PU Leather Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

You may know what leather is, but do you know how it differs from PU leather? Read on to learn the meaning of PU leather.

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If you’re on the hunt for good-quality leather products, you may find it a bit challenging to distinguish between real leather and artificial leather. 

You may have a rich taste and only want genuine leather or prefer to go the cheaper (and vegan!) route to opt for artificial leather — such as PU leather. That said, what exactly is PU leather? We’ll tell you.

Read on to get the scoop on PU leather and its qualities. By the end of this post, you should better understand what PU leather is and what it isn’t.

What Is the Definition of PU Leather?

Plain and simple, the PU in PU leather stands for polyurethane. So, PU leather stands for polyurethane leather. Polyurethane is a long-lasting, durable, and flexible polymer which has made it a prime candidate for leather alternatives over the past few years. 

While polyurethane is still used for things like the insides of tunnels, coating roofs, or industrial flooring, this artificial man-made chemical mix has continually gained popularity as a leather substitute over the past couple of years. 

Many speculate this is partly due to its durability; however, for most, it’s a much better alternative to leather in regards to ethics and sustainability.

Fun Fact: PU leather in its true form is 100% vegan, as it is just a blend of varying artificial chemicals. That being said, the term PU leather is also used regarding split leather. 

Split leather uses the leftovers or scraps of the conventional leather production, which are then coated with polyurethane — so it is always best to check the label of your product to ensure what you’re purchasing!

What Is PU Leather?

Here is where things can get a little tricky if you are not adequately informed. Luckily for you, we have the inside scoop on all things PU leather. The definition of PU leather is not necessarily black and white in that two kinds of leather are often referenced as PU Leather:

  • 100% PU Leather — This is 100% artificial leather made of thermoplastic polymer, and since it contains zero animal skin, it is considered vegan.
  • Split Leather — This is formed by taking the leftover parts of a cowhide that were left behind when making genuine leather and coating them with a layer of polyurethane over the top.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Associated Terms

There are several names for PU leather. Whether you’re hoping to avoid artificial leather or purchase it on purpose, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the many monikers that can mean artificial leather. 

In addition to PU leather, artificial leather can be called:

  • Bicast Leather
  • Bonded Leather
  • Reconstituted Leather
  • Corrected Grain Leather
  • Split Leather
  • Imitation Leather
  • Faux Leather
  • Vegan Leather
  • Leatherette
  • Pleather

Simply put, the best synonym for PU leather is synthetic leather. 

Now that you know some of the synonyms, let’s take a look at the antonyms — below, you’ll find a list of antonyms for the word PU leather:

  • Genuine Leather
  • Real Leather 

We’ve also included an additional list of terms that you can study to help widen your understanding of PU leather:

  • Polyurethane Coating
  • Polyvinyl Chloride
  • PVC Leather
  • Polymer
  • Animal Hide
  • Patina

How Is PU Leather Identified?

By now, you know that PU leather is simply pleather — or artificial leather — but how is it identified? What are the characteristics of PU leather? Here are some of them:

  • Chemical Smell
  • Uniform grain texture finish
  • Plastic odor
  • Glossy surface
  • Lacks breathability

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of PU Leather?

On the fence about PU leather? Check out some of the advantages and disadvantages of this increasingly popular leather listed below. 

Advantages of PU leather:

  • Inexpensive due partially to it being easier to manufacture.
  • Considered by most to be more ethically sound.
  • Easier to clean than the original as it does not absorb water.
  • While it does not absorb water, it also does not dry out over time.
  • Far superior in terms of sustainability compared to genuine leather, requiring one to use far fewer resources to make.

Disadvantages of PU leather:

  • Not breathable.
  • Confusing at times since not all PU leathers contain leftover leather and, in turn, are not vegan.
  • Some feel it is more ethically sound however some argue it is just as bad as plastics do not decompose, making it not the most eco-friendly.
  • It may be easier to tear or puncture.
  • Many enjoy the patina or luster that real leather develops over time, and PU leather cannot obtain this same look.
  • Often can appear fake, man-made, or synthetic.
  • Can smell chemically made or plastic.
  • It does not last as long as its genuine counterpart. 

Bottom Line

To nip it in the bud, PU leather is the abbreviation for polyurethane leather and is a type of fake leather. 

Whether you’re searching for water-resistant leather furniture, new upholstery for your living room, or a type of faux leather with good breathability, always check the tags of leather products to determine what type of leather you’re purchasing. We now know that there are many types of leather, including natural leather and leather made of synthetic material — like PU leather!


  1. PU Leather versus Real Leather: What’s the Difference Between the Two? | Access 2 Knowledge
  2. Vegan Leather | VeganFriendly.org
  3. The Lowdown on Leather: the Good, the Bad, and the Surprising Alternative Leather Options | Because Health