Choosing the Right Upholstery Material

When it comes to furniture reupholstery, choosing the right material is paramount. The last thing you want to do is choose a fabric that doesn’t suit your needs and tastes, wasting your money and even potentially ruining the furniture.

So how do you know which upholstery fabric is right for you?

The first step is understanding a little about the different kinds of upholstery fabrics available. Different fabrics have different properties and various pros and cons. Understanding these can help you to choose the perfect upholstery for your furniture.

Natural Fabrics

Cotton: A good all-rounder, cotton wears and cleans well and doesn’t fade or pill easily. It can still be soiled and wrinkled, however. Its durability can often be affected by the weave and finish of the material.

You’re more likely to come across cotton-blends rather than full cotton fabrics. These tend to be more durable than cotton alone.

Leather: Leather is an extremely tough upholstery choice. It’s easy to clean and can be vacuumed and wiped down as needed. While leather is a durable choice, it can be scratched or torn by sharp objects, such as pet claws. To get the best out of your leather, it should be regularly treated with a leather conditioner to keep it soft and supple.

It’s also important to take note of the leather grade to ensure you get the fabric that’s right for your needs. Full grain is the premium option, while bonded is the cheapest option.

Linen: While linen doesn’t pill or fade easily, it’s not the best choice for furniture that is regularly used. Linen isn’t very durable and won’t cope well with heavy wear. It tends to stain and wrinkle easily and requires professional cleaning.

Silk: Like linen, silk isn’t suitable for everyday use, as lovely as it feels. It is particularly delicate and must be professionally cleaned if soiled.

Wool: You’ll usually find wool-blends rather than pure wool options for upholstery. Wool-blends are just as durable as wool and they’re resistant to fading, pilling, wrinkling and soiling. Wool is durable, long lasting and easy to clean.

Furniture Upholstery

Synthetic Fabrics

Acrylic: Made to imitate wool, acrylic is hardy and resistant to wrinkling, soiling and fading. If it is a cheaper acrylic though, it may pill.

Nylon: Like cotton, nylon is usually blended with other fibres. It’s a hardy fabric and doesn’t soil or wrinkle. However, it can fade and pill.

Olefin: Olefin is a great choice for furniture that will receive regular heavy wear, like a lounge or armchair. It’s extremely durable and easy to clean.

Polyester: Polyester, like nylon and cotton, is often a blend as well. This can make it less likely to wrinkle and easier to clean. However, polyester-wool blends can pill more easily.

Rayon: While more durable than silk, rayon is still only recommended for occasional-use furniture.

Vinyl: Vinyl is a cheaper option than leather, but its quality will affect the overall durability.

Which fabric is right for me?

A great place to start when considering which fabric to use is the level of durability you need. Are you upholstering the living room sofa or the chairs in a rarely used formal dining room? For furniture that will be more regularly used, choose something that is more durable.

Similarly, if the furniture is likely to be stained, for instance, if children or pets will be using it, choose a fabric that won’t stain easily and can be spot cleaned.

Once you’ve narrowed your choices down, you can start getting more specific. What texture, colours and patterns do you like? Some fabrics hold colours well and come in a variety of patterns, while others have a limited range. Don’t forget to consider how you want the fabric to feel when you use it. No one wants a scratchy sofa.

Don’t rush your decision; take your time finding the perfect material for you. If you have questions, speak to an upholstery professional to figure out what best suits your needs.

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