When you hear the word vinyl, you probably think of that classic “wanna-be” leather look. However, many types of vinyl are available, with unique prints and surface textures. The real question is whether vinyl can be used in a child’s room.
Perhaps microfiber with its smooth velvety and suede-like texture is a better choice? Both vinyl and microfiber are durable and practical upholstery fabrics, potentially making them good choices for children’s rooms.
Let’s find out which is best.
Qualities Required for Child-Friendly Spaces
Finding child-friendly fabrics can be a challenge. There are several concerns with different fabrics and how they can be used in a child-friendly way. Children require specific spaces that are safe, colorful, peaceful, interesting, vibrant, and practical.
When designing your child’s room, it’s important to keep in mind the properties of the fabrics you choose. Fabrics can be soft, hard, fixed, flexible, durable, and highly textured. Of vital importance is that the fabrics you choose should be safe for young children. Fabrics should not cause suffocation or bruising if the child is wrapped in the fabric or uses the upholstered spaces.
What Textile Characteristics Are Appropriate for a Child’s Room?
For a child’s room, the checklist of considerations you should examine for each type of upholstery or curtaining fabric includes the following:
- Easy to clean
Let’s face it, kids can be messy, so whichever fabric you use in their room should be completely washable and stain-resistant. A bonus is wrinkle-proof fabrics, so you don’t have to constantly iron every item when used or after washing.
It’s no good choosing a fabric type that is virtually indestructible if that fabric only has color schemes that are dull and not at all “child-friendly” in appearance. Fabrics that can be dyed and printed in any color and pattern are the ideal choice.
- Great surface texture
Children learn, and part of that learning paradigm is using their senses. Having a range of textures in their room is perfect for their continued sensory development. Children need to touch different textures and explore their world. Richly textured fabrics that also clean well are a winner.
When you’re a parent, you try to make every penny count so you can offer the best to your child. So, unless you’re a millionaire, you don’t want to replace fabrics and upholstery every couple of months. Some items will have to do double-duty as you have more children and pass items from the oldest to the youngest. Durability is a HUGE consideration.
Kids play rough, and it takes a few years (as they grow) to teach them about looking after their things. Having upholstered items that are tear-resistant will be a great help when your kids jump on their mini sofa with their soccer boots on after a mini soccer game to celebrate.
Fabrics that gather dust, germs, and environmental pollutants like mold are a big no-no for children’s rooms. While truly hypoallergenic fabrics are often pricey and bring other limitations, you should at the least try to choose fabrics that are safe for kids and not prone to mold or staining.
While upholstery fabrics rarely carry a “toxicity” warning, some fabrics aren’t suitable for close proximity use. Lining your baby crib with synthetic fabrics is not a great idea as these can release chemicals from the plastic packets and rubber or petroleum they are made from.
Natural fabrics are best for baby cribs, but for older children, using synthetic fabrics on furniture is no problem.
It may not be viable to upholster your child’s room in the latest motifs as they are always growing, and what’s cool today won’t be cool to them in six months’ time. So finding the balance between what is practical and what is fun can be a challenge.
Success comes down to a balance of finding great fabrics to upholster with that are multi-purpose and can be used with many themes. Then, you can accessorize to bring the Peppa Pig, Ben 10, Barbie, Power Rangers, or Iron Man theme home.
Vinyl in a Child’s Room
Vinyl, also called PVC by some, is a synthetic material made from chlorine (industrial-quality salt) and carbon (extracted via an ethylene process). This doesn’t sound very safe or great, right?
There are some considerations to keep in mind when choosing vinyl as a fabric for upholstering furniture. The highly practical, easy maintenance, stain-proof, and great range of colors are just some of the bonus points when using vinyl in your home. But would or should you use it in your child’s room?
Vinyl Pros for Children
Vinyl offers many great benefits as an upholstery fabric. For children it:
- It is easy to clean
- Doesn’t absorb environmental elements like dust, germs, and insects (if cleaned regularly)
- Dries quickly when washed, reducing the potential for mold growth
- It is fairly UV-resistant, making it a great choice for that chair in the sunny corner of the room
- Comes in a range of patterns, textures, colors, and prints
- It is affordable and available in large-scale bolts
- Is tear-resistant, though you’d have to keep the cat off it and hide the scissors
- It is affordable and easy to work with for DIY upholstery projects
Vinyl Cons for Children
All good things also have a few bad traits, and there are a few points with Vinyl you should keep in mind. Vinyl is:
- Made from synthetic chemicals so that it may trigger allergies such as rashes
- Said to release harmful chemicals in aerosol form
- Not warm to the touch, making it a “cold” seat for kids who want to cuddle
So vinyl has many benefits that make it a good choice for children’s rooms. It’s a popular flooring choice as it offers some padding and can be mopped and cleaned with minimal effort. The incredible range of colors, patterns, and textures make for a child’s wonderland.
However, it has potential health challenges with releasing harmful gasses—making most parents take a firm step back.
