When shopping for a new sofa or best sofa bed, style and design may be your top priorities, but it’s important not to overlook the importance of the fabric used to create the furniture. There are a variety of different fabrics used for the upholstery, and each one has its own unique set of characteristics. Some are easy to maintain or more durable than others, so it’s important to consider fabrics when choosing new furniture. Otherwise, you may just wind up with a sofa that can’t stand up to kids and pets.
While there are a variety of fabrics to choose from, we’re going to cover the most common and popular types to help you find the right one for your needs.
Natural Upholstery Fabric
Cotton is a natural choice when choosing durable furniture. This natural fabric offers optimal resistance to fading, wearing and pilling, but is more prone to wrinkling and soiling. Cotton is more flammable, too. In many cases, cotton is blended with other fibers to counteract these weaknesses.
The durability of cotton furniture will depend on the weave and the finish of the fabric. You’ll find a variety of different weaves with cotton fabric, including:
- Damask: Formal
- Canvas (sailcloth and duck): More durable and designed for casual use
Cotton’s durability and easy maintenance make it a great choice for most families.
Leather is a naturally durable fabric that’s easy to clean and very forgiving. You’ll find leather couches in a variety of different finishes and colors. The wonderful thing about this material is that it has great character and softens over time.
Maintenance is important with leather furniture. Saddle soap and leather conditioner can be used to keep the material looking its best.
Linen wrinkles and soils very easily, so it’s not the ideal choice for casual use. This fabric is best suited for formal use, or an adult area that will not be used often. Linen cannot withstand heavy use, but it’s resistant to fading and pilling.
Another drawback of linen is that it must be cleaned professionally to avoid shrinking the fabric.
Made from animal hair, wool is durable, sturdy and warm. It also offers great resistance to fading, pilling, soiling and wrinkling. Rarely will you find pure wool furniture. Most of the time, wool is blended with a synthetic fiber to reduce the possibility of felting and making it easier to clean.
Cotton blend fabrics are a great choice for families because they’re incredibly sturdy. A stain-resistant finish is often applied to these fabrics to improve durability during everyday use.
Because of its delicate nature, silk is best suited for furniture that will only be used by adults, such as formal living areas. If soiled or stained, silk must be cleaned professionally. Its delicacy and difficult maintenance make silk an unpopular choice for furniture upholstery.
Although ramie fabric absorbs moisture, it’s highly resistant to stains – which is a bonus for families. One of the strongest fibers in the world, ramie is an eco-friendly choice to synthetic fibers, and is 8 times stronger than cotton.
Hemp is a highly durable fabric, although it wrinkles easily. The hemp plant is processed to separate it into fibers, and those fibers are woven together to create fabric.
The wonderful thing about hemp is that it resembles linen both in texture and appearance, but offers warmth and softness with incredibly durability.
Synthetic Upholstery Fabric
Originally developed as a wool imitation, acrylic is resistant to soiling, wrinkling, fading and soiling. That said, poor quality acrylic fabric is highly vulnerable to pilling, especially in areas that are prone to abrasion. High quality acrylic will not pill as easily.
Developed as a silk imitation, acetate is resistant to pilling, shrinking and mildew. On the downside, this fabric is prone to wrinkling, wearing, fading and soiling. Like silk, acetate is not a good fit for heavy everyday use.
Rayon was developed to be a silk, cotton and linen imitation. This fabric is highly durable, but prone to wrinkling. Advancements made by manufacturers have made rayon a much more durable and practical option for furniture.
Nylon is commonly blended with other fibers to create one of the most durable fabrics available. It’s highly resilient, and resistant to wrinkling and soiling. It can fade and pill over time, however.
If you’re furniture will get heavy use, olefin is a great fabric to choose. With low moisture absorption and resistance to staining, sunlight, abrasion and chemicals, this is one of the best furniture fabrics for families.
Like nylon, polyester is typically blended with other fibers to improve its qualities. Blended polyester fabrics are resistant to wrinkles and fading.
Microfiber is soft, lightweight and highly absorbent. It won’t wrinkle or stain easily, and when electrostatically charged, will pick up dust without leaving any lint behind.
Vinyl is inexpensive and easy to care for, which makes it a practical choice for families. That said, the texture of the fabric is not always favorable, especially during the hot summer months.