PU Leather vs. Real Leather: Pros, Cons, and Telling the Difference

When it comes to making bags and many other products, there are a few different materials you can use. One of the most popular ones though is leather. Leather is capable of making many types and styles of bags including crossbody bags.

Apart from genuine leather though, there are alternatives that are currently available. An alternative we’ll be looking at is PU leather.

So, which one should you choose? Here’s a look at the pros and cons of each type of leather, as well as some tips you can use to tell the difference between them.

Understanding PU and Real Leather

PU leather is a man-made material that’s often used to make fashion accessories, like purses and shoes. PU stands for “polyurethane,” which is a type of plastic made from oil. It is a totally artificial leather material that can be used to make vegan leather bags.

This type of leather is made when certain parts of cowhide are taken and a layer of polyurethane is put over it.

PU leather has become popular in recent years because it’s inexpensive, lightweight, flexible, durable, moisture resistant, easy to clean, and looks much like real leather when it’s dyed properly.

It’s also an eco-friendly alternative to real leather because PU doesn’t use animal products or require harmful chemicals for dyeing the material.

Real leather is the more traditional choice of material for making bags and other accessories. It’s made from the skin of an animal, most commonly cowhide.

Real leather is tough, durable, and can last for many years with proper care. It also has a natural shine and feel that PU leather can’t replicate.

How to Tell the Difference Between PU Leather and Real Leather

It can be tricky to tell the difference between PU leather and real leather at first glance, but there are a few ways to tell which one is which. Here are a few tips:

  • Look at the material itself. PU leather is typically a lighter color and has a more plastic-like feel than real leather. Furthermore, the look of real leather has an imperfect grain to it. PU leather on the other hand will look perfect and smooth.
  • Feel the material. PU leather is typically softer and more flexible than real leather.
  • Check for signs of wear. PU leather is less likely to show signs of wear and tear over time than real leather.
  • Smell the material. PU leather has a chemical or plastic smell to it. This smell is not present in real leather.
  • Do the water test. Take note that it is not advisable to do this to products that aren’t yours. When PU leather is exposed to water, it will not absorb it, while real leather does.

Pros of PU Leather

PU leather is a popular choice for leather accessories and bags because it’s inexpensive, lightweight, and durable.

The durability is due to the polyurethane that coats the leather. Products made from PU leather will last quite a long time. Even as the years come and go, it tends to not show any cracks or wear and tear easily.

At the same time, PU leather’s versatility can allow manufacturers to use it for a variety of styles and colors.

It also has a natural look and feel that many people prefer over real leather. Many others though prefer the look of real leather. Like a fine wine, it ages with time.

One of the biggest pros of PU leather though is the price. PU leather is a very affordable material to procure or manufacture. This affordability also extends to the products made from PU leather.

At the same time, PU leather is 100% vegan. For those that lean towards the vegan lifestyle, PU leather is the material to choose.

Finally, in terms of sustainability, PU leather takes the cake as well. Since PU leather uses less resources overall to make, it is more sustainable as time goes on.

Pros of Real Leather

Real leather is the traditional choice for making bags and other accessories because it’s tough, durable, and has a natural shine and feel.

Real leather will always be the classic choice. It is like a black tuxedo and is always in style. As such, it constantly evokes a timeless style.

Another upside to real leather is how environmentally friendly it is. While many people see real leather as something that isn’t good for the environment, when compared to PU leather, the carbon footprint is significantly lower.

At the same time, the staying power of real leather means that products will be used for quite a while, reducing the footprint altogether.

Products made from real leather usually come in various shades of white, black, and brown. It is a breathable material that have special creams that can be applied to maintain it and prevent any damage from accumulating.

Which Type of Leather Should You Choose?

Knowing the various attributes of both PU and real leather are important, especially if you are purchasing or creating leather products. The question now is, which type of leather should you choose?

If you’re looking for an affordable, lightweight, and versatile alternative option that still looks stylish, PU leather might be right for you. If you’re looking for a tough, long-lasting material that will withstand heavy use, go with real leather.

If you are also interested in how we create our products, you can read about how we make our leather bag kits.

Whichever type of leather you choose, be sure to take care of it properly to prolong its life.


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  • Alice Harrington

    You confirm my choice of “real” leather. Several years ago, I had to ask what “microfiber leather” was [for a reading device]. The answer I was given was, “Leather made from microfiber.”
    I bought a “genuine leather”case, with which I was very pleased.

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