The two most common kinds of synthetic leather are Polyurethane (PU Leather) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC Leather), as we have discussed here (link to previous article). Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, PU and PVC are actually different in many ways.

Let’s breakdown the structures of both types. As they are man-made, PU leather and PVC leather do not come from animal skins. PU leather consists of a split leather backing, topped with Polyurethane coating that gives the fabric a finish similar to natural leather, with similar flexibility too. PVC leather, or sometimes simply called Vinyl, is made out of fabric leather backing, topped with a foam layer, skin layer and then a plastic based surface coating.

 PU Leather, PVC Leather, Synthetic Leather

The Differences

Structure. As previously explained, PU leather and PVC leather differ in their structures. PVC has more layers underneath its coating, making it tougher and more durable. PU, on the other hand, has less layers, making it more pliable and flexible to work with. PU can even wrinkle and stain like natural leather would while PVC can stand more extreme wear and weather condition.

Breathability. Due to its foam layer underneath its surface coating and skin layer, PVC leather is much less breathable than PU. This gives PU leather the advantage when it comes to being the preferred material for wearable clothing items. However, since PU leather has more pores on its surface, this gives PU leather the risk of absorbing stains and other unwanted particles. This is why most upholstery uses PVC leather instead.

Durability. PVC’s multi-layer structure and lack of pores, as compared to PU leather, makes the material more durable than PU leather. This is why PVC leather is mostly used in upholstery and footwear. Utilising PVC leather could result in additional product lifetime as well.


Which One to Pick?

By now you have gained all the information you need to differentiate between PU and PVC. But how do you decide which material to use? The answer to that is simple: pay attention to your product’s functionality. Does it need to look realistically leather-like? Go for PU. Will you need it to be pliable and flexible? Go for PU. Do you need it to be durable and not have it look too similar to natural leather? Go for PVC.

Either way, synthetic leather is the perfect substitute for natural leather. Not only do they come in realistic leather-like finishes, they are also durable and helps you cut down production cost. To learn more about synthetic leather, click here.

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