So how and why do parents choose vinyl for flooring and upholstery in a child’s room? While there are health risks to vinyl upholstery, it is also minimal, and with good ventilation, the release of any chemicals is fully negated. Crack a window or switch your aircon on, and any harmful gasses are soon removed.
It should be pointed out that many children’s toys are made using vinyl and rubber, which are also known to release chemicals, so unless you’re a purist who doesn’t want any chemicals near your child, ventilation is enough of a safety precaution to outweigh any risks.
Microfiber in a Child’s Room
Microfiber is made from a blend of polyester and nylon. While microfiber is said to help with recycling, it also requires some petroleum during the manufacturing process, so it’s not an entirely “green” fabric. However, microfiber is considered a safe textile to use in your home as anything from bed sheets, cleaning cloths, clothing, and more.
Is microfiber a safe and appropriate choice for children’s rooms?
Microfiber Pros for Children
Microfiber is a popular choice for bedding, upholstery, stuffed toys, carpets, and rugs. It is soft to the touch, available in many colors, and popular in children’s rooms. Microfiber is:
- Available in a wide range of colors, prints, and patterns
- Available in smooth textures or a velvety texture from being machine brushed
- Washes well and dries quickly
- It is durable and tear-resistant for upholstery
- Doesn’t wrinkle easily
- UV-resistant when paler or medium tones are used
- Multifunctional and can be used for upholstery, curtaining, bedding, rugs, toys, and drapes
Microfiber Cons for Children
Since microfiber is made from polyester (which is essentially plastic bags) and nylon (synthetic chemicals), it is not a 100% safe fabric to use in children’s rooms. But then, few fabrics are 100% safe and organic, and the few that are safe are usually extremely expensive and may not offer the colors and designs that children love.
Microfiber has some extremely minor risks such as:
- It is said to shed microscopic fibers (smaller than human hair) that may end up in your lungs and are found in waterways of the ocean
- It causes allergies to those with sensitivity to synthetic substances
- The brushed surface may attract dust and allergens since microfiber is slightly positively charged (which is also why microfiber is such a good cleaning cloth fabric)
- It absorbs liquids and smells, so it may require more frequent cleaning and washing to keep it smelling good
Microfiber is a popular fabric that is used in many household applications, and while there are a few minor health concerns, it remains a popular fabric that is most likely already in your home and in your child’s room. There are probably already plush toys, area rugs, bedding, and pillows that are made from microfiber.
How to Improve the Safety of Using Either Microfiber and/or Vinyl in Your Child’s Room
Follow these safety care tips to ensure that whichever fabric you choose for your child’s room, you are looking out for their health and safety:
- Ventilate the room well
- Shake and vacuum any plush toys, upholstery, bed sheets, pillows, or curtains once a day
- Wash all upholstered fabric surfaces monthly, and wipe any vinyl surfaces down with a damp cloth
- Reduce harsh sun rays with an outdoor awning or shutters as high heat will release more harmful chemicals
- Wash any sheets or bedding weekly
- During dry seasons, use a humidifier to help improve humidity in the air as this will reduce the positive charge of any fabrics, reducing their ability to hold dust and allergens
- Shake any microfiber rugs and toys outside the room, airing for a few hours before returning to the room (as a bonus, the UV rays of the sun will help destroy any bacteria that may cling to the fibers)
Alternative Fabrics to Microfiber and Vinyl for a Child’s Room
If you feel like you’d rather not risk using either vinyl or microfiber, there are fully organic and 100% safe fabrics and textiles available from great suppliers like Kovi Fabrics. Consider any of the following alternatives if your child tends to be allergic to any synthetic materials, dyes, or chemicals:
- Leather: Vegan leather or vegetable tanned leather (regular leather contains harmful chemicals that may cause allergies and adds to water pollution)
- Linen: Opting for 100% organic certified linen is a great investment, especially when dyed with organic dyes
- Cotton: 100 % organic cotton that is certified as containing no pesticides, fertilizer, or harmful chemical dyes can be a good investment
- Silk: Only 100% organically certified silk that is harvested from naturally farmed silkworms and dyed with natural vegetable dyes is safe and hypoallergenic
- Wool: Organically grown and sheared wool such as quality merino wool is a good choice for those who have allergies
The Final Verdict
Finally, I chose a mix of fabrics for my child’s room. While their health and safety are my main concern, I also have to be practical. Vinyl flooring is safe and releases minimal harmful chemicals, especially when the room is well-ventilated. To ensure the sun’s UV rays don’t increase chemical release, I close the blinds when the warmer afternoon rays heat up the room.
I chose to use a smooth microfiber in vibrant colors with a wool and cotton blend for the pillows on the sofa and chair. On their bed, I opted for a 100% merino wool blanket and cotton sheets. I chose a fluffy microfiber area rug in bright colors to bring extra warmth into the room.
To ensure these fabrics only offer the best health care to my child, I follow a strict daily shake ‘n vac routine, with sheets laundered every week while I wipe down the vinyl surfaces and mop the floor. When it comes to my child, only the best (that I can afford) will do. This means that fabrics need to last. Read more about what makes upholstery fabric durable.