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Things to Know Before Buying PVC Leather

PU vs PVC Leather – A Comprehensive Guide

Buying any leather is an arduous task where your mind is heavily involved because it is hard to guess which one is the real leather or the dedicated kind of faux leather. Especially when looking for a relatively more economical and cost-effective leather option, one is often directed to buy Polyvinyl or PVC leather.

A more similar option is PU leather, so it is even tough to decide on the actual PVC leather material. Below is an extensive guide that mentions every concern that might bother you while differentiating PU vs. PVC leather.

What Is Faux Leather Fabric?

Faux or imitation leather is artificial leather that was produced synthetically to feel the luxury of Real leather at an economical price. Also, it was made less water-absorbant and more weather-resistant than the actual one.

Various sorts of faux leather are available worldwide, which differ in their composition. Some are vegan, while others have fibrous bovine hide, fabrics, and polymers. Two of the most famous are PU and PVC leather.

History of Faux Leather

One of the earliest manufactured products was Prestoff (Faux leather), formed in the 19th Century during the war. It was mixed with paper pulp because of the scarcity of genuine leather and its ability for water absorbency.

After that, RExin was formed, which contains a fabric base, alcohol, chemicals, pigments, etc. It was subjected to meeting extreme weather conditions. Later, Poromerics were formed mainly with plastic polymers. Till now, most faux leathers had plastics like that of PVC leather.

What is PVC leather?

PVC leather is more widely used because it is pretty economical. The texture is formed by iron pressing while It is manufactured by altering the chemical composition of the Vinyl group.

To cater to the question of what is PVC leather? In its composition, the material contains some petroleum-derived plastics and vinyl resins. The Hydrogen group is replaced by chlorine, and this flexible plastic resin is then treated with some other chemicals to alter the texture, form, colors, and other effects.

PVC leather material is befitting for fashion and leather upholstery. This synthetic polymer is treated with many chemicals during its formation, and then the embossed design is formed by hot iron pressing. Once discarded, PVC leather becomes ecologically devastating stuff.

What is PU leather?

PU leather, more often called synthetic leather, is undoubtedly the most non-vegan kind of faux leather if it is 100% PU Leather. PU Leather is the preferred option for those who enjoy the luxury of leather in the affordable range. Unlike that, PVC leather has a shiny surface because of oil or wax coating and gives a vintage presentation.

It is made with a thermoplastic polymer, making it completely vegan, and no bovine hides are included. It contains three layers, I.e., a high tensile fabric base coated with Polyurethane and embedded with fabric in the middle. It has pores that make air permissible, contrary to PVC leather.

It is embossed with a similar grain pattern to real leather, and the fibrous part makes it more pliable. The fibrous part is often substituted with cowhide leftovers, making it non-vegan. It is termed biscat or split Pu leather.

The Differences between PU and PVC Leather

Though both of them are categories of Faux leather, there are a few differences that are mentioned below:

1- Texture and Presentation

PVC leather is made of Polyvinyl Chloride by substituting the Hydrogen group with chlorine. When analyzing the texture and appearance of PU Leather vs. PVC leather, Pu leather outshines with more tensile strength, mildness, torsion resistance, air permeability, and flexibility. It may get wrinkled or discolored with time, just like genuine leather.

On the other hand, PVC leather outperforms Pu Leather with its sun, water, along with air, heat, stain, and weather resistance. Its extra foamy layer prevents its surface and makes it more reliable. PU outperforms PVC in terms of torsion resistance, gentleness, tensile strength, and air permeability.


2- Breathability

Considering these factors, PVC leather material is quite detailed and has an additional foamy layer above its surface. These layers make it way less breathable than other faux leathers.

On the other hand, PU leather has pores and contains a maximum of 2-3 layers, making it quite breathable. Meanwhile, it is less breathable than non-vegan or real leather.

While seeing the usage of PU leather vs. PVC leather; Pu leather is used in wearable like jackets, shoes, etc., On the other hand, PVC leather is used primarily on upholstery and mainly on couches.

3- Structure and Durability

While seeing the structural side, PVC leather material has 3-4 layers. It is composed of a plastic-based surface, a skin layer, a foam layer, and a fabric leather backing, making it more robust. PU leather has high tensile strength fabric with Polyurethane coating, with fabric covering and pores, making it more breathable.

