The Ins and Outs of Upholstery Fabric: All You’ve Ever Wanted to Know

Upholstery fabric is an important part of home furnishings, and choosing the right fabric can really make or break your home. Comfort, durability, and style are just some of the considerations to keep in mind when it comes to choosing the right upholstery fabric. Here are some common questions people have before purchasing upholstery fabric, as well as the answers you may have been looking for.

What Is Upholstery Fabric?

Upholstery fabric is a special kind of fabric that is made according to different specifications to curtain fabric or clothing fabric. For starters, upholstery fabric is much thicker and made to be more durable too. Many qualities make for great upholstery fabric:

  • Durability
  • Non-piling 
  • Scratch resistance
  • Washability 
  • Stain retardant
  • UV resistance
  • Fade resistance
  • Some upholstery fabrics can be painted 
  • Pet-friendliness
  • Huge range of colors and textures
  • Different kinds of upholstery fabrics

How Wide Is Upholstery Fabric?

The average upholstery fabric comes in two sizes: 54 and 60 inches wide. This is an important aspect to keep in mind. When choosing your upholstery fabric, you would need to order enough fabric to allow the wider parts of your furniture to fit either on the width or length to avoid unnecessary joints in your finished project. 

A professional upholsterer will be able to accurately calculate how much upholstery fabric to order. But what about when you are planning to DIY this project? Kovi’s consultants can help you calculate how much upholstery you will actually need so you can order enough upholstery the first time and avoid disappointment or excess fabric. 

How to Paint Upholstery Fabric

Painting upholstery fabric may seem like a strange concept, but you may have a furniture item that is still in good condition—it’s just no longer interesting enough. Now what? You paint it, of course!

What Paints Can You Use to Paint Upholstery?  

The top choice when painting upholstery is chalk paint. It is also important to seal the final product with a wax coating, as this will provide you with a lasting finish and a smooth feeling of upholstery. 

What Upholstery Fabric Is Best for Painting?

There are many different upholstery fabrics, from PVC to laminates and linens, vinyl, and leather. Which is best for painting may be a surprising revelation. The truth is that you can use any upholstery fabric; however, the more absorbent types of upholstery, such as linen and velvet, are better suited to chalk paint as these absorb the paint better for a smoother finish.

What Is the Most Durable Upholstery Fabric?

Choosing the best possible upholstery fabric for your home and lifestyle can be difficult when faced with many choices. Here are the top favorites for upholstery fabric that are durable:

Cotton Upholstery 

Cotton is a highly durable upholstery fabric choice. It is fade and stretch-resistant, and it handles environmental pressures well. With cotton upholstery, you will also save a great deal as it is one of the most affordable fabrics on the market. 

When choosing cotton, buy top quality, aiming for a high thread count and natural fibers. While cotton can be stain-prone, you can easily ensure your own peace of mind by using a stain treatment such as FabricGuard or Scotchguard to keep stains at bay. 

Microfiber Upholstery

For durability, microfiber is a great choice. Microfiber is water and scratch-resistant, making it an ideal option for homes with pets and young children. 

Leather Upholstery

If you have the budget to afford leather, this is a great upholstery option as it is long-lasting, highly durable, and stain-resistant, too. The classic finish can’t be beaten. If you opt for genuine leather, then going for top-grain leather will provide you with the best quality and life expectancy.

Olefin Upholstery

Most other upholstery fabric choices are made from olefin or polypropylene fabric. This is a durable choice, as olefin won’t stretch or pile while enduring heavy use. Olefin is composed of synthetic fibers that are interwoven to create stain-resistant fabric with a dense weave. 

How to Choose Upholstery Fabric for Your Project

The upholstery fabric you choose will determine the success of your upholstery project. It isn’t just about choosing a great color or design. The type of upholstery also matters. 

Dining Chairs

When upholstering dining room chairs, keep in mind the purpose of the chairs. In the dining room, we sit and eat, which implies messes and stains. The dining room chairs should be stain-resistant, washable, and wipeable too. 

