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Pros and Cons of Different Types of Upholstery for Furniture

When it comes to furniture, upholstery is the star of the show. You should consider other factors and elements about the furniture you select, such as stitching, construction, padding, and other things. Still, it’s the upholstery you’ll see and deal with every day. That said, when you pick your upholstery, make sure it doesn’t just look good. Consider stain resistance, durability, and comfort as well. To help you make your decision, here are the pros and cons of different types of upholstery for furniture. Consider these while you shop, and you’ll be even happier with your purchase!


Linen is a classic and enticing upholstery fabric and a long-time favorite. It’s strong, it’s smooth, it’s soft, and it’s easy on the eyes. Linen is also great because it doesn’t pill—that is, form balls of lint on its surface over time—or soil easily. Just give it a quick wipe or wash with a mild detergent. On the other hand, linen wrinkles and may not retain a smooth look without a little basic maintenance. Regardless, a quick trip to the dryer or use of a steamer can work out those annoying wrinkles. Linen costs a little more than cotton and other fabrics, but the price may be worth it for its beauty and usefulness.


Cotton is a more affordable alternative that doesn’t sacrifice comfort and coziness. Cotton is fairly tough as far as fabrics go and can endure years of use. Removable slipcovers are machine washable as well. However, cotton gets dirty easily, and stains may not wash right out, so be careful with food, drinks, and soil. Quite often, manufacturers combine cotton with other fabrics and materials like linen to improve its qualities and diminish its weaknesses. Keep this in mind because you won’t find much upholstery that’s completely cotton.


Leather is another classic upholstery material that looks and feels great. It can also stand up to years of use and abuse. Make no mistake, though—leather is expensive. But you’re paying for longevity as well as looks. The organic look of leather with all its natural markings makes abrasions and scratches blend in. Its durability also stands up to years of work and play from guests, kids, and pets. Naturally, avoid bringing sharp objects into contact with your leather furniture. Cuts and tears aren’t easy to hide. Leather is a very easy-to-clean material as well, requiring a bit of vacuuming, a swipe with a wet cloth, and periodic conditioning with leather-care products.


Unlike natural linen, cotton, and leather, polyester is made of plastic. It’s nevertheless very cozy and soft and somewhat resembles natural fabrics, so you’re not sacrificing looks by picking it. Polyester often comes in a blend with other fabrics for added durability, similar to cotton. One of polyester’s biggest advantages is that it’s easy to clean up with water and mild detergent, though some blends may develop stains more quickly. As for cons, ecologically speaking, polyester is no good for the environment. After disposal, it won’t break down in landfills. On the other hand, it does offer years of service.


Getting back to organically based fabric, we’ll look at wool. This material comes from sheep and often produces more warmth and comfort than all the other fabrics. Wool upholstery looks great and adds a soft and pleasant look to any décor. Moreover, stretching out on a woolen couch is a pleasant experience. Unfortunately, wool requires extra maintenance to prevent matting, shrinking, or staining. Go easy with water and cleaning solution. Otherwise, a small stain may become a big mess. Wool isn’t cheap, so be aware that the price will probably be high!


Rayon is another synthetic fabric derived from cellulose created as an alternative to more naturally produced silk. Some organic fabrics are subject to destruction from moths. However, the insects have no interest in rayon and leave it alone. Although it’s fairly durable and cozy, rayon nonetheless experiences pesky wrinkling. Water and other liquids can also damage or ruin it. If you have a home with a lot going on, you may want to avoid rayon.


Feeling fancy? Silk is the fabric for you. But don’t take this bright and breezy fabric lightly. You’ll pay quite a bit for all that loveliness. Silk holds its shape and feels terrifically smooth and sexy. It also looks fantastic. Unfortunately, it’s as delicate as it looks. It can lose its color and texture under sunlight and excessive use. Pets are a big no-no around silk, and even cleaning requires extra caution since it stains easily.


Velvet is plush and gorgeous. The philosopher George Constanza put it well when he expressed a desire to ensconce himself in velvet. Velvet can consist of silk, but it’s mostly synthetic in composition these days. Rayon or polyester are often the materials manufacturers use for this fabric. Silk will cost more, of course, but you can still enjoy the sensation of velvet through the synthetic materials at a lower price—and they’ll last longer too. Velvet’s durability is famous, though it can also get dusty quickly and require regular vacuuming. Spills and sunlight aren’t velvet’s friend, so you’ll need to protect it from both. Otherwise, it’ll swiftly stain and become discolored.


What is olefin? It’s another synthetic fabric that comes from petroleum. That may sound unpleasant, but it’s quite soft and cozy without losing durability, and it provides the appearance and feeling of wool. Being plastic, olefin is simple to care for and resists spills, stains, mildew, fading, and physical damage. You can also clean it up without worrying about it spreading or causing further stains. Unfortunately, olefin and the sun don’t get along. Heat from the sun and other sources can make it brittle and cause it to break down, so keep it away from windows!

Those are some of the pros and cons of different types of upholstery for furniture. Contact us if you want to learn more about these and other fabrics or if you want to buy furniture on credit. We look forward to hearing from you!