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How to Pick the Best Upholstery Fabric for Your Furniture

  • December 7th, 2022

If you’re looking to upgrade your furniture or want a new look for your home, then upholstery is the way to go. Upholstery fabric can change the way a room looks and feels, but it’s important to choose the right one so that you don’t end up with regrets later. Here are some tips on how to choose the best upholstery fabric for your sofa.

Table of contents:

  • Choosing upholstery fabric: start at the beginning
  • Natural Upholstery Fabric Types
  • Synthetic Upholstery Fabric Types
  • How to tell if an upholstery fabric is easy to clean
  • How to check the durability of an upholstery fabric before you buy
  • Do you want patterned or plain upholstery?
  • Choosing upholstery fabric colours properly
  • Looking at upholstery fabric for visual style and tactile textures
  • The best upholstery fabrics for homes with kids and pets

Choosing upholstery fabric: start at the beginning

There are a lot of things to consider when making this decision, so it can be overwhelming at first glance. But once you get started and start looking at some examples of different styles and colours in person, it becomes much easier! A good place to start is by looking at:

  • The style and size of the room
  • The purpose of the room
  • The climate in which you live
  • How much you want to spend on upholstery fabric
  • Your personal preferences
  • Your family's needs

Once you have that part figured out, it’s time to look at the fibres that make up your upholstery fabric, and what they can add or detract from the space and your experiences of it.

Natural Upholstery Fabric Types

There are many different kinds of natural fibres that can be used in upholstery. The most common are cotton, wool and silk. These fabrics have their own unique characteristics and some are better suited to certain types of furniture than others.

Cotton: Cotton is a natural fibre that comes from the cotton plant. It's used to make clothing, bedding, and upholstery fabric. However, since cotton is not waterproof, it will absorb liquids over time and become stained or mildewed if exposed to moisture for long periods of time.

Linen: Linen is a textile made from the flax plant. The earliest evidence of humans using wild flax as a textile comes from Dzudzuana Cave in the Republic of Georgia. Spun, dyed, and knotted fibres found there date to 30,000 years ago—the Upper Palaeolithic period. The fibres in linen are longer than those of cotton and therefore stronger and more durable.

Wool: Sheep have been around since prehistoric times! They're still one of our most important domesticated animals today because they produce wool—a renewable resource that can be turned into yarns or woven into cloth for garments and home decor like furniture upholstery fabric (among other things). It can be woven into a variety of textures including plain weave (where the warp threads run horizontally across the material), twill (where each alternate row of warp threads interlaces with its neighbour) or herringbone (where two warps alternate). Like all upholstery fabrics made from natural fibres, wool will pill over time if not properly cared for.

Silk: Silkworms (a type of worm) spin cocoons around themselves as they mature into moths before emerging as butterflies; their cocoons are then harvested to spun into silk threads which are then woven together with other fabrics during production processes like weaving or knitting (for example). The result? Fabulous fabrics!

Synthetic Upholstery Fabric Types

Man-made fabrics are easy to clean, durable and come in a wide range of colours, textures and patterns. There are many types of man-made fabrics, each with its own unique characteristics. Here's a quick look at the different kinds of man-made upholstery fabrics:

Polyester: Polyester upholstery fabric is commonly used on furniture because it's easy to clean and maintain. It's often blended with other fibres to add durability or softness.

Acrylic: Acrylic upholstery fabric has a shiny appearance that makes it a good choice for formal rooms such as dining rooms or living rooms. Acrylic has better durability than polyester but isn't as easy to clean because it doesn't absorb liquids like polyester does. Acrylic is also known as rayon.

Nylon (or "polyamide"): Nylon upholstery fabric is made from synthetic fibres similar to those found in natural silk, but less expensive than silk fabrics. Nylon is durable and can be dyed into many colours without losing its colour fastness; however, it may fade over time if exposed to sunlight or strong light bulbs (such as incandescent lights).

Microfibre: Microfibre is also a synthetic material that is similar to polyester but lighter and softer than other synthetic fabrics.

Synthetic leather: This is basically vinyl with a leather-like finish. It's durable, easy to clean and comes in many colours and patterns that resemble real leather — including suede and leatherette styles. Synthetic leather is inexpensive compared to real leather but still has a similar look that can go with almost any decorating scheme.

Olefin fabric: Very durable, colourfast, easy to clean, great for heavy-use upholstery. Learn more about olefin upholstery fabric here: Olefin furnishing fabric: everything you ever needed to know.

Polyester blends: These fabrics are usually made from both synthetic and natural fibres; they're soft and durable but not as expensive as pure synthetic leathers or cottons.

How to tell if an upholstery fabric is easy to clean

One of the most important things to keep in mind when choosing upholstery fabric is that it be easy to clean. This is especially true if you have kids and pets, or if you want your furniture to last over time—kids and pets are going to make messes at some point.

Easy-to-clean upholstery fabric can help ensure that you don’t have to replace cushions because they’re too difficult to deal with after being stained by food or drink spillage.

A note on FibreGuard's easy clean upholstery fabrics:

To guarantee ultimate cleanability, stain-on-stain removal, wash after wash, FibreGuard has developed a unique set of testing criteria. The fabric is treated with 17 different stains, each of which must be removable under a variety of conditions. All common stains that are caused by household accidents must be easy to remove, even if they have been left on the fabric for several hours.

