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Comparing PU & PVC Leather

15th Feb 2014

Comparing PU & PVC Leather

Faux leather, is a general term describing artificial materials used to imitate genuine leather. Produced from a range of substances like PU and PVC, faux leather serves as a cost-effective and great substitute for real leather in upholstery, fashion, and accessories.

Though PU & PVC are often used interchangeably, each one has its own characteristics and properties. Let's explore the key differences.


PU, is created by applying a layer of polyurethane to a fabric base, which mimics the appearance and texture of a genuine leather.

PVC, also known as vinyl leather, is produced by applying layers of polyvinyl chloride onto a fabric base. This resin, usually in fine-grained powder form, is mixed with a variety of additives and modifiers, chosen based on the intended use and performance requirements of the end product. For example, UV modifiers help prevent color fading due to sun exposure.

Key differences

Base Material: PU leather is created by coating a fabric or non-woven base material, while PVC can be applied onto a wide range of base materials such as fabrics, non-woven textiles, and other supporting substrates.

Softness and Flexibility: Compared to PVC, PU tends to be softer, more flexible, and malleable. It often provides a more natural, softer feel and resemblance to genuine leather.

Stain and Wrinkle Resistant: Due to larger holes (more porous) on its surface, PU is more susceptible to collecting and absorbing stains and other undesirable particles. In contrast, the absence of pores in PVC renders it stain and wrinkle resistant.

Air Permeability (Fabric Breathability): PU leather offers greater breathability than PVC leather, allowing air to pass through - exhibiting relatively high moisture vapor transmission. This characteristic makes PU beneficial for products in the clothing and fashion industry.

Durability: While PU is prone to increased wear and tear over time due to its porous nature, PVC's multi-layer construction enhances its durability, making it resilient against harsh weather conditions and abrasion. Thus, PVC is suitable for high-traffic and intensive use environments.

Water Resistance: PVC leather exhibits excellent water resistance compared to PU, effectively repelling moisture. This makes it an ideal option for environments prone to spills or water exposure, such as marine, restaurant, or outdoor settings.

Environmental Impact: In general, the production of PU is typically regarded as having a lower environmental impact compared to PVC. However, PVC’s durability can be considered an environmental benefit. Since it lasts longer, less energy and resources are expended to make and install replacements.

Appearance and Textures: While PU leather is limited to replicating different types of leather textures and finishes, PVC can also replicate wood and fabric patterns. Therefore, PVC vinyl provides a more diverse selection of colors, patterns, and textures to accommodate different preferences.

Maintenance: PVC is relatively easier to clean and maintain. Typically, wiping with a damp cloth can effectively remove dirt or spills from PVC.

Cost: Since PU tends to be more expensive due to its close resemblance to genuine leather, PVC provides a more budget-friendly option for upholstery, considering its customizable nature and ability to meet specific feature and specification requirements.

Suggested Applications: PU leather is preferred for wearable apparel and the fashion industry, while PVC leather finds extensive use in the footwear and furniture sectors.

Additionally, PVC leather is well-suited for various high-traffic seating and upholstery projects, including:

1) Indoor uses (automotive, trucking, RVs, gyms, dental offices),

2) Outdoor/Marine uses (outdoor theaters, stadiums, boats), and

3) High-traffic zones (restaurants, hospitals, schools, casinos, hotels, office spaces).

Making the final decision

When selecting faux leather for your project, consider its functionality and traits. Opt for PU leather for a genuine leather-like appearance. Alternatively, choose PVC leather for durability, affordability, a wide selection of colors and patterns, and a distinct customized aesthetic.

Alternative terms

Faux Leather also known as Synthetic Leather, Imitation Leather, Artificial Leather, Leatherette & Pleather