If you’ve ever read or heard that a piece of furniture was made with pu leather, you might be wondering what exactly pu leather is. You might also be wondering how pu leather stacks up next to bonded leather, genuine leather, or faux leather when purchasing a leather office chair. All of these products are different materials, but they all have their pros and cons, which you can learn more about in our comprehensive blog post on real vs bonded vs faux leather.
This blog post covers more details on pu leather, also known as “bicast leather”. So let’s dig into the question, “what is pu leather?”
What is PU Leather?
Pu leather is also known as bicast leather or split leather. Pu leather is short for polyurethane leather because the coating on this leather is made with polyurethane. So, what is polyurethane vs leather and how is the polyurethane applied to leather? The polyurethane coating is embossed on top of vinyl leather to look more like real leather that has been aged. It does have a layer of real leather in it, but the layer of leather has been split (hence the name, split leather) so the layer of real leather is thinner than with genuine leather. It was originally made for the shoe industry, but it was then adapted into the furniture industry.
The benefits of pu leather are that, due to its split backing with a polyurethane coating, it is more economical that 100% genuine cow leather. It also has a smoother, even grain which makes it easier to clean.
The main disadvantage is that, due to the thinness of the leather and the polyurethane coating, the material does not hold up for as long as 100% genuine leather. It’s prone to tears or the polyurethane coating from peeling away from the leather backing after a few years. It is also prone to color transfer onto clothing or other pieces of fabric.
PU Leather vs Bonded Leather
Bonded leather goes through a different manufacturing process than pu leather. In bonded leather, remnants of real leather pieces are finely ground together. They are then applied to a paper backer. A polyurethane coating is then applied to the top of the layer of leather remnants, and it is then embossed to give it a leather texture. The key difference between the process of making pu leather versus making bonded leather is that the bonded leather is made with remnants of leather.
The benefit to bonded leather is that, like bicast leather, it is more affordable and easier to clean than genuine leather. It also doesn’t retain temperature as much as genuine leather. This means that on days when the sun is hitting the couch, or on days when the house is cold, bonded leather will adjust temperatures more quickly and will not absorb the heat from a particularly hot sun. However, also like bicast leather, it is not as durable as 100% genuine leather.
PU Leather vs Faux Leather
The short answer is that pu leather is a type of faux leather. Polyvinyl Chloride is another type of faux leather, but this is rarely used in leather furniture making.
PU Leather vs Genuine Leather
100% genuine leather is made completely with cow hide. It can sometimes be dyed, or it can be left natural. Of all of the options, it holds up the best over long periods of time. It even develops a patina that many people prefer as it ages. The major drawback is that real leather is more costly than most faux leathers.