When it’s time to shop for a new couch, do too many material choices frustrate you? Consider this a blessing not a curse. You’re unique. Your family is, too. You want your home to look distinct and attractive, and your furnishings should reflect everyone’s style and personality. That’s why it’s wise to assess your lifestyle before you shop and choose from many types of couches material on today’s market so you don’t suffer buyer’s regret. Just like there are numerous types of couches, there is a vast selection of covering materials as well.
Got kids and dogs? Patterns hide a multitude of sins. Love cats? You know what they like to do to leather and synthetic leathers, right?
Is your home so sophisticated, or is it filled with all-white furnishings? On the other hand, do frequent friends and family gatherings call for stain resistant textiles?
Lifestyle patterns are critical to the consideration process when you review types of couches material, so before you shop, keep this in mind.
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Textiles over time
Upholstered couches haven’t been around as long as you think. The UK claims to be the epicenter of all things upholstered as curators point to furnishings produced by the Worshipful Company of Upholders, a trade guild operating in London, that began producing upholstered chairs and settees before 1460.
The idea of attaching textiles to wood frames quickly spread through the highest echelons of society, and by the 18th and 19th centuries, wood workers and seamstresses collaborated on upholstered furnishings manufactured for people from all socioeconomic classes.
That stated, the 20th century witnessed an explosion of materials and construction innovations that prompted furniture makers to explore new materials, features and styling, expanding natural textiles to synthetics, plastics, leather and animal hides.
Like sheets, the gold standard of couch textiles continues to be “thread count” numbers (threads per square inch of fabric), but custom furniture manufacturers are happy to cover a couch with anything you like–as long as you are willing to pay for the work!
5 Couch/Sofa Covering Material Types
1) Natural Fabric
- processed wood pulp
- -Tight weave holds up for years of continuous use.
- -Available in an endless array of patterns, weaves and colors.
- -Some natural fibers are “certified organic” thus free of synthetic chemicals and dyes.
- -Natural fibers come in a wide range of price points to fit family budgets.
- -Preferred by homeowners seeking couch coverings that are non-allergenic.
- -Easily susceptible to damage from sunlight and moisture.
- -Could be flammable if not properly treated with flame retardants.
- -Linen and cotton can soil and wrinkle if not sprayed with stain-resist products.
- -Silk is delicate, looks luxurious, but must be professionally cleaned if soiled.
- -Natural fibers are delicate compared to synthetics, leathers and other materials.
2) Synthetic Fabric
- -Synthetic fabrics resist stains and fading and tend to be more durable than natural fibers.
- -May be combined with natural fibers to achieve a stronger weave.
- -Resists the claws of family pets more efficiently than natural fibers, but it will attract cat hair.
- -Can be woven to emulate the look of natural fibers but at half the price.
- -Olefin is the strongest, cheapest synthetic of all; it dominates the synthetics category.
- -Acetate can wrinkle, fade and attract soil.
- -Low-quality synthetics are known to pill if surfaces are subject to constant abrasion (e.g., movement).
- -Synthetics are known for perpetuating static electricity, so prepare for shocks!
- -Clothing tends to leave particles, lint and debris behind by imbeding in the weave.
- -Place oily hands or feet on these materials and stains may be impossible to remove.
3) Leather Material
- Cow hide
- composite hides
- -Easily dyed to produce exotic color combinations.
- -Leather is enduring; real leather furnishings last 4 times longer than other couch materials.
- -Clean leather with soap and water; use systems like Swiffer for quick clean-ups.
- -Unlike fabric, leather doesn’t absorb smells and odors (especially cigarette smoke).
- -Real leather is aesthetically pleasing and gives your home an upscale look.
- -All types of leather can be difficult to repair if ripped or stained.
- -Leather-covered couches are expensive; particularly those made with top-grain leather.
- -Disreputable couch makers may use different leather types to cut manufacturing costs.
- -Leather can be hot and sticky; not the best material pick if you live in the tropics.
