How to Pick the Perfect Upholstery Fabric

When buying new upholstery fabric, the first thing that might come to your mind is the cost and color. But other factors are equally crucial, such as the durability of the fabric and the furnishing you’re upholstering.

Before deciding, read this guide to learn how to pick the perfect upholstery fabric. Learn the importance of testing out the material first and buying extra fabric. 

What Do You Need Upholstery Fabric For?

When choosing the suitable fabric, the first thing to consider is the item you want to upholster. Outdoor furniture requires more durable materials than your headboard and dining room chairs.


An upholstered headboard provides comfort while enhancing the appearance of your bedroom. Some upholstery materials to consider are natural fabrics, velvet, and leather.

Linen and cotton are the most favorable options for natural fabric headboards. These two materials feature tight weaves that last many years. You’ll also find good-quality cotton and linen in many colors and patterns. But I don’t suggest using them if you have kids around.

Velvet is a more sophisticated material that will improve your bedroom’s mood. It offers a lovely sheen and a very soft texture to keep you comfortable in your space.

Another high-end upholstery fabric for your headboard is leather. It’s very firm, stable, and effortless to maintain. It also doesn’t absorb stains and smells, so your bedroom will stay fresh all the time.

Dining Chairs

Dining chairs are the most vulnerable to food and drink spills, so you must choose a material carefully. Polyester, vinyl, and cotton blend are your top options.

Polyester is probably the cheapest fabric you can buy for your dining chair. This material is stain-resistant and manageable while being available in various styles and colors. Your wine will not quickly penetrate the fabric, along with dust and pet dander.

Vinyl is an alternative to 100% polyester, which looks fantastic on bar stools and banquettes. Try this upholstery fabric if you want to spice up your informal dining room or if you have kids and pets at home. 

You can also use a cotton blend as a dining chair fabric. But it’s more high-maintenance than other materials. The best ratio for cotton to polyester is 1:1.


Cotton is a sofa staple because of its practicality and accessibility. It’s available in several patterns and colors that suit almost all interior designs. You’ll even find cotton fabrics with leopard prints and stripes. 

Another go-to material for sofas is linen, which is durable and smooth. Many sofa slipcovers are also made of this fabric because they are stylish, easy to clean, and hold up to everyday use. But linen quickly wrinkles and stains.

Velvet is a more luxurious option for your couch. This silky material has rich hues with plenty of depth. Look for a velvet fabric that is cleanable, fade-resistant, and durable.

Sofas with Kids and Pets

Your choices for upholstery fabrics are different if you have kids and pets at home. Instead of wasting your energy asking them to stay off the couch, choose a material that is suitable for them. 

Faux suede is a fantastic choice. Faux suede is a synthetic cloth that comes from 100% polyester rather than cowhide. This fiber uses polymer molecules bound together through different chemical processes. Manufacturers choose the thread carefully as they should resemble leather fibers.

This soft and supple material is durable, affordable, and easy to clean. Occasional dusting and wiping are enough for your couch to stay brand new. You can also try microsuede, a lightweight fabric that comes from micro-denier fibers. 

Outdoor Seating

Outdoor furniture pieces need superior UV resistance to be more robust, and polypropylene is a lifesaver. It dries quickly if you splash some pool water on it, and it also prevents stains due to non-active dye sites. 

Two fabric types for your outdoor seating are olefin and solution-dyed acrylic. Olefin is a durable byproduct of refining petroleum that doesn’t quickly fade. Unlike polyester, it has a high lightfastness rating that can withstand the sun’s UV rays. 

Solution-dyed acrylic fabric is your other option. This synthetic fabric comes from acrylic fibers that have a lower specific gravity. Acrylic also features moisture and mildew-resistant properties that all outdoor furniture pieces need. 

Things to Consider When Choosing Upholstery Fabric


Aside from the type of item you’re upholstering, durability is another factor to consider. Look at the double rub test that the manufacturers performed. This test involves a back-and-forth motion that imitates the action of a person sitting on the item.

The higher the double rub number, the better the quality and durability. The upholstery fabric should also be UV-resistant, water-repellant, and stain-proof. 

Durability may not be your priority if you’re only upholstering decorative pieces. But remember that your heirloom pieces require the most fabric care. So, look for a material that will stand the test of time. 


Your upholstery fabric’s color does not only depend on your interior design. It’s also dependent on the purpose of your furniture item. If you’re planning to reupholster your everyday couch, a natural beige or black will stay neutral while hiding dirt.

Consider lighter colors if you want your space to be more welcoming and airier. A bold or bright pattern is also a wise selection for accent pieces. 

Buy Extra Upholstery Fabric

Upholstery fabric is expensive, starting at around $60 per yard. But extra fabric should always be part of your budget. Specific patterns on a cloth need extra yardage to create the necessary repeat. 

Don’t take it lightly, thinking you can always return to the store to buy more fabric. The exact fabric isn’t always available in the store since dyes change overnight. If you run short on fabric, try using false platforms or stretchers and strips. 

Test Upholstery Fabric Before Buying It

Try the upholstery fabric before purchasing it. Feel free to sit on it, feel the texture, and ask for swatches. Drape the swatch on top of the furniture piece so you’ll have an idea of how it looks. 

Bottom Line

As you see, color isn’t the only factor to think about when buying upholstery fabric. If you don’t consider its durability, you’ll end up with stains and fades. Your furniture will also suffer from pet hair and wrinkles. 

I certainly hope these tips were helpful for your project. Let us know!

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