First used during World War II as a replacement for rubber, polyurethane is a versatile synthetic material now used in a variety of everyday products, from the insulation in your walls to the leather on your shoes.
Polyurethane is a synthetic organic compound made of flexible polyester or polyether units along with rigid urethane units. Polyurethane can be made into fibers, foams and coatings for a variety of purposes.
The concept and chemistry of polyurethane was developed by Prof. Dr. Otto Bayer (1902-1982) and was initially used during World War II as a substitute for rubber, a rare resource. It was thereafter quickly formulated for use in fibers, foams, linings and more and can now be found in a wide range of modern products.
Leather shoes, jackets, sofas and other leather products are often coated with a layer of polyurethane. This protects the leather, allowing it to last longer, and gives it that new leather shine. It also makes the leather water and scratch resistant and allows for easier care.
Polyurethane coated leather is easily cared for with a soft, damp cloth and, if necessary, a mild soap. Oils and common household cleaning agents are not recommended as they may wear down the protective polyurethane layer.