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How to Choose Upholstery Fabric for Your Sofa

It’s time to change the look of your sofa. You’ve made the decision to reupholster your couch, but what should you consider when selecting a fabric?

The Best Upholstery Fabric for Your Sofa or Couch

Your home's upholstery fabric needs to be as resilient as your lifestyle demands. Take, for instance, sofas, chairs, and ottomans in less-visited areas like bedrooms or formal living rooms – these can be adorned with finer, more delicate fabrics. In contrast, daily-use items like your family room sofa require robust, tightly woven materials that offer superior resistance to stains and wear, ensuring longevity and durability.

When selecting upholstery fabric or furniture, remember that a higher double rub count signifies a more densely woven material, enhancing its durability and longevity. Double rub counts mimic someone sitting down and standing up on the fabric, offering a key insight into the fabric's quality. Use the following guide to differentiate between different materials, ensuring you choose the ideal upholstery fabric for your upcoming furniture endeavors.
Fabric for a headboard and surrounding bed frame

Upholstery Fabric Types from Natural Sources

Fabrics for upholstery derived from natural sources are woven using materials obtained directly from nature. These include both plant-based fibers and those sourced from animals. Below is a rundown of commonly used natural fabrics in upholstered furniture.


A natural fiber, boasts resistance to wear, fading, and pilling, though it can be prone to soiling, wrinkling, and fire. Various surface treatments and blending with different fibers often compensate for these shortcomings. The durability and suitability of cotton depend on its weave and finishing; for instance, damask weaves suit formal settings, while canvas, including duck and sailcloth, offers more casual yet robust options.

Cotton Blends: 

Their durability as family-friendly fabrics hinges on the type of weave. Applying a stain-resistant treatment, like Scotchgard Fabric and Upholstery Protector, is advisable for pieces in frequent use, however, these types of treatments have come under fire lately because they may contain harmful PFAS forever chemicals.


Leather stands out for its ruggedness and ease of maintenance, which includes gentle vacuuming, damp-wiping, and the use of leather conditioners or saddle soap.


Linen, while elegant, is more appropriate for formal living rooms or adult spaces due to its tendency to soil and wrinkle easily, and its poor resistance to heavy wear. It does, however, resist pilling and fading. Professional cleaning is recommended for soiled linen to prevent shrinkage. Finding the perfect performance linen solves these problems easily. 


A delicate option, silk  is suited primarily to adult areas and formal settings. Professional cleaning is necessary in case of soiling.


Known for their sturdiness and durability, these fabrics resist pilling, fading, wrinkling, and soil well. Wool is often mixed with synthetic fibers to ease cleaning and prevent felting, where fibers bond to form a felt-like texture. Spot cleaning is usually sufficient for these blends.

Types of Synthetic Upholstery Fabric 

Synthetic fabrics are manufactured materials designed using various processes. They are typically more durable and a less expensive than natural upholstery fabrics.


Made from Polyester, this popular upholstery fabric has a velvet-like texture but is much more durable. It resists water, stains, and fading so it's great for high-use furniture.

Olefin / Polyproylene: 

This is the best choice for furniture that will receive HEAVY wear. It's highly resistant to stains, mildew, abrasion, and sunlight, so it's great for both indoor and outdoor use! It's also made from an up-cycled material so it's a great choice for the eco-conscious buyer. Some polypropylene upholstery fabrics are even bleach cleanable!

Watch how easy it is to clean Olefin: 



Rarely used alone, nylon is usually blended with other fibers to make it one of the strongest upholstery fabrics. Nylon is very resilient; in a blend, it helps eliminate the crushing of napped fabrics such as velvet. It doesn't readily soil or wrinkle but it does tend to pill and fade.


Rarely used alone in upholstery, polyester is mixed with other fibers to add wrinkle resistance, eliminate crushing of napped fabrics, and reduce fading. When blended with wool, polyester aggravates pilling problems. 


Developed as an alternative to silk, linen, and cotton, rayon is durable, but it does wrinkle. However, recent developments have made high-quality rayon a practical. family friendly upholstery fabric. 


Developed as imitation silk, acetate can withstand mildew, pilling, and shrinking. However, it offers only fair resistance to stains and tends to wear, wrinkle, and fade in the sun. It's not a good choice for furniture that will get everyday use. 


This synthetic fiber was developed as imitation wool. It resists wear, wrinkling, stains, and fading. Low-quality acrylic may pill excessively in areas that receive high degrees of abrasion. High-quality acrylics are manufactured to pill significantly less.


Easy-care and less expensive than leather, vinyl fabrics are ideal for busy living and dining rooms. Durability depends on quality. 

Here are a few more things to consider:


When choosing a fabric, it is beneficial to consider how much use your sofa gets. Will the sofa be used everyday? Will your kids practice wrestling moves on your sofa? Will Fido try do dig a hole to the center of the cushion? If the answer is “yes,” then you need a durable fabric. A few things to check for to ensure durability:

  • Look for the number of rubs competed on the abrasion test. A fabric should be 15,000 or higher for residential use.

  • Woven fabrics last longer than prints.

  • Look for fabrics with tight weaves

  • Fabrics made of olefin (like Revolution is!) are generally very durable


Bold colors are exciting. Trendy colors are fashionable. But should you upholster your couch in either of these colors? You are free to do as you wish, but consider a neutral fabric instead. You can quickly change a look of a room with splashes of color on curtains, rugs, and pillows. It is much more difficult to change the color of your entire sofa if that trending color starts to look dated.

Colors can also create a mood or solve a problem. A solid lighter color of fabric seem inviting and airy. A darker color may hide dirt.


Consider the style of your sofa frame before selecting a fabric. For example, a traditional sofa frame will automatically look good with a traditional fabric.

Textiles come in thousands of styles. Fabrics can look casual, ornate, formal, or fun. Consider whether your choice will fit into your current decor.

If you choose a fabric with a pattern, pay attention to the scale. A large scale pattern may be overpowering in a small room or may not center on your sofa in a pleasing manner. The opposite may be true with a small pattern in a large room.

Other factors to consider when choosing an upholstery fabric

  • Fade resistance: This would be important if your couch is in a room that gets a lot of sun.

  •  Mildew: Look for mildew resistant fabric in areas that have high humidity.

  •  Allergies: Microfiber is beneficial for some allergies because it is lint free and doesn’t attract dust.

These are just things to think about. In the end, your home is an expression of you. Relax and trust yourself. You will make the best decision for you and your family.

DIY Upholstery and Reupholstery 

Transforming your old furniture with a fresh fabric covering can entirely alter its appearance and utility. Undertaking the reupholstery work yourself can be a cost-effective choice, potentially saving you significant amounts. However, it's important to first assess the furniture's frame for soundness. Select a fabric that not only suits your style but is also practical for the furniture's usage level. When beginning the reupholstering process, carefully remove the existing fabric, which can serve as a template for cutting the new material.

Below, you'll find several helpful guides to assist you in your reupholstery projects.


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