Leather is a luxurious fabric that is great for many things, from shoes to car interiors, but it’s not within everyone’s price range. Thankfully there are worthy alternatives with a similar look but are more affordable — but what’s the difference? In this article, I will discuss PU leather vs. faux leather, a fun comparison that will prepare you to make an informed choice.
PU leather vs. faux leather is the comparison between the two leather types. Both are comparable to real leather in look and feel and are commonly used for shoes, clothing, furniture, and more while offering a lower price tag than real leather. However, the main difference is how they’re made.
Are you looking for a new leather couch but are unsure if you should choose PU or faux leather? Did you know there are dozens of different types of faux leather? Let’s explore the difference between these leather types to understand better which one might be right for you.
What Are PU Leather and Faux Leather?
PU and faux leather are materials that mimic real leather and can be used to make shoes, clothing, jackets, furniture, vehicle interiors, and more. PU is polyurethane, which is a type of faux leather. Other types of faux leather include:
- PVC or polyvinyl chloride
- Other plant materials
What We’ll Explore
- Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
- History of PU Leather vs. Faux Leather
- PU Leather vs. Faux Leather Overview Table
- What Are the Differences Between PU and Faux Leather
- Types of PU Leather
- Types of Faux Leather
- Is Faux Leather Better Than Real Leather?
- Characteristics of PU Leather
- Characteristics of Faux Leather
- Uses for PU and Faux Leather
- Pros and Cons of PU and Faux Leather
- My Personal Research Into PU Leather vs. Faux Leather
- Helpful PU Leather vs. Faux Leather Insights
- Key Takeaways
Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions
Many people think that PU and faux leather are waterproof. While some forms of faux leather may be mostly waterproof due to the plastics used in creating them, they are considered more water-resistant than real leather. It has also been said that PU and faux leather are not durable. It is true that faux leather is not as durable as real leather, and there are PU leathers that are very durable.
PU and faux leather are popular choices for clothing, shoes, bags, and furniture.
History of PU Leather vs. Faux Leather
Faux leather was first discovered centuries ago in Egypt. It was created from paper pulp and used to make many items and accessories instead of real leather. Then in the United Kingdom, in the 1900s, researchers created a new type of faux leather.
It was cloth coated with pigments and chemicals and then embossed for a more durable faux leather that could be used for furniture and car interiors. PU was later invented in 1963, and PU leather was created shortly after.
PU Leather vs. Faux Leather Overview Table
|Average lifespan 3–5 years
|Average lifespan 10–15 years
|Average lifespan 30–100 years
What Are the Differences Between PU and Faux Leather
The difference between PU and faux leather is how they are made. Faux leather tends to be more durable as PU leather will show cracks and wear faster. Both have surface coatings that protect and add durability. Faux leather is not prone to damage from sunlight, while PU leather has less resistance.
Types of PU Leather
PU leather consists of several different types, each made from a different type of real leather base. This includes bi-cast, corrected-grain, and split-grain. These types are all coated with polyurethane for durability.
- Bi-cast is split leather
- Corrected grain is split leather sanded for imperfections
- Split-grain uses the fibrous portion of the hide
Types of Faux Leather
In the pursuit of creating suitable alternatives to real leather, many different types of faux leather have come about. Some have been around since the 1960s, while others are as recent as the 2020s. The older and more common types are polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which are types of plastic. Most recently, people have been coming up with more eco-friendly faux leathers using plant materials like:
- Apple waste
- Pineapple leaves
Is Faux Leather Better Than Real Leather?
The comparison of faux leather to real leather is easy to make, especially for those looking for eco- or animal-friendly products. Some faux leathers mimic the real deal very well and can make it difficult to discern which is real and which is faux.
In terms of price, faux leather is much more affordable. Durability, however, there is not much of a comparison because real leather is the most long-lasting. So in terms of whether faux leather is better than real, it all boils down to personal preference.
Characteristics of PU Leather
PU leather is often made with a split leather or fibrous base of real leather, which is covered in polyurethane. This plastic gives PU its name and can be used instead of real leather in clothing, bags, shoes, and more.