- -Hair and skin oils transfer easily, so keeping surfaces clean can be an ongoing task.
4) Faux Leather Material
- Polyamide Microfiber
- -You get the upscale look you crave without emptying your bank account.
- -Perfect for homeowners who support animal rights causes and refuse to buy animal hide.
- -Faux leathers are designed to match all leather types, so there’s plenty of variety.
- -Synthetic leathers are usually UV fade resistant so positioning a couch in a sunny area won’t harm it.
- -For environmentalists: new faux leathers include cork leather from oak trees (called Swedish Koskinn) and ocean leather made from kelp.
- -PVC faux leather can be harder to clean than the other poly-leather types.
- -While polyurethane “breathes,” PVC doesn’t, so sitting on a couch in a hot room could be torture.
- -Artificial leathers don’t wear well over time and surfaces are easily damaged.
- -You won’t find the hypo-allergenic properties of real leather in these simulated fabrics.
- -Pet claws are pet claws: your cats and dogs won’t be able to tell the difference either!
5) One-of-a-kind, off-the-grid Materials
- elastic shapes
- contoured carpet
- faux furs
- -Own a one-of-a-kind sofa that has no equal on Earth.
- -Put recyclable materials to use that may otherwise have been thrown out.
- -Re-purpose materials used for other interior furnishings.
- -Try your hand at a DIY project to wind up with a uniquely-upholstered couch.
- -Save money using fabric not classified “upholstery grade,” which usually costs more.
- -Your creative thinking may compromise the life of the couch if the material you use isn’t dense.
- -Not everyone has the skills to re-upholster a couch with unorthodox materials.
- -Hire an upholsterer to craft your unusual couch and you could spend as much as you’d pay for leather.
- -Would your pet respect your one-of-a-kind couch? You decide.
- -Not every material you choose has what it takes repel dirt, stains, soil and damage.
Which fabric is best for my sofa or couch?
In terms of decoration and design appeal, many interior designers suggest to choose a neutral fabric for your sofa. Avoid using bold color covering for your couch so you won’t get tired of the material soon. Also, try to avoid rich-textured fabrics such as velvet and chenille since worn patches tend to show up easily on these fabrics (although they look more luxurious in the home).
In terms of durability, you should look for wear and stain-resistant fabric such as solution-dyed acrylics or blended polyester. Also Leather, Ultrasuede, Microfiber are great choices if you have pets.
What is the Best Couch Fabric for Cat or Dog Owners?
The two best material for people with cats or dogs are Leather and Microfiber (synthetic fabric). Both of these materials can be cleaned easily, do not attract hair and also pet claws won’t get caught in the couch.
What are the Pros and Cons of Polyester Couch?
- Durable: Polyester material is known to withstand abrasion, discoloration, and stains. Essentially, you can clean the couch easily with heavy chemicals and abrasive material without the fear of running the fabric.
- Slightly breathable: To some extent, polyester is breathable, which means you can avoid the stench that is associated with unbreathable materials.
- Attractive: If you are looking for a couch fabric that mimics leather, polyester is closer to what you expect. The fabric comes in attractive colors and patterns.
- Averagely environmentally friendly: Unlike pure plastic materials, polyesters take time to decompose but they do so eventually. When burnt, the materials release very limited toxic chemicals to the air thus fairly safe.
- Prone to stretch: If compared to other fabric, polyesters are tensile; so they stretch over time.
- Delaminating effect: This is a situation where the skin of the polyester fabric peels off from the back material. It happens under high pressure.
- Cracking: If exposed to varying temperatures, the fabric may crack.
What are the Pros and Cons of Microfiber Couch?
- Hold color for long: Microfiber materials don’t fade easily, and thus your couch gets to maintain its color for long.
- Stain resistant: The fabric of the couch is tightly woven. This means that you can easily spot and wipe off stains from wine and coffee.
- Easy to clean: The upholstery is very easy to clean since it’s soft. Therefore, its suited for homes with kids and pets.
