Faux leather is simply another name for synthetic leather. There are numerous faux leather products in our homes today – like faux leather sofas, leatherette (or clothing) and Koskin, which is another name for faux leather consumer goods.

There are two types of materials used to make faux leather. Polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (otherwise known as vinyl leather or PVC).

Difference between PU and Vinyl faux leather

Both types of leather are used to make clothing and upholstery, although one compound is preferred over the other. For example, PU fabrics tend to be breathable, softer and more flexible than vinyl faux leather. This makes PU more preferred for clothing items over vinyl. Vinyl on the flip is ideal for products that repel moisture, like cases for electronic gadgets.

Polyurethane upholstery

PU upholstery are known to be more comfortable and breathable to the skin. The material is made by coating a fabric like cotton with a flexible polymer, and it’s then treated to make it look and feel more like animal leather. When stitched or gathered, it actually wrinkles like real leather. There is no cracking or peeling since there isn’t any plasticizer used in the process, making sure it remains soft and supple for the time it’s on the furniture or clothing item (often used in faux leather leggings or faux-leather jackets). The PU faux leather is also easier to decorate than vinyl faux leather. This close feel to real leather makes it more preferred and thus more expensive than vinyl faux leather.

Vinyl upholstery

Vinyl upholstery are constructed from strong polyester fiber, and then coated with PVC and plasticizers. The vinyl is melted onto the surface of the fiber, sealing them entirely hence making it waterproof. The vinyl faux leather is still tough and flexible enough to be used as a “leather” fabric. Vinyl upholstery are fairly easy to clean and maintain, since they don’t require special care. Caution should be exercised, however; the vinyl will get too hot when left in the sun or hot temperatures. Since it isn’t breathable, it will feel clammy and uncomfortable against the skin and can even lead to a “hot seat” – the awkward situation where you feel like you are sitting on a pre-heated iron. Vinyl also peels and cracks with use. Due to it’s more plastic nature, it’s ideal for furniture with high traffic, like in hospitals or restaurants. It’s also much cheaper than PU faux leather.

Waterproof quality

As realized, polyurethane upholstery will not repel water as effectively as vinyl upholstery. Due to the plasticity of vinyl, water cannot penetrate through making it ideal for furniture where there is a high likelihood of getting dirt on them. They are also found on garments as decorative pieces, but will require special caring conditions for the garments as the vinyl pieces can’t tolerate machine wash and drying. Never attempt to use an iron box on any vinyl piece.

Polyurethane upholstery are far less waterproof but can tolerate a degree of moisture. The PU faux leather is best used in home furniture like couches and recliner chairs since they feel almost natural like real leather. Care is required during cleaning since it can easily rip when braised by a rough object, making it unsightly.