The split leather base gives PU leather a great deal of durability. The PU coating gives it further strength against scratches and stains. PU leather is perfect for heavy-use items, including shoes, furniture, and vehicle interiors.
PU leather is flexible and soft, comparable to real leather when it is brand new. Over time, PU leather maintains softness, while real leather will soften more.
PU leather is highly water resistant due to the plastic coating; however, it is susceptible to water damage with repeated exposure.
PU is considered a versatile material due to its wide range of applications. It can be used in various industries and for various products, including:
- Phone cases
The price of PU leather varies by brand and item, but it is more affordable than real leather. On average, 1 square yard of PU leather costs approximately $25, while real leather is closer to $100.
Characteristics of Faux Leather
Faux leather is made from synthetic fibers, including nylon and natural fibers like cotton. Its base material is cotton or polyester with a type of plastic added, which is used to coat the materials for strength.
Faux leather is fairly durable because of the fibers and plastic used. It is strong and resistant to abrasions and scratches.
Faux leather is very soft, softer than PU, and comparable to real leather. Like PU leather, it will maintain its softness and flexibility over time.
Faux leather can have varying levels of water resistance based on the specific type and quality of the material. Some faux leather products may be treated with coatings or finishes that make them more resistant to water or spills.
Faux leather is a great choice for clothing, purses, footwear, pet accessories, furniture, and much more due to its affordability and durability.
The price of faux leather will vary depending on the quality of the material used to make it. However, faux leather is generally priced similarly to PU leather and ranges from $10–$25 per square yard.
Watch this helpful video from PPE lab for an interesting comparison between genuine leather and faux leather.
Uses For PU and Faux Leather
PU and faux leather are versatile and very useful in practical applications. They have different levels of durability based on their materials, and their uses include the following:
- Vehicle interiors
- Phone cases
Pros of PU and Faux Leather
PU leather has several benefits that contribute to its popularity as an alternative to genuine leather. In fact, researchers Hafez and Hassan discovered that environmental impact is important to consumers, and PU and faux leather fit that bill.
Here are some other pros of PU and faux leather:
- Easy to care for
- Water resistance
Cons of PU and Faux Leather
While faux leather, including PU leather, has advantages, there are also some potential downsides to consider.
Here are some of the cons associated with PU and faux leather:
- Less breathable than real leather
- More of a plastic feel and can stick to skin, especially when warm
- Less durable finishes
- Fading and dullness will occur over time
- Peeling and tearing with wear
- Shorter lifespan than real leather
- Less natural aging
My Personal Research Into PU Leather vs. Faux Leather
So how do PU and faux leather compare in cost, durability, and uses? I have researched and compiled this information into a table for easy reference.
|$25 square yard
|Lasts 3–5 years
|Furniture, vehicle interiors, fashion accessories
|$10-$25 square yard
|Lasts 10–15 years
|Shoes, clothing, bags, furniture
|Lasts 30 + years
|Shoes, clothing, bags, vehicle interiors, furniture
Helpful PU Leather vs. Faux Leather Insights
Is PU leather better than faux leather?
There are advantages and disadvantages to both faux leather and PU leather. Some PU leathers are made from real leather backing, making them higher in quality and durability, but they are not vegan products. Faux leathers, in many cases, are vegan products, but depending on how they are made, they can be less durable with wear.
Is PU leather a faux leather?
PU leather is a type of faux leather and is made to mimic real leather. Other types of faux leather include PVC, vinyl, and those made from plant materials, including apples, pineapples, cacti, and more. Faux leather is a term used to encompass different types of simulated leather made from all types of materials.
Is PU leather good quality?
PU leather is good quality when it is made from quality materials. It begins with a backing of split leather and a polyurethane (PU) coating to make it resistant and durable with wear. As long as the backing and PU are high quality, the PU leather is considered good quality and can last.
- PU and faux leather are both suitable alternatives to real leather.
- PU leather is not vegan, while most faux leather is vegan.
- PU and faux leather are popular clothing, shoes, bags, and furniture choices.
PU and faux leather are great choices for real leather alternatives with many advantages. Ultimately, the decision is up to personal preference and the intended use. Both are eco-friendlier, easy to maintain, and more affordable than real leather. Which would you choose?