Whether you are buying a new sofa or recliner, the upholstery material you choose is crucial in order to get the most out of your furniture in the long run. If you keep your environment and lifestyle in mind as you look at the different qualities of upholstery materials, you can easily determine which one will work best for you.
Keep in mind that a lot of these materials are sometimes found blended together, so it is common to find a cotton and rayon blend, or an acrylic, olefin and polyester blend.
Leather is one of the most common choices for upholstery. It has a shiny, luxurious, unique appearance and grain pattern. It becomes softer over time, ensuring more comfort with each use. Leather has a sturdy material that is difficult to puncture. The disadvantage to leather furniture is that since it is natural, it can fade when left in the sunlight for too long. It is also difficult to clean without damaging the material, so you will need to have it professionally cleaned.
(Pictured: Palliser Glove Bark Leather)
Vinyl is a synthetic, animal-friendly alternative to leather. It has a similar look and feel, with a more matte finish. Unlike leather, vinyl will not become softer over time. Vinyl furniture is very easy to clean, and can usually be treated with just a damp cloth. It also doesn't fade in the sunlight, which makes it an ideal choice if you plan on putting your new vinyl sofa near a window. The disadvantage to vinyl is that it does tear more easily than leather furniture.
Microfiber and Polyester
Polyester is one of the materials used to make microfiber, which is another popular choice for living room upholstery. It has a smooth, silky texture. It is also a strong material that won't stretch, change its shape or fade easily. A microfiber sofa is great for children and pets since it is extremely easy to clean - you can spot clean it, and it will dry almost instantly. The fibers are so tightly constructed that it is difficult to scratch. When it is scratched, it usually isn't very noticeable. The downside to a microfiber couch is that it can be ruined easily when cleaned with the wrong products, so make sure you are using gentle cleaning products and reading the tag carefully for care instructions.
(Pictured: Sam Moore 2607 Raffia Polyester)
Nylon is a synthetic material that was created as a substitute for silk. It has a very smooth finish, and is one of the materials that can be used to make microfiber. Nylon takes dyes well, and is dirt and stain resistant. It is very easy to clean, and dries quickly. The downside to nylon upholstery fabric is that it becomes weaker in the sunlight, so there is a chance it could fade.
Cotton is soft and comfortable, and sustains typical wear and tear. It can be easily dyed to any color, so you will find a wide variety of shades that will likely match what you have in mind. The disadvantage to cotton is that it makes it difficult to clean tough stains. The material can also fade from too much washing. When cotton upholstery fabric is dyed a color, it can also fade when it is near sunlight for a long period of time.
(Pictured: Sam Moore 2703 Spa Cotton)
Wool is a soft, natural fabric that provides comfort and warmth. It is very durable, and will keep its nice appearance and finish over a long period of time. A wool couch is a great choice if you are looking for long-lasting furniture that you can use on a daily basis. The downside to wool is that it can attract moths. Also be aware that wool that is overprocessed can become scratchy.
Acrylic is a synthetic material that has a wool-like texture. It has a soft material, making it a great choice to have in a cozy living room. Another advantage to acrylic is that is does not weaken easily in sunlight. The downside is that low-quality acrylic fabric can pill easily, so be careful when you make your purchase. It will be more worth it in the long run to invest in better quality acrylic fabric that is less likely to pill.
(Pictured: Sam Moore 9495 Tangerine 67% Acrylic, 33% Polyester)
Rayon is an alternative for silk, and has a similar appearance and texture. It is made from wood pulp. Rayon has a smooth, soft and comfortable feel, and is a great inexpensive substitute if you want your furniture to have an elegant look. The downside to rayon is that it can weaken when it is wet.
Olefin is a synthetic material. It has a wool-like feel that makes it a soft, comfortable upholstery fabric choice. Although the material is soft, it is still tough and durable which makes it a good choice for daily use. Olefin is also stain resistant. The disadvantage to olefin is that it does not dye easily, so you will not find much of a color variety.
(Pictured: Sam Moore 9484 Onyx 68% Olefin, 32% Polyester)
Silk has a very elegant and expensive look. It is a great choice not only for its appearance, but for its smooth and comfortable texture. It is a delicate material, but can last a long time if you care for it properly. The downside is that silk is more difficult to clean - it must be cleaned by professionals, which makes it a less ideal option to have around children and pets. It also can fade when kept in the sunlight for too long.
By: Lee Krumbein