If your dining room sees real feasting use, it is important to be able to clean the upholstery frequently. Choosing a fabric like Olefin or microfiber can make your life much easier. 

Living Room Furniture 

With living room furniture, comfort, and durability are essential. Spending a little more on high-quality upholstery will ensure you have furniture that will last for many years to come. This is typically a room where high-end natural leather or organic cotton would be in demand. 

Upholstery choices for the living room would be in muted tones to allow for the decor scheme to evolve as your taste changes without the upholstery needing to be replaced. 

Headboards and Wingback Chairs

Your inner artist can come out to play with these specialty items, and you can opt for more than one type of upholstery or color upholstery to create your own masterpiece. 

Explore the options of using different design upholstery for the individual panels of your headboard or wingback chairs. These are feature items, so upholster them to make a statement, or opt for a classic look with natural grain leather and nailhead trim to finish off a classy look. 

Sofas and Sectional Units

Sofas, settees, couches, ottomans, and sectional units are meant to be upholstered in the most durable and flexible fabrics. This allows the furniture to stretch when sitting. These fabrics also last for many years. Natural leather and thicker cotton upholstery are great choices. 

Since these furniture items usually see quite a lot of use, which includes meals in front of the TV or entertaining guests, you would also want something that you can stain guard or wipe in case of spills. 

Outside Furniture

Your home extends to the veranda or pool area, too, so carefully consider what fabric to use when upholstering your deck chairs or outside sun chairs. This upholstery material needs to be UV-protected, rain resistant, non-piling, and tear-proof, too. 

Olefin is a great option as the synthetic fibers are ideally suited to be sun and weatherproof. This upholstery material is wipeable and durable. The life expectancy for outdoor furniture upholstery is somewhat less than for indoor furniture, but with Olefin, you can expect good service at a great price. 

How to Clean Upholstery Fabric

Cleaning upholstery fabric need not be a chore, and every single stain doesn’t mean thousands of dollars in damages. Having the know-how and materials on hand for cleaning your upholstery before a mess becomes a stain can really help you secure the longevity of your prize chaise lounge. 

Upholstery Cleaning Checklist

To maintain your upholstery and prolong its life, you should follow these care checks:

  • Vacuum your upholstery weekly
  • Fluff upholstery daily
  • Clean spills immediately
  • Wipe with a damp cloth once a week
  • Deep clean with steam cleaner (for non-leather upholstery) once a season
  • Avoid using chemicals that can leave a deposit when cleaning

How to Get Stains out of Upholstery Fabric

When dealing with spills and stains, the goal is to get the foreign matter off your prize upholstery as soon as possible. Whether you use commercial upholstery cleaner or homemade upholstery cleaners, you should follow these steps:

  • Start by gently blotting the spill with a paper towel, working from the outside of the spill to the inside. 
  • Next, use a stiff-bristled brush or sponge to apply some of your cleaning solution, again, working from the outside inward. You want to reduce the size of the spill, not spread the spill around. 
  • Again, blot the area with a paper towel or a lint-free microfiber cloth.
  • Reapply cleaning solution if necessary. 
  • Clean the area with clear water to remove any residual cleaning solution to prevent the cleaning fluid from drying on the upholstery (which will attract future debris).
  • Dry by dabbing at the upholstery with a dry lint-free cloth. Air-dry the rest of the stain. 
  • For textured upholstery, it may be necessary to vacuum or brush the stained area to restore the natural pile of the upholstery. Leather upholstery may require a nourishing treatment to restore the textile’s natural oils. 

A Last Thought

When choosing the best upholstery for your home, keep your lifestyle in mind too. Some upholstery types are more work to maintain than others. If you have pets or young children, it may be a wiser choice to wait on upholstering your sofa in leather and opt for Olefin instead, as it is more durable. 

Consider the color, feel, maintenance, and alteration potential of any upholstery fabric you are looking at. This will ensure you get the most service from your upholstery, value for money, and great style.

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