Going vegan means more than ditching meat, dairy, and seafood (can vegans eat jellyfish?) from your diet. It means putting an end to all forms of animal-derived products, which include your stationery items to your wardrobe. Leather is one of the most widely used animal-derived clothing materials, which must be completely avoided from your buying list. Wearing leather means wearing the skin of a cow, which is an epitome of cruelty.
No worries as there are alternatives available, which are as good in quality as the original leather. The quality of clothing and upholstery materials ultimately matter when you are choosing vegan alternatives to silk and leather. PU leather or synthetic leather makes a perfect alternative to original leather since there are many brands that manufacture quality products with PU leather. But, is PU leather vegan? or Is PU leather made from animal? Let us quickly check by analyzing its production process.
PU Leather – Vegan or Not?
What is PU leather? – PU stands for polyurethane, which is basically a type of polymer or plastic. The PU leather we find in the market is processed from polyurethane, a type of plastic. This material is quite easy to mass-produce and is given the shape of products like shoes, bags and jackets. You can check out these very good vegan combat boots and vegan UGG Boots for yourself.
Though the most common use of polyurethane is PU leather, it is also widely used to make mattresses, car parts, insulation, and more. Though apparently, the brands claim PU leather to be vegan, the PU leather you buy might not turn out to be 100% vegan always and we will discover how.
Is PU Leather Vegan?
Yes, PU Leather is vegan. But sometimes the real leather products are coated with polyurethane and are sold as vegan alternatives as the shopkeepers or brands try to sell the products with the message that no animals were harmed. So, you need to carefully choose genuine PU leather products only.
For this, you can look for a tag of 100% synthetic on the product. Generally, the products with ‘100% synthetic’ tags are the ones you can consider 100% vegan. Also, these products are quite cheaper as compared to the products made from original leather.
How is PU Leather Made?
PU leather is made from superior quality polyurethane and then formed into different products. This is why it is much cheaper than the original leather. The leather-like texture and sturdiness of this material are making it popular among the big merchandise producers all over the world.
Besides making stylish clothes and merchandizes with PU leather, the designing industry also uses PU leather as a protective coating for other materials like cotton or polyester, which are prone to wear and tear. The protective coating improves its quality and lifetime. Also, it adds a glossy leather-like finish to these fabrics, making them look flawless and expensive.
Ways to Spot Vegan PU Leather Products
While looking for a vegan PU leather product, you can easily get confused. However, there are different ways to spot vegan PU leather products. The first trick is to check the product tag and see if it is mentioned as ‘100% synthetic’. When the brand mentions it as ‘100% synthetic’, you can rely on it.
Also, there are some vegan-friendly brands that consciously put the vegan label on their products, which makes your work easier. You can only rely on products that ensure the material is completely made of synthetic leather. Also, you need to carefully avoid the PU-coated leather, which is definitely not vegan.
PU Leather vs PU-Coated Leather
As we already know, PU leather and PU-coated leather are two different items. Starting from their materials to their production process, everything is poles apart. PU-leather is something that is completely made out of a synthetic material named polyurethane.
It is cheaper in price and safe for vegans. The quality might vary depending upon the quality of polyurethane used in the process of PU leather. On the contrary, PU-coated leather is something that has a coating of polyurethane on original leather. This one contains animal skin leather and is not recommended for you if you are vegan.
PU Leather vs PVC Leather
PU leather is not the only alternative to original leather. PVC is another type of synthetic leather, which is apparently quite similar to PU leather fabric. Yet, there are differences that you can spot very easily. It is made by combining polyvinylchloride with stabilizers, plasticizers, and lubricants.
Hence, it is heavier in weight than PU leather. Also, it is not as breathable as PU leather. On the flip side, PU leather tends to crack and flake quite easily and quickly. Hence, is not as durable as PVC. Research shows that in humid weather, PVC makes a better option.
How to Differentiate between PU and Real Leather?
Looking at the label easily shows you whether you’ve found a PU leather product. There are other ways to differentiate them as well. You should know these differences in general when you are switching to vegan-friendly products.
- Smell: The first difference is how they smell. Real leather has a very strong odor while PU leather usually smells like plastic.
- Feel: You can hold real and PU leather side by side to understand how different the feel is. PU leather has a distinct synthetic plastic-like texture as compared to the skinny real leather.
- Color: Real leather naturally comes in very specific colors like black, brown, and white. Though it can be colored, the variations are limited. PU leather, on the other hand, can be easily dyed. You can find it in almost any color imaginable.
- Price: Leather products are always luxury items and the prices are very high. PU leather is mass-produced from polymer and therefore, is much cheaper.
Is PU the Best Vegan Leather Alternative?
PU leather is a material for many products like jackets, car seats, chair covers, handbags (check our list of the best vegan designer bags), vegan wallets, belts, shoes, coats, and the list goes on. You can find fashionable merchandise made out of this exclusive material. With a variety of color and texture, it makes one of the best materials for fashion enthusiasts. However, when it comes to quality, you should be careful.
Durability: We have already discussed the difference between PU and PVC leather. If you consider durability, PU is perhaps not the best option. You need to replace the regular PU leather items more frequently than PVC leather.
Environmental and Health Impact: Another downside is that PU leather has a negative impact on the environment. Polyurethane is ultimately a plastic material, which makes the production process of PU leather harmful for the environment. Chemicals like hydrogen sulfide and ammonia are also used during the production process, which can cause significant health issues in humans like skin rashes, breathing problems, and chest tightness. There is also a negative impact on animal life and the environment.
However, there are natural alternatives to synthetic leather worthy of your consideration, which is rare and expensive.
So, Is PU leather vegan? – It depends, only the 100% synthetic PU leather is vegan.
Although PU leather is not the best for the environment, it is at least less harmful than original leather. Breathable, cheap, and flexible, PU leather makes a perfect alternative to original leather. When it comes to spotting 100% polyurethane leather, you already know the best tricks.
Considering all its upsides and downsides, you can shop for PU leather items that are absolutely vegan-friendly. While looking for the best PU leather items, it is important to know about the brand as well. The quality of the product mostly depends upon the brand, price, design, production facilities, and various other aspects.