In order to ensure its lasting performance, FibreGuard fabrics are tested after washing multiple times: this confirms that the fabric’s properties won’t diminish after washing and will stay permanently effective.

We’re talking oily, greasy stains like mayonnaise, olive oil, lipstick and crayons; gloopy stains like mud, yogurt, chocolate and mascara; and liquid stains like coffee, wine, fruit juice, and biological materials like blood, sweat or vomit.

How to check the durability of an upholstery fabric before you buy

Durability is an important factor to consider, especially if you’re planning to keep the furniture for a long time. The last thing you want is to have your upholstered furniture looking worn out or frayed after just a few years of use. Make sure that any fabric you choose for your upholstery can withstand daily wear and tear, including spills and stains.

If possible, choose fabrics made from natural fibres such as cotton or wool instead of synthetic fibres like polyester or nylon. These natural fabrics are more durable than man-made ones, which means they will last longer before needing replacement (and possibly save money in the long run).

The durability of upholstery fabric is determined by how well it holds up under a manufacturer-administered "double rub test," which mimics the wear and tear caused when someone repeatedly sits on an upholstered seat.

The higher the number of double rubs (for example, 100,000 vs 10,000), the better indicator of quality and durability. In addition to a high double-rub score for an upholstery fabric's performance like stain resistance or water repellency—also look at UV resistance treatments.

Learn more about the specifics of mechanical textiles testing.

Do you want patterned or plain upholstery?

Perhaps the most important decision you will make when choosing your upholstery fabric is whether you want a pattern or a solid colour.

  • Upholstery in a solid colour can be more versatile, but it may be harder to match with other furniture in your home.
  • A patterned piece of upholstery can look great with almost any style of room, and it's more likely to stand out as unique.

However, patterns can be more expensive than solids because there are more materials and hours involved in their creation.

Choosing upholstery fabric colours properly

In addition to considering the texture of your material and the pattern of its design, it's important to think about colour. Colour affects mood and can create a relaxing or energetic atmosphere in any space. The right colour will complement your existing furniture and décor while also enhancing the room's overall look.

Colour can affect how you feel about your home. For example, blue is widely associated with tranquillity and serenity, while red can be energising or intimidating depending on its intensity.

The right colour can make a room seem smaller or larger; lighter colours tend to make spaces appear larger while dark hues often give off an airier impression on account of their contrast against walls.

Likewise, light shades allow for better visibility than darker shades do—which means that if you're looking for a more intimate setting for entertaining guests at home (or simply watching TV), then lighter hues might be best suited for this purpose.

Looking at upholstery fabric for visual style and tactile textures

When you’re planning an entire room scheme, you’ll need to look at the style and texture of the upholstery fabric for the furniture pieces you’re choosing. Both can have a big impact on the whole room. In addition, you need to know how to match upholstery fabrics with other elements in your room — like the paint colour, curtain and throw pillows — so that they all complement each other nicely and create a cohesive whole.

Style: The style of the furniture is an important factor to consider when choosing upholstery fabric. If you're going for a bold look, try mixing different textures and patterns together. This can make the room feel more dynamic and interesting. For example, if you have a modern-style sofa, then it will look better with a plain fabric rather than one with patterns or stripes. On the other hand, if you have an antique-style sofa that has elegant patterns or stripes on its surface, then these should be reflected in the upholstery fabric too. Or let's say you have a sofa that was made in the 1960s and you want to reupholster it with a new fabric. If you choose something too modern, it will look out of place on your vintage sofa.

Texture: Consider how comfortable you want your new furniture piece to be. Do you want it to feel like part of nature or more modern? What kind of texture do you like best? These are all things worth considering before making a final decision on what type of upholstery fabric is right for your space. Textures also play an important role in selecting upholstery fabrics for furniture pieces such as sofas and chairs because they add depth to any piece of furniture by creating visual interest in its design or decorating scheme or adding comfort to its use by keeping it cool on hot days while also protecting against moisture damage caused by water damage due to accidental spills.

Interested in upholstery textures? Check out our blog articles! For example:

What does “slub” or “slubbiness” mean for fabrics or textiles?

All eyes on quilted textures trending in upholstery

A Year of Textured Softness: Fabrics You Love

Want to learn more about interior styles? We’ve got you covered there too:

The two fundamentals of every major decorating style

What you need to know about Belgian style interior design

How to go maximalist in your interior design - without the clutter

The best upholstery fabrics for homes with kids and pets

By now, you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of factors that go into making sure upholstery fabric is right for a room.

It's important not just to think about what type of furniture you want, but also how well that furniture will work with your home's existing design elements—and ultimately how well it will work for everyone who lives there.

If you have kids and pets, durable, stain-resistant fabric is a must. You'll want something that's easy to clean and maintain. The best fabric choices for homes with kids and pets are durable enough to withstand daily use from active children but also look good and feel comfortable.

So, in conclusion

We hope that we’ve helped you understand just a little bit more about how to choose the best upholstery fabric for your home. FibreGuard’s upholstery fabrics are engineered from the inside out to perform, so no wonder they’re easy on the hands (and eyes). Find out what our dedication to technical excellence can do for your project by getting in touch with us today.