic PU leather is considered vegan, as it is made entirely of synthetic materials. However, not all products that contain PU leather are vegan.

Why aren’t all PU leather products considered vegan? Some PU leathers are made from a base of genuine leather and have a polyurethane coating painted on top. This is called “bicast leather,” and it is not vegan, as it contains real animal hide.

Bicast leather is made to combine the benefits of PU leather and genuine leather. Genuine leather is durable and considered luxurious, while PU leather doesn’t absorb water, doesn’t dry out over time, and is more resistant to sunlight. Painting a PU coating on top of genuine leather can help make it more durable and extend its lifespan. However, this can lead to confusion for vegan customers who don’t want their products to contain any leather.

If you’re looking for genuine vegan leather, look for a product that says “100% synthetic PU leather” or is labeled vegan. Avoid any products labeled “bicast.”

PU Leather vs. Genuine Leather

There are a variety of differences between PU leather and genuine leather. Each type has both pros and cons.

One of the main reasons PU leather is more desirable is that it is vegan (provided it’s not bicast leather). People who follow a vegan diet and are against eating or wearing animal products prefer PU leather because no animals are harmed during its production process. PU leather is also much lighter than genuine leather, it doesn’t absorb water, and it is much more resistant to sunlight. PU leather can also be manufactured in a variety of colors and styles, it doesn’t dry out over time, and it’s more sustainable, as it doesn’t require as many resources to make.

Sometimes, though, it’s not as breathable and can be more prone to tearing.

How To Identify PU Leather

The major identifier of PU leather is price. PU leather is far less expensive than genuine leather. If you notice a leather product that seems much cheaper than it should be, there’s a good chance it’s made from PU leather. This is because PU leather requires far fewer resources to make and can be made much more quickly.

Another identifier you can use to tell the difference between PU leather and genuine leather is the smell. Genuine leather will smell natural and earthy.

You can also perform a water test to determine if leather is genuine or PU. Take a small section of the leather and blot or drop a small amount of water on it. Genuine leather will absorb the water, and PU leather won’t. However, you shouldn’t perform this test on a piece of leather you don’t already own, as water can be damaging to leather. Only do this if you’re trying to decide if a leather item you’ve already purchased is real.

If you’re experienced with leather, you may also be able to identify the difference between PU and genuine leather by sight. Genuine leather will have some imperfections and will have genuine grain. PU leather will have an almost perfect, patterned look. However, to the naked eye, they’re going to look pretty much the same.

How To Care For PU Leather


It’s important to care for PU leather and clean it regularly. It should regularly be dusted with a dry or slightly-damp lint-free cloth.

If you happen to stain PU leather, you’ll want to clean it with a gentle detergent. Some stronger cleaners can actually damage fake leather. For spills like juice or coffee, it’s best to clean with a mild detergent and sponge off when finished. To do this, mix about a tablespoon of detergent with a cup of water in a spray bottle. Shake vigorously, then spray the mixture onto a clean towel. Wipe up the stain, and scrub gently if necessary. Remove excess moisture with a sponge.

Try to avoid placing sharp or abrasive objects near your PU leather items, as they may puncture or tear it. If you really want to keep your PU leather items looking their best, you can invest in a specialty PU leather conditioner. This keeps your products feeling soft and looking brand new.

Is All Faux Leather PU Leather?

While PU leather and faux leather are commonly used as interchangeable terms, they are slightly different. Faux leather can be made from a variety of different materials, so not all faux leather is PU leather. Faux is the French word for fake, so faux leather is any type of synthetic leather. PU is short for polyurethane, the plastic material that PU leather is made of. Faux leather can be made from a variety of different materials, not just polyurethane.

The two primary types of faux leather are PU leather and polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC or vinyl leather. Vinyl synthetic leather has been made in the US since the 1940s and was initially used for products like shoes, automobile interiors, and upholstery. In the late 1950s, chemical companies began experimenting with polyurethane products, and PU leather was invented.

PU leather and PVC leather have slightly different properties and are used for different purposes. PU leather is softer, more flexible, and more breathable, so it’s used for wearable products like jackets, pants, and shoes. Vinyl leather is often ideal for products that need to repel moisture, such as book bindings or cases for electronic devices.

PU leather can also sometimes contain real leather as a base, so not all PU leather is faux leather.

What Is PU Leather Used For?


PU leather can be used for almost any purpose that genuine leather can. It can be used to make clothing, furniture, shoes, bags, tools, and much, much more.

Since PU leather isn’t as sensitive to sunlight and doesn’t absorb water, it’s often used to make office chairs. Chairs such as the all33 Backstrong are made from PU leather because it’s vegan, cruelty-free, and doesn’t require as much maintenance as genuine leather. Plus, it can be made in a variety of colors, patterns, and finishes.


PU leather is a great alternative to genuine leather because it’s not as sensitive to sunlight, doesn’t absorb water, is less expensive, and it can be made in a variety of patterns, colors, and finishes. Many people prefer to purchase products with PU leather because it’s considered a vegan alternative to genuine leather. However, this isn’t always 100% true.

When purchasing PU leather, make sure it’s labeled 100% synthetic and doesn’t contain any actual leather. Some PU leathers are made with a base of genuine leather. This is done to reap the benefits of both genuine leather and PU leather and is usually called bicast leather. Bicast leather is not vegan, so make sure to read the labels carefully.

To learn more about all33’s chairs, visit us online here. Our chairs are ergonomically designed to support the spine, increase flow of blood and oxygen, and provide relief from neck and back strain. Plus, our Vegan Leather Backstrong is made from 100% cruelty-free materials. For more articles on lifestyle and health topics, such as ergonomics and how to relieve back pain, visit our blog.

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