- Recyclable: The material is easily recyclable since it’s petroleum based.
- Comfortable: The upholstery is warmer than leather and polyester hence comfortable to rest on.
- Hypoallergenic: Makes it a great choice for allergy sufferers.
- Watermarking: When water, especially dirty water, penetrates the fabric, the material may show the staining when dry.
- Attracts foreign materials: Pet hairs, dust, and debris are easily trapped on the upholstery.
- Folding: Due to the softness of the material, they easily fold on the extreme ends under intense heat, hence unpresentable.
What are the Pros and Cons of Leather Couch?
- Durable: Leather couches are known to last longer due to the strength of the material. The material is more durable than polyester and microfiber.
- Easy to maintain: Cleaning leather upholstery is easy and fast. You can do it effortlessly with water and soap. There are also creams for cleaning leather that you can use.
- Stain resistant: It’s easier to wipe off stains from leather than on microfiber or polyester. You just need to rub off the stain and your upholstery will look great.
- Scratch resistant: Usually, leather couches are made of thick leather fabric that withstands scratches by your pet and kids.
- Attractive colors: With leather couches, you can choose from a range of colors such as black, brown, white, and cream. They are all attractive.
- May wear under high pressure: If the couch is constantly attacked by your pet or your kids jump on it often, it may wear.
- Limited patterns: There are limited varieties of patterns for leather upholstery if compared to the other fabrics.
- Expensive: There is no doubt that leather couches are the most expensive if compared to microfiber and polyester couches. This is because the material is durable and more luxurious.
Velvet Couch Pros and Cons
Velvet couches have a nice sheen and are often very soft and comfortable. Velvet is a closely woven fabric containing a combination of nylon, cotton, or silk fabrics. The thick weave gives the material a distinct, soft feel. As velvet is woven with two different thicknesses of fabric, it offers more depth compared to other upholstery materials. This gives velvet couches more dimension.
The depth of the velvet material attracts more dust and dirt. To keep a velvet couch clean, owners need to regularly vacuum the couch. The soft material also easily attracts pet hair and dander, which may be an issue for those who have allergies. Despite the difficulty of cleaning a velvet couch, these pieces of furniture are very durable. The thick weave helps prevent wear and tear.
Linen Couch Pros and Cons
Linen is becoming a popular choice for couch and furniture fabric due to its comfort and breathability. The natural fibers of the linen material are more breathable than most fabrics, which helps keep the furniture cooler.
Linen couches also typically feature a removable cover, allowing owners to wash the linens to keep them clean. These materials are also hypo-allergenic. Linen is resistant to various pollutants and microflora, providing a suitable choice for those who suffer from allergies.
There are a couple of potential drawbacks to a linen couch. Linen is not the most durable material. The thin fibers may wear more easily compared to thicker fabrics. The thinner fibers also allow the linen material to easily absorb dirt and spills, increasing the risk of staining.
Vinyl Couch Pros and Cons
Vinyl couches were popular in the 1970s, due to their affordability compared to leather couches. Vinyl offers a look and feel that is like leather at a fraction of the price. This material is also one of the most durable options, due to its resistance to stains and dirt accumulation. The slick material is easy to clean, typically only requiring the owner to wipe down the couch with a damp cloth.
One issue with vinyl couches is the breathability of the material. Vinyl does not offer good ventilation, which allows vinyl couches to become very hot when exposed to direct sunlight. When these couches are hot, the material may feel sticky. Vinyl is also difficult to repair. If the material cracks or receives a hole, it may be impossible or difficult to repair.
Microfiber vs Polyester Sofa Material
Microfiber and polyester are both popular fabrics for sofas, each with their own pros and cons.
Microfiber is a synthetic fabric that is mostly comprised of ultra-thin polyester fibers with small amounts of polyamides, including nylon and Kevlar. It is generally a soft fabric, providing more comfort than stiffer polyester material. Microfiber is also hypoallergenic, which makes it a great choice for allergy sufferers.
