The Difference Between REAL Leather Furniture and PU Leather

Recently, we’ve seen the market flooded with so-called “leather” furniture with “too-good-to-be-true-pricing.

Upon closer examination, we discovered that furniture manufacturers, in their quest to meet the markets leather demands, have come up with a way to mix leather with plastic or other materials and have the audacity to call their furniture covering “leather.”

When checking the required furniture tag, we found that even though the furniture was advertised as made of “leather,” the manufacturers tag identified the covering as “bicast leather, split leather or PU leather.  Call it what you want folks, but these products are NOT leather.

What is PU Leather?

PU leather is an artificial leather material made with split leather (that’s the fibrous part of the hide left over from making genuine leather products) which has been coated with polyurethane and then applied to the surface of the furniture.

At first, it might be difficult to tell the difference between PU leather and genuine leather, after a couple of years you’re sure to notice which is the inferior product.  PU leather is also used in the manufacture of belts, jackets, shoes, and pocketbooks.  Genuine leather will last for many years, whereas artificial leathers will start to break down relatively quickly.

Next time you’re shopping for leather furniture, handbags, etc. here are a few ways to tell genuine leather from its chemically-treated substitute.

4 Ways to Spot PU Leather

First, you should check if it’s labeled. Take a look at the tag and walk away if it says any of the following:

  • Bonded Leather
  • Bicast leather
  • Split leather
  • Reconstituted leather
  • PU Leather
  • Corrected grain leather

But if you don’t have the benefit of a label, here are a few other ways to spot this knock off.

It smells like plastic or chemicals. If it’s a product fresh out of the package, you’ll be able to smell the adhesive right away. This smell eventually goes away, but there is no mistaking that overpowering scent of glue and plastic.

Fake leathers wear over time.

There’s no mistaking that genuine leather gets better over time. It feels softer and looks more comfortable? That’s not the case with PU and other “fake” leathers.  Fake leathers will wear, crack and expose the fabric beneath it very quickly, depending on usage.

These counterfeit leather products are cheaper. If you’re thinking, this is too good to be true—It probably is. If you’re stoked to find a cheaper alternative to genuine leather, you’ll end up paying for it later. Plus, quality genuine leather furniture does not have to be that much more expensive than the faux leather, just go online and search or visit your local furniture retailer’s clearance section.

The product looks fake. Real leather has those subtle imperfections that give it character, and you can feel and see a genuine grain to it. PU and other knock-off leathers look synthetic, almost like it’s a picture of leather, rather than the real thing.

Tru-Clean Surface Care is a Certified Partner with the prestigious Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) and the International Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI).  In addition, we are A+ Rated with the Better Business Bureau and a six-year-in-a-row-winner of the coveted Angie’s List Super Service Award.

Annually we clean, hydrate, protect and restore hundreds of pieces of leather furniture for our clients, including museum pieces, commercial and office furniture, as well as comfortable sofas, easy chairs, and other leather textiles.  Our certified technicians use quality, top-shelf leather lotions, and protectors, and regularly receive manufacturer and industry training on the best ways to care for all leather textiles.

If Tru-Clean Surface Care can ever be of service for your leather cleaning needs, please visit us online at or call us any time at 239-541-4888.