How to Pick the Best Fabric for Your Upholstery

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15 Feb 2018


Choosing fabric for your upholstery is an important step when thinking about purchasing a sofa or an upholstered chair. Style plays a part of course, but the fabric you decide to use will also change the feel, cleanability, and durability of your sofa. In order to choose the best fabric, you have a few things to consider.



First Steps


So, you've decided to purchase a new sofa or chair and are thinking about fabric options. What are the first steps you should take?


Firstly, you should consider what room it's going in. This is going to dictate how much use it's going to get and who's going to be using it. Will it be in the TV room getting daily use? Will it be in the bedroom and act as a decorative piece? Is your sofa going to have pets and kids climbing all over it? Will it be in a sunroom?


Once you've gone through this list, you'll think about three basic guidelines. Usage, cleanability, and fading.


3 things to consider when choosing upholstery fabric




The usage dictates how durable you want your fabric to be. Durability in fabric is based on the Wyzenbeek test which determines rub count. Rub count can be anywhere from around 10,000 to 200,000. The higher the rub count of the fabric, the longer it will take for the fabric to tear or pill.


Fabric for upholstery breaks down just like fabrics in clothes do, but the rub count will give you an idea of how soon this will happen. You'll want to consider the Wyzenbeek scale if your upholstery is going to be getting a lot of use. If it's a sofa in the family room or a chair you'll be reading the newspaper on every day then naturally you'll want a durable fabric. 30,000 is a solid rub count and will have solid longevity and durability.


But it really depends on what you're looking for. Ultrasuede  is a great option if you're concerned about durability. Ultrasuede is made of ultra-fine polyester threads that are spun together, creating a fabric that is soft yet durable and resistant to pilling.




This describes how easily it will be to clean your upholstery. Synthetic fibers generally have a higher cleanability while natural fibers are not as easily cleaned. There are, however, some synthetic fibers that do not have a high cleanability, such as viscose and rayon.


Cleanability will probably be really important to you if you have small kids or pets that go on the couch. Or, if you just don't want to worry about your upholstery getting stained!


Crypton Fabric

Crypton ®


In that case, Crypton is the way to go.  Crypton is a synthetic fabric that is ideal if you need cleanability. It's antimicrobial and has a liquid barrier. In other words, it repels stains. It's soft, durable, and comes in a wide variety of colors and textures. The rub count of Crypton varies.




Fading is important to think about if you plan on putting your upholstery in a sunroom, by a window, or outdoors. Strong sunlight will inevitably fade fabric, especially darker colors. If you're concerned about fading, a solution-dyed fabric is the way to go.


Here at Circle Furniture, we recommend Sunbrella. Solution-dyed means that instead of the dye being only on the surface of the fabric, the dye penetrates the interior of the fabric as well. Think of the difference between carrots that are orange all the way through versus radishes that are white on the inside.


Solution-dyed fabrics fade evenly over a long period of time. But they don't have a high rub count so they may pill faster. Pilling doesn't mean it's defective, it just needs care. Sunbrella is great choice if you're choosing upholstery for your deck, or if you've had upholstery fade before and want a sofa with color that lasts.


Read more: How Does Fabric Affect the Cost of Your Upholstery?



How to choose your fabric


The main two categories of fabric are synthetic and natural fibers. Within those two categories, there are countless options to choose from.


Linens and cotton are natural fibers, while polyester is an example of a synthetic fiber. In general, natural fibers don't have as much longevity as synthetic fibers. They're a good choice for people who have chemical allergies or who prefer the look of a natural fiber.


If you choose to use natural fibers, it's important to look at the Wyzenbeek rub count so you can get more longevity out of the fabric. Ultrasuede, Crypton, and Sunbrella are all synthetic fibers that are great options if you're looking for a performance fabric.


Read more: Best Performance Fabrics for Upholstery: A Review of 3 Leading Brands




Think about where you'll be placing your upholstered furniture because this will really dictate the kind of fabric that'll best suit your needs. If you're worried about stains, then Crypton is the way to go. If you're placing an upholstered piece in a sunroom or on a deck, Sunbrella or another solution dyed fabric will be your best bet.


And finally, if there's a fabric you love but it isn't appropriate for the piece, put it on a pillow! This is a great commitment-free way to use a fabric or design you love while using a more practical fabric on your sofa.


Come into one of our stores and meet our designers who will help you every step of the way. We will ask the important questions so that you can choose the best possible fabric for your upholstery.


Fabric Care Guide