Choosing an upholstery fabric can be a daunting task, given that some of the important factors you need to consider can be pretty technical as well as the fact that you have to choose from a wide range of fabrics you may not know much about. However, as upholstery fabric is the most visible and functional part of your upholstery furniture, you wouldn’t want to get it wrong.
So here’s some great advice right from the experts about choosing the best upholstery fabric for your upholstery pieces.
Upholstery fabric is not only something that makes up the overall appearance of your upholstery furniture, but also what takes the most beating and shows wear and signs of damage. This makes it important to go with a more durable fabric, especially for the upholstery pieces that have a much higher level of everyday use and wear than the others.
And when it comes to that, there’s probably no metric more important than “double-rub.” As weird as the name may sound, it actually represents a complex process that helps accurately determine the level of durability of a fabric.
Simply put, double-rub is a process that involves a machine rubbing a pad over a piece of fabric back and forth, until the point the fabric is worn out, for testing purposes. The process gets its name from the practice of rubbing a pad over the same piece of fabric back and forth, with each back-and-forth rub being called a double rub.
The standard fabrics for domestic use generally come with a double-rub score of 25,000 double-rubs, meaning that if you go with something that’s over 50,000 double-rubs, it’s likely going to last you a very, very long time.
As for commercial fabrics, the double-rubs typically turn out to be as high as 100,000 to 250,000 double-rubs. In other words, these fabrics tend to wear out when subjected to a wear amount that’s equivalent to 100,000 to 250,000 double-rubs.
You may find our Sewing Dictionary useful!
What is the best upholstery fabric (in terms of durability)?
It really depends on your use. Generally speaking, the best upholstery fabric for pets would likely be the ones with a relatively higher double-rubs score for domestic use. This is because in houses with a pet, the upholstery fabric tends to receive a lot more wear than the ones without any pets.
This is especially true when it comes to dogs, as they have a habit of chewing on the upholstery fabrics, which may make them wear out faster. So if you’re after the best upholstery fabric for dogs, you will want to look for a double-rubs score of at least 53,000 or higher. Usually barkcloth fabric has this.
On the other hand, if you have no pets and are looking for a fabric for one of your upholstery pieces that doesn’t receive much traffic, then you would be just fine even with something that has a much lower double-rubs score. So for example, the best upholstery fabric for dining room chairs, sofa, couches and even sewing machine chairs could well be something with just about 40,000 double-rubs, and it would still not wear out for a really long period of time.
Finally, it’s important to note that it’s generally not possible to determine how durable a fabric would be until it has been tested.
The price is obviously a crucial factor too, as the prices some of the best upholstery fabric brands charge can be all over the place. But in order to be able to figure out a fair price for the fabric, there’s something known as “grade.”
It basically gives you an idea of the production costs of the fabric, but has nothing to do with the durability or even quality of the fabric. However, in most cases, you would find that higher production costs often translate to a better quality.
Some of the things the grade typically depends on include the characteristics of the fabric, its weaving details, the overall construction and the fiber content.
Many products would have their grade mentioned as a number while the others as some letters. You may want to contact the manufacturer about the grade measurement if you’re having a hard time figuring it out yourself.
Types of Upholstery Fabric Fibers
This often turns out to be the most important factor to consider. While there are many different types of both natural and man-made fibers out there, they vary greatly when it comes to looks, durability, how difficult (or easy) they are to sew on, maintenance requirements and other important factors.
The natural fibers like silk and wool typically tend to be the most aesthetically appealing options and sometimes more easy to work with on a sewing machine, but they can be pretty disappointing on the durability front. While they may look beautiful, they can’t stand as much wear and tear as the man-made ones.
Silk, in particular, is something you would want to avoid, as it’s very hard to care for and can wear out surprisingly fast even with a moderate amount of use. It needs protection to make it last longer as well as should not be subjected to natural light.
The man-made fibers, however, are often made using processes that make them much more capable of withstanding the daily wear and tear and abuse.
