Welcome back, avid learners, to another illuminating chapter in the TODA LEARN series. In this installment, we embark on a profound exploration into the realm of PU leather. Join us as we demystify the complex production process, uncover its multifaceted applications, and conduct a balanced analysis of its inherent advantages and drawbacks.

A Glimpse into the History of PU Leather

Before we delve into the intricacies of PU leather, let's take a moment to appreciate its historical context. PU leather traces its lineage to the mid-20th century when the quest for sustainable alternatives to genuine leather gained momentum. This period of innovation and environmental consciousness led to the development of synthetic leather materials like PU leather.


PU Leather: A Material Overview

To begin our journey, let's unravel the acronym PU, which stands for polyurethane. This synthetic compound serves as the foundational building block for PU leather. Is it the primary objective? To authentically replicate genuine leather's aesthetic and tactile qualities, all while adhering to a more sustainable and ethical production ethos. PU leather, therefore, offers consumers the allure of leather without the moral and environmental dilemmas often associated with animal-derived alternatives.

Polyurethane, often abbreviated as PU, is a versatile and widely used synthetic polymer or plastic material. It is known for its durability, flexibility, and resilience, making it suitable for a wide range of applications. Polyurethanes can exist in various forms, including rigid foams, flexible foams, adhesives, coatings, and elastomers, and they are used in industries such as construction, automotive manufacturing, furniture production, insulation, and more.

Polyurethanes are formed through the chemical reaction between polyols and isocyanates. Depending on the specific formulation and manufacturing process, polyurethanes can exhibit a wide range of properties, from rigid and hard to soft and flexible. This versatility makes them valuable in creating a diverse array of products, from foam cushions and insulation materials to coatings and adhesives.

PU Leather Production Process

The process of manufacturing pu leather is now well established and used throughout the world, across multiple industries. This process uses a large amount of chemicals and in particular petroleum derivatives. The manufacturing process of PU leather is divided into 4 main steps:

  1. The first step consists of pouring a polymer solution on a paper base, covered with a layer of silicone. The mixture is passed between heated rollers to make it compact and uniform.
  2. The second step consists of pouring a second solution of polymer, with an emulsifier, or "riser", and then passing the whole in the oven, which makes swell the second layer of polymer.
  3. The third step consists of gluing on top of the 3 layers previously obtained, a layer made of a mixture of cotton and polyester, adding strength and solidity to the mixture.
  4. The fourth step consists of pouring a resin solution on the whole, before passing it under a press in order to recreate the natural texture and grain of real leather.


Source: Gurera, Dev & Bhushan, Bharat. (2018). Fabrication of Bioinspired Superliquiphobic Synthetic Leather with Self-Cleaning and Low Adhesion. Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects. 545. 10.1016/j.colsurfa.2018.02.052.

How many types of PU Leather?

Polyurethane (PU) leather, also known as synthetic leather or faux leather, comes in various types and forms. Some common types of PU leather include:

  • Standard PU Leather: This is the most basic form of PU leather. It is often used as a substitute for genuine leather in applications such as clothing, upholstery, and accessories. Standard PU leather can vary in quality and appearance.
  • Suede PU Leather: Suede PU leather is designed to mimic the look and feel of suede leather. It has a soft, velvety surface and is often used for items like shoes, handbags, and jackets.
  • Nappa PU Leather: Nappa PU leather is engineered to imitate the luxurious texture of Nappa leather, which is known for its softness and smooth surface. It is commonly used for high-end fashion items.
  • Vegan PU Leather: Vegan PU leather is produced without the use of any animal-derived materials. It is suitable for individuals who prefer cruelty-free and eco-friendly alternatives to real leather.
  • Microfiber PU Leather: Microfiber PU leather is designed to replicate the appearance and texture of genuine leather, particularly fine-grained leather. It is often used for upscale accessories and upholstery.
  • Embossed PU Leather: This type of PU leather has a textured surface that resembles various natural leather grains, such as crocodile, snake, or ostrich. It's popular for adding visual interest to fashion items.
  • Biodegradable PU Leather: As environmental concerns grow, some manufacturers are developing PU leather variants that are more eco-friendly and biodegradable, reducing their impact on the environment.

These are just a few examples of the types of PU leather available. The choice of PU leather type depends on factors like intended use, desired appearance, and ethical considerations.

PU Leather Applications

A standout attribute of PU leather lies in its versatility. Its adaptability transcends industry boundaries. In the realm of fashion, it emerges as the preferred choice for crafting clothing, handbags, upholstered furniture, and footwear, addressing both ethical concerns and aesthetic preferences. The automotive sector equally embraces PU leather, integrating it into interior designs due to its remarkable resistance to wear and tear. Beyond these domains, PU leather graces residential and commercial spaces as upholstery, bestowing an ambiance of sophistication.


Evaluating the Pros and Cons of PU Leather

As with any material, PU leather boasts a series of merits and demerits.

  • Pros:
    • Affordable Opulence: PU leather mirrors the opulence of genuine leather at a fraction of the cost.
    • Durability Defined: Its robust resistance to wear ensures that PU leather products stand the test of time.
    • Effortless Maintenance: Cleaning and preserving PU leather items is hassle-free, as it is less susceptible to staining.
    • Environmental Consciousness: PU leather, while not devoid of environmental impact, represents a significantly greener alternative compared to authentic leather.
  • Cons:
    • Limited Breathability: PU leather does not possess the same breathability as genuine leather, potentially affecting comfort in certain applications.
    • An Imitation: For purists, the distinct aroma and texture of authentic leather remain unmatched by PU leather.
    • Environmental Considerations: While more eco-friendly than genuine leather, PU leather production still presents environmental concerns.

In conclusion, PU leather emerges as an exceptional substitute for genuine leather, offering affordability, resilience, and environmental responsibility. Armed with an understanding of its strengths and weaknesses, you are equipped to make informed choices when incorporating PU leather into your projects. Whether your passion lies in fashion, interior design, or upholstery, PU leather stands as a reliable and versatile ally.

You can discover our Smart PU to elevate your interior! We always aim for SUSTAINABILITY, SAFETY, and INNOVATION in every product.

Stay tuned for forthcoming TODA LEARN sessions, where we delve deeper into the universe of materials, designs, and innovations, enriching your knowledge and creativity in the realm of furniture manufacturing.