What Is Upholstery Fabric? The Complete Guide

Quality and style are measures used to categorize a piece of upholstery fabric. The weight, drape, weave, and number of wraps/threads are measured to gauge how long the material will take to wear.

When picking up upholstery fabric, you should check its durability, cleanability and how well it resists fading and soil.

It’s essential that you go for a fabric that has a higher thread count (the thread count is measured by the number of threads per square inch in the material). Durable upholstery fabric should be tightly woven, thus stretching the time it takes to wear.

So what is upholstery fabric? Upholstery fabric is the material that acts as the soft covering for sofas, chairs and other pieces of furniture. Today, the fabric is used together with foam or metal springs, thus lengthening the fabric’s and the furniture’s durability.

In as much as the interior materials (foam or springs) remain underneath the fabric, they add extra comfort to the furniture being upholstered. Choosing both high-quality fabric and inner layers ensures that the piece lasts for years to come.

Below, I help you understand the tricks to use when searching for the most durable upholstery fabric…

The Criteria To Use When Choosing Upholstering Fabric

The first step before selecting the fabric is to consider how often the piece of furniture you want to upholster is used. Your practical needs should come first. The choice of material should reflect the situation in your home/office.

If your furniture is situated in a high-traffic area (living rooms, or a house with kids or pets), you will need to purchase the durable fabric.

If however, you’re upholstering furniture that is less used perhaps a headboard, or an ottoman in your bedroom you are at liberty to choose the kind of fabric you desire.

When you check into the fabric shop, ask for assistance and check the label on the fabrics, and inquire more about the material’s content. Find out the best ways to clean it and how much maintenance work you need to employ on the fabric for it to last a while.

Again, depending on the fabric, ask yourself if whether you will have it vacuumed regularly, after two years, will you love the upholstered leather after it develops a patina due to daily use?

Finally, will you always remember to close the drapes when not in a room to minimize the fading that occurs after exposing your fabric to sunlight?

Using this guideline will make it easier when searching for durable upholstery fabric to suit your needs.

There are two groups of upholstery fabrics that you can choose from (natural and synthetic), let’s learn the types of fabrics that fall under each category;

Natural Fabrics and How To Care For Them

Leather: this is one of the best upholstery fabrics. It’s sturdy and can be cleaned with ease. You can use saddle soap, leather conditioner, or wipe it with a damp cloth and at times vacuum it using a furniture vacuum.

Cotton Blend: the weave, woven into it measure cotton blend fabric. Choose the sturdy family-friendly materials that will last longer. When caring for this fabric, apply a stain-resistant finish every other day to keep stains away!

Linen: although loved for the fact that it doesn’t fade nor pile, it’s not a suitable fabric for frequently used spaces.

It soils and wrinkles fast when used often. You will have to set aside a budget to have it professionally cleaned every-so-often to avoid shrinkage and to remove the soiling.

Wool: another durable upholstery fabric. Both wool and wool-blends are known to resist pilling, soiling, fading, and wrinkling. Most fabric manufacturers blend wool with a synthetic fiber to minimize the effects of felting fibers and for making the fabric easier to clean.

Having this fabric in your home/office is okay since you can spot clean when it accumulates dirt.

Cotton: one of the best upholstery fabrics. The natural fibers in cotton are resistant to pilling, wear, and fading. Moreover; the material withstands fire, wrinkling, and soil. For longlasting cotton fabrics, opt for the sailcloth and duck weaved cotton fabric that is casual and more durable.

You can use home cleaning solutions (readily available at convenient stores) to clean the fabric.

Silk: this is not a durable fabric and should be used to cover pieces of furniture that are used less often. It’s ideal for an adult bedroom or living space with less traffic. Cleaning should be professionally done when it gets soiled to minimize wear.

Vinyl: a more affordable fabric when compared to leather. High-quality vinyl fabric is durable and ideal for furniture used often in a family/office setting. Using a damp cloth or a vacuum cleaner are the quickest ways to clean this fabric.

Synthetic Fabrics

Nylon: This is one of the most durable upholstery fabrics when in a blend. It’s quite resilient, and when blended with other fibers, it becomes one of the most robust materials that you can use to upholster. Although it doesn’t wrinkle nor soil, it does have tendencies to pill and fades.