While polyester is also a synthetic material, it offers more durability compared to microfiber fabrics. A polyester sofa will likely hold up longer. Polyester is also easy to care for and is resistant to water-based stains, mildew, and fading from sunlight. However, polyester sofas offer little resistance to oil-based stains and greasy substances or food.
Overall, polyester sofas are more durable, while microfiber sofas are often softer and hypoallergenic.
Olefin Fabric Advantages and Disadvantages
Olefin is becoming a popular choice for upholstery fabrics. This fabric is made from melted plastic pellets that are spun into yarn. The plastic fibers do not absorb water, which makes olefin naturally resistant to water-based stains. It is also extremely durable and resistant to mildew, abrasion, and fire. The color is added during the melting process, so the fibers are bleach cleanable.
The main drawback to olefin fabric is that it offers poor resistance to sunlight. It may even melt when the fabric is exposed to heat or direct sunlight. The olefin fabric may also become brittle, and creases can develop in the folds.
In the end, the main benefit of olefin is its durability and resistance to staining. However, the primary weakness of olefin fabric is its susceptibility to damage when exposed to bright UV light.
Viscose Fabric Pros and Cons
Viscose is a type of rayon fabric that is made from regenerated cellulose fibers using organic liquid. This manufacturing process makes viscose partially natural and partially synthetic. It shares many characteristics with cotton fabrics, such as its breathability and affordability. However, viscose feels more like silk. It is also available in a variety of colors, as viscose is easy to dye and blends well with other types of fibers.
There are several drawbacks to viscose, especially when used for upholstery. Viscose stretches easily and may not return to its natural shape. It is also not very durable, making it prone to abrasions and stains. It even absorbs body oils, which can lead to oily stains. While there are a few disadvantages to viscose, it is often as soft as silk and available at a fraction of the price.
Polypropylene Sofa Pros and Cons
Polypropylene is often chosen for furniture that needs protection from spills. The polypropylene material is a type of synthetic resin comprised of plastic polymers.
It is typically rigid, stiff, and not very porous. These features help protect the furniture from stains. When liquid is spilled on a polypropylene sofa, it is likely to run off the fabric or pool in place instead of soaking into the fabric.
As the fabric does not absorb the liquid, it does not easily stain. Due to this advantage, you may want to place a polypropylene sofa in an area where people regularly eat or drink.
The polypropylene material is also durable. Besides offering stain resistance, it can hold up to repeated use. The plastic fibers are less prone to the typical wear and tear experienced by other fabrics such as cotton or polyester blends.
The drawback of a polypropylene sofa is its stiffness. While the rigid material shields the sofa from spills, it also makes the material a little less comfortable compared to softer fabrics.
While the material is durable, it may eventually fade. Constant UV exposure can heat the material, making it uncomfortable and slowly fading the colors. However, these issues may be avoided by placing the sofa in an area without direct sunlight.
Polypropylene vs Polyester Couch
Polypropylene and polyester are durable materials and suitable for upholstered furniture, including couches. While both options are resilient, polypropylene offers better water and stain resistance.
Liquids cannot penetrate the non-porous surface of the polypropylene fabric. This prevents water and spills from soaking into the fabric.
When you spill something on a polypropylene couch, the liquid should bead up and roll off the fabric, such as when you pour liquid on a plastic sheet. Polyester can absorb more of the liquid, which increases the risk of stains from spills.
Polyester has its own advantages. The material is less rigid and stiff compared to polypropylene, making the polyester fabric more comfortable on the bare skin.
If the couch is placed near a window, the polyester material is also less likely to fade or heat up from the UV rays. It is more resistant to UV exposure.
With a polypropylene couch, the sun may slowly cause the fabric to break down and the colors to fade. The fabric may also heat up when placed near a window, as vinyl seating does.
The main differences between the two types of material are fade resistance and stain resistance. The polyester couches are typically considered more comfortable and resistant to fading. The polypropylene couches are more effective at resisting stains and water damage.