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Is PU Leather Durable? – Factors in Appearance and Strength 

Many types of faux leathers are available today thanks to synthetic materials and plastics, and how they are put together greatly impacts their durability. PU leather is an example of durable faux leather, and I will discuss the factors that contribute to its appearance and strength.

PU leather is durable faux leather made from polyurethane. Created in the 1950s, PU leather is strong, water-resistant, and maintains shape. PU leather is frequently used to make shoes, bags, clothing, and upholstery at a more affordable price than real leather.

Are you in the market for new leather shoes but don’t want to pay the real leather price? Do you want a faux leather jacket but are unsure if PU leather is durable enough? Let’s explore the durability of faux leather and the factors that affect its appearance and strength.

What Is PU Leather?

PU leather is faux leather made from polyurethane, a synthetic material, and a type of plastic. Made of a genuine leather fibrous layer or a fabric base and coated with polyurethane, PU leather is a faux leather frequently used to make shoes, bags, clothing, and upholstery.

Several types of PU leather include bonded, imitation, and vegan. PU leather can be either full-synthetic or semi-synthetic, with full-synthetic forms considered vegan and sustainable. PU leather works well for regularly used items like:

  1. Shoes
  2. Bags
  3. Furniture
  4. Jackets
  5. Car interiors
  6. Clothing
  7. Belts
  8. Wallets
  9. Jewelry and other accessories

What We’ll Explore

  • Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
  • History of PU Leather
  • PU Leather Durability Overview Table
  • What Makes PU Leather Durable?
  • Is PU Leather More Durable Than Real Leather?
  • Is PU Leather More Durable Than Other Faux Leathers?
  • Is Pu Leather More Durable Than Bonded Leather?
  • My Personal Research Into the Durability of PU Leather
  • Helpful Insights on the Durability of PU Leather
  • Key Takeaways
A Brown PU Leather Wallet and Watch Band - Is PU Leather Durable - Liberty Leather Goods
A Brown PU Leather Wallet and Watch Band

Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions

A common misconception about PU leather is that it is waterproof. Because PU leather is made with plastic, it tends to be more water resistant than real leather but is not impervious. Another misconception is that PU leather is the most durable faux leather because it is used to make high-use items like shoes.

PU leather may be durable but is not necessarily the most durable of faux leathers. One more myth about PU leather is that it is vegan. While there are several different types of PU leather, only 100% PU leather is considered vegan because it is entirely synthetic, whereas others may not be.

History of PU Leather

Faux leather first came about early in the 1900s. It was made of paper pulp or cloth coated with pigments and chemicals to create a leather look. During the second World War, leather was rationed, so the production of faux leather increased and started being used in vehicles and furniture.

Polyurethane was invented by Dr. Otto Bayer in the 1940s and was used for shoe soles, adhesives, protective coatings, and insulation. PU leather became an additional alternative in the 1950s, as other faux leathers were developed at the beginning of the 20th century. It has become a commonly used material because of its versatile, recyclable, and multifunctional properties.

PU Leather Durability Overview Table

Water resistancePolyurethane gives PU leather a very high level of water resistance, but it is not waterproof.
FlexibilityPU leather does not have as much flexibility as real leather due to the plastic but is relatively flexible.
Temperature extremesPU leather can have a sticky feel at increased temperatures and even melt, but it withstands low temperatures without damage.
CoatingPU leather is better at maintaining its shape due to its polyurethane coating.
Popular usesShoes, purses, jackets, clothing, furniture, bags, vehicle interiors, and more.
PU Leather Characteristics

What Makes PU leather Durable?

PU leather is durable thanks partly to the synthetic materials used to make the faux leather base. This includes materials like cotton, nylon, and wool, increasing strength and flexibility. It may also contain up to 20% genuine leather, known as semi-synthetic, depending on which type of PU leather it is.

PU leather is also effective at resisting cold temperatures; however, its coating can give a sticky feel at increased temperatures. This type of faux leather will melt at very high temperatures, so one should be careful around temperature extremes with PU leather. Its coating is very effective at helping PU leather maintain its shape over time and with frequent use, making it very durable.

Is PU Leather More Durable Than Real Leather?

PU leather may be strong but is less durable than natural leather. According to research published in Advances in Functional Polyurethanes by Saiqi Tian, PU leather has excellent strength, is resistant to abrasions, is a tough material, and is fairly flexible compared to real leather. PU leather is also not a breathable material like natural leather, making it less comfortable. 

Real leather will not peel or crack like the polyurethane coating of PU leather. However, because of the polyurethane coating, PU leather is much more water-resistant than real leather. However, repeated exposure to moisture over time can affect the polyurethane coating and contribute to cracking and peeling.

PU leather is a durable, affordable alternative to real leather.

Is PU Leather More Durable Than Other Faux Leathers?

PU leather is less durable than many other types of faux leather except bonded leather. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) leather is highly durable; however, sileather is the most durable because it is made from silicone. A new type of faux leather called vegetable oil leather is being tested and could be more durable than PU leather. 

Plastics in faux leathers make them more water resistant than real leather; however, consistent exposure to water without proper care can affect their durability. Waterproofing with spray or cream can help further protect faux leathers and make them more durable.

Is PU Leather More Durable Than Bonded Leather?

Bonded leather is scraps of leather and polyurethane applied to a backing made of paper. This means PU leather is much more durable than bonded leather. Bonded leather is also a type of PU leather, just to confuse things! Bonded leather is coated in polyurethane; however, its durability is much less than other PU leathers because of the nature of its composition.

To learn how to care for faux leather properly, check out this helpful video from eHow at Home channel. 

My Personal Research Into the Durability of PU Leather

PU leather is considered durable, but how durable is it really? I researched and found some frequently used PU leather items and how long they typically last with regular use.

PU Leather ItemLifespan
Shoes2 years
Purse1–2 years
Jacket2 years
Backpack1–2 years
Chair3–5 years
Couch3–5 years
Vehicle interior5 years
How Long PU Leather Lasts

Helpful Insights Into the Durability of PU Leather

How durable is PU leather?

PU leather is very durable partly because of the plastic that it is made from and coated with. This makes the material more resistant to moisture than real leather. It has some flexibility and maintains its shape better than genuine leather, making it a great material for often-used items like shoes and purses.

Is PU leather more durable than real leather?

PU leather is not more durable than real leather. It does have some advantages over real leather in that it is much more water resistant and can be made either entirely out of plastic or with a leather base material. The plastic in PU leather will likely crack with use and time, which is a disadvantage over genuine leather. It is still a great leather alternative for shoes, bags, furniture, and more.

Key Takeaways

  1. PU leather is a durable, affordable alternative to real leather.
  2. PU leather is an excellent leather alternative for shoes, bags, furniture, and more.
  3. PU leather may contain up to 20% genuine leather.

In Closing

There are many types of genuine and faux leathers, and PU leather can be an excellent choice for many applications. It has a high durability level, is more affordable, and can be considered sustainable and vegan in some cases. When it comes down to it, PU leather is a quality material that can last for a fairly long time.

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