For centuries, bovine leather has been desired for its durability and long-lasting appearance. Likewise, PVC leather material contains:

● Multiple layers.

● Water resistance properties.

● Fewer pores.

● Good tensile strength.

● More durability than synthetic or PU leather.

PU Leather has pores and comparatively less water resistant capability. It can get stains, and washing can bother its permanency.

4- Effect on the Environment

As mentioned, PVC leather contains polyester or plastics and chlorine, non-biodegradable and hazardous to the environment. The chemicals involve taking centuries to dissolve.

PU leather is made of vegan polymer, sometimes mixed with non-vegan materials. So, it won’t release any dioxins or harmful chemicals and is relatively more environment-friendly.

5- Cleaning and Maintenance

As mentioned before, PU leather gets stained easily. Bags, wallets, jackets, shoes, and other wearables are manufactured from PU leather. It is pretty effortless to clean those stains as they are washable.

Here is a way to clean stuff made up from PU Leather:

● Take a wet towel and rub it over the stained part of the object.

● Now, use any fragrance-free soap or detergent and lightly rub it over the surface for 1-2 minutes.

● It’s time to remove it with wet paper again and let it dry to see the final results.

On the other hand, PVC Leather Material has an additional foam layer. That’s why it is used mainly for upholstery, and they don’t get stained quickly until it gets exposed to any loose tinted surface.

With time, you may need to clean it for maintenance as the products made from PVC leather last longer. Here is a way to clean its surface:

● Take a wet piece of cloth or towel and wipe the surface thoroughly.

● Now you have two options: rub the surface with baking soda applied over a moist towel, or use any Vinyl surface cleaner or vinyl protection products. It is because PVC leather material contains Vinyl in it.

● Wipe it off with wet paper or a towel, and you will get a seamless surface.

How to produce PVC leather?

PVC leather is manufactured in two unique ways. Let’s give it a read to see what PVC leather is and how it is formed.

1- PVC Leather production by Calendering way

● To proceed with this manufacturing, evenly mix the raw PVC and the pigments in ratio to form the desired color and solid shape.

● After that, coat the mixture on the fabric surface. This semi-finished material will form the base.

● This base material is sent to the foaming machine. It is a long production line with high temperatures to form foam here. The additional layer adds to the thickness of PVC leather. The width of this foamy layer has usually doubled the thickness of the base material.

● Then it comes to making color and design adjustments.

● After the end product is completely dried, it is ready to be crafted.

That is how you manufacture PVC leather with Calendering way.

2- PVC Leather production by Release-paper way

This procedure is specifically used when the manufacturers prefer to emboss any dedicated texture design. As the name reveals, it includes paper usage. The release paper is a unique paper with texture on its surface, and it is aimed to transfer any specific texture to a soft surface of the PVC layer.

● To proceed with the Paper release method, the raw material is mixed well with suitable fluid thickness.

● Once done, the paste is then applied to release paper,

● After coating the PVC leather material, it is often sent to the foaming machine to get additional thickness, which is optional.

● After that, we will coat PVC layers with strong glue.

● Following this glue application, it is then attached to a fabric. Once the layers stick firmly to the material, the release paper is removed.

● Once it is dried, you will get PVC leather with an embossed texture.


Typical Leather Purchasing Questions about PU and PVC Leather

While reading the article, some questions might be popped up in your mind. We are providing answers to most of your concerns to clear the mist.

1- Where to Find Deals on Leather

If looking for ample stock, you have two sourcing options; Italy, known as the best quality leather manufacturer, and China, for massive and economical production of any leather like PVC leather.

To search it locally, you must go through a lot of research to find a credible leather-providing vendor. You may visit your markets or well-named leather manufacturers.

2- Which Leather is the Best?

Honestly saying, it depends on the purpose you are buying leather for. Genuine leather is always the best but pricey. It is long-lasting and grows enticing with time, but it is water absorbent. You can check various factors differentiating PU from PVC leather for faux leather.

For wearables, you can go with washable PU leather, which provides a soft touch. PVC leather material is ideal for Furniture because of its longevity, torsion resistance, and potential to bear extreme weather conditions.

3- What Leather Can I Buy for Crafts?

