Types of Upholstery Fabric

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Types of Upholstery Fabric

types of fabric upholstery

When it came to cleaning, Wilma Flintstone had it so easy. Furniture carved out of rocks doesn’t take much upkeep. It probably wasn’t very expensive either. However, most of us are willing to trade convenience for comfort, or at least strike a balance. When shopping for different types of upholstery fabric, we have to take a lot into consideration. How easy is it to maintain? How durable is it? Can it stand up to the kids? The pets? The choices can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created an overview of different types of upholstery fabric. Below, you’ll find the major points of the most common fabrics. It’s intended to give you an idea of how different types of upholstery fabric can fit into your living space.

The Naturals:

  1. Leather

Sophisticated and classic, leather ages well. That means the longer you have it, the cozier it gets. Whether your home is traditional or contemporary in design, leather upholstery looks and feels wonderful. It’s also one of the best upholstery choices for households with animals. When it comes to the aesthetic of the piece, consider metallic accents. A touch of brass or chrome really helps the piece pop.

  • Ages well
  • Easy to clean
  • Hypoallergenic / good for pets
  • Expensive


  1. Cotton

Cotton is commonly blended with synthetics. This adds texture and durability to the fabric. With a cotton blend, you’ll find the best fabrics contain about 50-60% cotton. While an excellent choice for daily use, it’s highly recommended that cotton upholstery receives a stain-resistant finish. Cotton also takes well to dye, which means there’s a huge variety available to you.

  • Good for daily use
  • Many different grades suit many different budgets
  • More durable when blended with synthetic; shoot for 50-60% cotton
  • Susceptible to wrinkling


  1. Wool

Like cotton, wool responds well to dying and treatment, resulting in huge variety. Wool tends to be more expensive, but it’s more resistant to wrinkling and fading. For added resilience, you’ll often find it blended with a synthetic fiber. A blend is generally easier to clean, as well. It’s a good idea to keep a spot cleaner on hand for wool upholstery. Accidents happen!

  • Coziest when blended with a synthetic
  • Fire-resistant and needs no chemical treatment
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Expensive but durable; long-lasting


  1. Silk

Luxurious and elevated, silk is an expensive but beautiful option. It’s a kind of fabric that creates a formal look, and in some ways, is quite fragile. Susceptible to fading and spills, it’s one of those types of upholstery fabric best used strategically.

  • Long-lasting if cared for correctly
  • Not good with pets, kids or direct sunlight
  • Expensive, restricted to high-end fabrics
  • Requires dry cleaning


  1. Velvet

Aesthetically, velvet has a definite allure. The nap (direction of fibers) of most velvet isn’t directional, and so it reflects light in beautiful ways. Think of when you run your hand over velvet and it can look either lighter or darker. That’s because the nap is changing direction, and interacting with light from another angle. Luxe like silk, velvet is a surprisingly durable choice. Under the right conditions, it’s actually one of the best upholstery fabrics for pets. It’s delightful to the touch and often dramatic to the eye, adding a touch of luxury or contrast to a room.

  • Luxurious, beautiful
  • Some varieties are suited to pets
  • Expensive
  • Easily stained if not treated


  1. Linen

Like cotton, linen is a plant-based fiber. For that reason, it’s typically blended with other natural fibers for added durability. This can make it more resistant to wrinkling and abrasion. Linen is best kept to formal areas because it’s susceptible to wear. It looks particularly beautiful in a dining room or perhaps on a tufted arm chair.

  • Best when blended
  • Many different grades; best linen looks silky
  • Poor choice for humidity
  • High-maintenance, requires professional cleaning


  1. Chenille

French for ‘caterpillar’, chenille’s sumptuous texture and distinctive nap make it a great choice for any big, comfortable piece of furniture. It’s commonly blended with cotton.

  • Luxurious texture
  • Requires backing; otherwise, prone to stretching


The Synthetics:

  1. Polyester / Microfiber

One of the most popular synthetics used in blends, polyester is notoriously soft and easily cleaned. However, lighter colors are susceptible to staining. Jean stains on white microfiber (a common blend of nylon and polyester) is not uncommon. Better opt for dark colors with this fabric.

  • Easily cleaned and maintained
  • Variety of appearances
  • Resistant to wear; long-lasting
  • Best in darker colors


  1. Acrylic

Acrylic is another synthetic fiber used in blends, and is often treated with chemicals. You’ll often find it incorporated into velvety materials. If you’re interested in acrylic, be sure to choose a variety that’s resistant to abrasion. Cheaper versions will wear easily.

  • A good blend is resistant to most everything
  • Excellent choice for outdoor furniture
  • Flammable
  • Often contains chemicals


  1. Olefin

This petroleum-based synthetic is wooly in appearance. Created from melted, plastic pellets, olefin is a hardy choice. In fact, bleach is an acceptable cleaning method on many varieties. On the flipside, it doesn’t take well to dying or treatment, so color is added while the pellets are being melted.

  • Resistant to wet conditions
  • Susceptible to heat, light and oils
  • Highly durable
  • Limited variety


  1. Acetate

Simply put: acetate is imitation silk. Its versatility makes it a common choice for blends. However, for a synthetic it’s fairly fragile. Use acetate in formal settings as opposed to that everyday areas.

  • Resistant to humidity and wrinkling
  • Susceptible to abrasion and staining
  • Cheaper alternative to silk


  1. Nylon

An excellent choice for resilience and aesthetic appeal. Nylon is something you might want in the kiddo’s room, or in areas that get a lot of traffic.

  • Resistant to almost everything
  • Susceptible to sunlight and heat
  • Easily cleaned and maintained
  • Attractive finish, versatile

The Cleaners:

Even the most durable types of upholstery fabric occasionally require professional cleaning. With our Empowered Water, you won’t have to worry about common issues like overwetting. Chemical free and allergy friendly, our patented methods are safe for all fabrics and families. And, zero residue means upholstery will stay cleaner longer because it won’t attract more soiling. Check us out at zerorezie.com or give us a ring at 909-206-5374 to learn more!

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