Rayon: the fabric mimics, cotton, linen, and silk. It’s rather durable and getting the highest-quality fabric is not only practical; it takes a while before wrinkling.

Acetate: it was developed to mimic silk and is best for upholstering minimally used furniture. When left in the sun, it will fade, wrinkle and wear fast. But when indoors, it resists shrinking, pilling and mildew.

Polyester: Its mostly blended with other fibers to make it stronger. The blend minimizes fading, becomes resistant to wrinkling and takes out crushing in napped fabrics. NEVER buy a polyester blended with wools since its prone to pilling.

Acrylic: It was developed to mimic wool and is resistant to soiling, wrinkling, fading and wear. High-quality acrylics take time before they start pilling.

Olefin: one of the most durable fabrics, you should consider using it for upholstering furniture that is used daily as it has ZERO weaknesses.

If you have a busy home (that has kids and pets) and are looking to upholster your furniture, below are some fabrics you should consider.

Synthetic vs. Natural Fibers

Synthetic fabric is made from petroleum-based materials. The synthetic fiber is created from multiple units derived from a chemical substance.

The units are then joined together to form a usable fiber. Some synthetic fiber fabrics last longer than others, some hold color better, and these fibers generally outlast natural fibers. Materials made from synthetic acetate fibers fade in the sun faster than polyester fabrics.

The latter also holds in the dye well and is resistant to fading. Most synthetic fabrics are treated with chemical solutions to help them last-longer before the dye fades due to physical pressure and chemical changes.

Natural fibers are derived from geological, animal, and plant processes. The natural fibers are matted into sheets that are used to make fabric.

Many natural fiber fabrics change color thanks to the aging process. When exposed to sunlight, the fabrics (both light and dark) start yellowing.

As the fibers age and begin to break down, they will either start turning yellow or brown signaling it’s time for an upholstering project! Spot cleaning using optical brighteners products accelerates the aging process.

Synthetic Fabrics Pros

Synthetic fibers outlast natural fibers. They’re also more responsive to different dyes. Furthermore; synthetic fibers stretch more quickly, are waterproof and stain-resistant.

Natural Fabric Pros

Natural fibers are low in density, weigh less than synthetic fibers, and are more cost-effective. Moreover; they’re less pollutant, thus making them more eco-friendly. Also, natural fibers are more comfortable to sit on since they’re much softer.

Are There Synthetic and Natural Fabric Combination?

Different fibers are blended to produce fabrics that possess unique qualities. Blended fabrics contain improved appearances, have excellent performance, are comfortable, and are easy to care for!

Some of the most popular synthetic/natural fiber combinations include:

Cotton/Lycra: the fabric derived from this blend is stretchy, more comfortable, and is easy to clean with an ordinary damp cloth and soap when it gets dirty.

Cotton/Polyester: the combined fabric is more crease-resistant and is easy to care for.

Wool/Acrylic: the fabric blend creates a warm layer and is perfect for upholstering furniture used in cold winter months!

Upholstery Fabrics For Busy Homes

If your home is littered with pitty-patter feet, or you have pets that love snuggling on your furniture or knocking over cups and glasses (with the wine of course), you should consider upholstery fabrics that not only look great but are durable.

Distressed leather works perfectly for the furniture in the busy rooms.

Another fabric you should check out is Sunbrella indoor and outdoor fabric; it is resistant to wear and doesn’t fade when exposed to sunlight. You can keep your drapes open to allow natural light to filter through the rooms!

Faux-suede is an excellent upholstery material! You can clean it easily with everyday items such as a damp cloth, or vacuum it when needed. It’s also resistant to pilling and wear, and adds to the elegance of the furniture!

What if you don’t have children or pets and have a taste for the finer things in life? Fret not as we got you covered…

Luxurious Upholstery Fabrics

If you live in less frequented space and want your furniture to exemplify your taste for more beautiful things, you have the freedom to get quality-expensive upholstery fabric.

Belgian linen is one such fabric; however, you should keep snacking away from this fabric as it will leave stains. When used less often, the material will remain wrinkle, stain, and wear, free for a while.

Tibetan wool is another expensive and quality upholstery fabric. Your furniture will not only look fancy, but it will evoke a feeling of class that associated with the furniture at Buckingham Palace.

So long as you keep the traffic in your home minimal, the upholstery will hold. With this kind of money, always invite professional cleaner to care for your immaculate upholstered furniture!

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