PU and PVC leather are the two most common alternatives for non-vegan leather. Polyurethane is preferred for wearables because of its tensile strength, breathability, torsion and weather resistance, and gentleness. It gets stains and is less durable than other faux leathers because the surface wears off with time.

While considering PVC leather material, it is appropriate for upholstery or fashion-related products because of its robust structure, air, heat, water, sun, weather resistance, and shape/color maintenance for a longer duration.

4- Where Can I Find Leather in my area?

To find leather in your area, you must Google some leather markets in your city. And if you are well aware of the differences, it will become convenient to visit the nearest leather sourcing vendors.

Or if you want to find leather in China, you can hiring a China sourcing agent for you.

5- How to Ship Leather?

Regarding shipping conditions, real leather is water resistant to some extent, so there are no specific temperature requirements. On the other hand, the humidity level should be maintained between 30-40% as it may get most below 30% or dry above 40% humidity.

If it is chemically untreated, you can wrap it in plastic bags and wooden boards to prevent any leakages. For dried leathers, you can wrap them in plastic to avoid environmental moisture. Faux leather should be placed in a container with no other elements or coloring factors and individually packed in a flat shape.

How Do You Know the Difference Between Real and Faux Leather?

Here are some apparent factors to consider when buying genuine or faux leather.

● Prices

When differentiating between genuine and faux leather, its price is the first thing you can notice. Non-vegan leather is much more expensive than any faux Leather-like PVC Leather.

● Water absorbent

Genuine leather absorbs water. On the other hand, faux, i.e., PU or PVC leather, is composed of plastics, wax, and oils, making them non-absorbant. So, you can perform this test.

● Appearance

Now you know the appearance is an essential factor through which you can distinguish not only real or faux but the categories of vegan leather, like PVC leather.

● Texture

The texture not only differentiates real from alternatives but also can help analyze what PVC leather and PU leather are.

Leather is a natural cow or bovine hide, and we know that no skin texture is the same. And natural skin has many imperfections in it. No patch can have a similar color or skin texture. So this can cause a significant difference between all sorts of leathers.

● Fire test

As we all know, Real leather does not get burned. It is a natural skin that gets n denatured when exposed to high temperatures. But during its processing, Real leather is passed through high pressure, which makes it composed and resistant to fire. Unlike faux contains plastics like PVC leather which start to burn when exposed to fire.

● Leatherback

The leatherback has an irregular surface. It has some grains, which might be smooth or rough because no texture is similar to natural skin. On the other hand, Faux leather has fabric, oiled or waxed back, which makes it durable. So you can check the back.

● Color of PVC Leather

Openly saying, color is not a standard to check whether the leather is real or not because skin and plastics get tinted when treated with certain chemicals. So genuine leather could be of pink or blue color.

● Touch

As discussed earlier, Faux leather has specific patterns, mostly iron pressed, so their touch will be smooth and even. Like that of PVC leather, which is foamy and soft to touch. Contrary to that, real leather has no similar texture and surface, which is why it may not be smooth or even feel.

● Smell

Real leather’s touch, feel, and smell are unmatchable because it is a natural product. Faux leather is treated with chemicals and contains rubber, resins, or plastics, which cause a certain kind of smell. And you can guess it instantly.

● Check Label

If the brand is reliable and you are sure that the information given on the label must be correct, then there is a way to separate real from imitation leather.

High-quality real leather is called ‘Full grain Leather,’ followed by ‘Best grain leather,’ ‘genuine leather, etc. They all mean that the available product is a non-vegan product, not one with PVC leather material.

On the other side, Faux leather will be mentioned with names like Bound leather, imitation leather, split leather, composite leather, PVC leather, Pu leather, 50% grain leather, etc.

difference between PU and PVC


Buying leather is a trick, especially if you are confused between genuine and imitation leather. The given points can help you understand the distinguished points. With that, PU and PVC leather are often used interchangeably. We hope this detailed guide will help you in leather shopping. And if you have any sourcing needs, Ruizhi sourcing is always here for you. 

Joey Gan
Article by:
Joey Gan
The Co-founder of Ruizhi Sourcing. With 10 years of experience in the field of sourcing in China, we help 1k+ clients import from China and customize new products.. Contact with me at Linkedin
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