When it comes to upholstery, you might be a little confused on what type of fabric you’re looking for. Choosing an upholstery fabric can be difficult with so many options nowadays. You could source natural fabrics or synthetics but choosing a fabric for the right situation will ensure a longer lifespan of your furniture. Let’s explore the popular upholstery fabric options!
Natural fabrics are usually favored by someone looking for the softest, less performance based feel to their furniture. Cotton, silk, wool, leather, and linen are some of the popular natural upholstery fabrics.
Cotton is the most widely used natural fiber and is the cheapest. With comfort and stability, cotton is meant to provide a soft feel to your furniture. Cotton is great for durability and resistance to fading but is a susceptible to stains. Cotton is not the best choice for everyday use furniture due to the fact it can stain easily and catches dust and dirt.
Silk is probably one of the more expensive options for upholstery fabric. It should only be used in a formal living room one without heavy use. Silk needs to be professionally cleaned if something is spilled or soils the furniture.
Wool is very durable and sturdy when put to the test. It is very resistant to pilling and staining making it a great choice for high traffic area. Downside of wool is when it gets wet, it can have an odor to it that's hard to get rid of.
Probably the most durable fabric for upholstery is leather. Leather is a great option for high traffic areas while looking comfy. Leather is also recommended for those who have animals or pets. It is very easy to vacuum hair out of and lasts for a long time.
Linen is best for adult only rooms due to the fact it can wrinkle and stain easily. It’s great because most print fabric is on linen, making intricate designs more affordable. Linen can shrink when washes. It needs it be professionally cleaned to avoid damaging or changing the fabric size.
Synthetic upholstery fabrics were made for superior durability and clean ability with a cheaper manufacturing costs than natural fabrics. Synthetic fabrics are made by synthesizing chemicals and/or natural products to create synthetic fibers. These Synthetic fibers are then woven into fabrics we use in our everyday lives. Some you may have heard of are polyester, olefin, nylon, acrylic, or rayon.
Often used with other fibers, Polyester is a great blending fiber with cotton to add wrinkle protection to the fabric. Polyester retains dyes and was an early choice for outdoor upholstery yarn.
Olefin or Polypropylene
Olefin is another great option for upholstery fabric. Olefin, or polypropylene, is the second most produced synthetic fiber next to polyester. It is durable and cleanable without the use of protective stain treatments like Scotchgard. In fact, fluorochemicals can start to breakdown polypropylene. You might have already heard of polypropylene, or PP, by looking at your water bottles, yogurt containers, and tub ware. Polypropylene is the second most produced plastic and produces less waste by weight compared to any other plastic. Almost all recycling programs in the United States can recycle polypropylene.
Nylon is another fiber that is rarely used alone. Combined with other synthetic or natural fibers, Nylon is great for eliminating napping and crushing in velvet or chenille fabrics. Nylon is susceptible to pill and can fade in high sunlight or UV situations.
Synthesized as an imitation wool, acrylic was the original go to fiber for outdoor upholstery fabrics. Acrylic is good for fade resistance, soiling, and wrinkling, but can pill if low quality acrylic is used in the fiber.
Rayon was first developed to imitate silk, cotton, and linen. Rayon can be strong and durable, but it is susceptible to wrinkling.
Whatever fabric choice you go with, please research the companies you are purchasing them from. Responsible sourcing will ultimately lead to the longevity of your furniture and that starts with good research. Thanks for reading - David