That said, you don’t have to choose either one or the other. There’s usually also an option to get the best of both worlds by going for something that’s a combination of a natural fiber and a man-made fiber. But again, you would still want to avoid silk as it may just not be worth all the maintenance hassle.
These “combination” fabrics may turn out to be the best bet for upholstery pieces like couches as well as wear the best on pieces like a sofa. The ones that have a higher percentage of man-made fabric would be a better option when it comes to reupholstering a couch, and most high-traffic upholstery in general.
Finally, you may also want to keep in mind that a simple way to increase the life of your upholstery fabric is to use a good upholstery fabric cleaner. The best upholstery fabric cleaner doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive, but simply something that does its job well without subjecting the fabric to loads of chemicals.
Choosing the right fabric for your furniture at home or the office is ideal to showcase the elegance of your space, but more still, ensure durability. You want a product that will support sitting weights, is easy to maintain, and non-allergic.
Below is our best upholstery fabric review to help you make the right choice quickly.
Best Upholstery Fabrics
Here are our upholstery fabric reviews.
Abbeyshea trademark quality is noticeable from the look and feel of this fabric. This upholstery fabric combines polyester, cotton, and leather with a polyurethane backing to yield the best results in flexibility, strength, and maintenance. It is very heavyweight and is the ideal fabric for upholstery, accent pillows, headboards, etc.
- Polyester, cotton, and leather composition with a polyurethane backing.
- Easy to maintain, is flexible, and puncture-resistant.
- Ideal for upholstery and other home projects.
Asides from running this fabric on your main furniture, it is perfect for other home decors and upholstery accessories like toss pillows and duvet covers. It boasts of a 100% cotton composition and is lightweight. It has an impressive 42,000 rub durability and is the ideal choice for homes with kids, thanks to its Teflon fabric protector that repels water, oil, and stains.
- Great for upholstery and a host of other home décor projects.
- 100% lightweight cotton.
- Impressive durability stain and water-resistance.
This fabric is from the great Kravet brand. It has numerous colors for its embroidered floral design and is amazing for upholstery and pillows. It combines viscose and cotton in a unique blend to form a very heavyweight material that will last a long while.
- Great color variety.
- Ideal for upholstery and beddings.
- Heavyweight viscose and cotton composition for durability.
This durable features unique text prints on a cotton/linen canvas fabric. It is middleweight at 8.44oz/yd². Its linen component makes for a rustic beautiful appeal and the cotton for a soft feel. It is ideal for light upholstery, duvet covers, drapes, and so on.
- Durable and unique design.
- Middleweight soft fabric with aesthetic appeal.
- Ideal for light upholstery and beddings.
This is a very heavyweight fabric is ideal for upholstery, draperies and so on. Its polyester and rayon composition gives it its dark, vintage look and impressive durability of up to 30,000 double rubs. It is made from woven fabric and is easy to maintain.
- Heavyweight woven fabric for upholstery.
- Polyester and rayon composition for durability and appeal.
- Easy to maintain.
Upholstery Fabric Buying Guide
Upholstery fabrics should maintain well a balance between aesthetic appeal, durability, and easy maintenance. Choosing an upholstery fabric pools together a set of factors we will now consider.
Our buying guide reviews the best upholstery fabrics on the market, based on their features to help you find the perfect match for your needs quickly.
This factor depends mainly on where the furniture will be used. Upholstery that is to be placed in a commercial location will require a more durable fabric. A measure for the durability of any fabric uses the “double rub”. It is gotten from tests that involve running an automated pad over the fabric over and over again until it fails.
For domestic use, the standard upholstery fabric should have a durability figure between 10,000 to 25,000 double rubs. While for commercial fabrics, you should look out for the fabrics with double rubs between 100,000 to 250,000 double rubs.
The intended use will determine the texture of the fabric you go for. For sofas or couches that are used for relaxation require soft and smooth fabrics. Luxury homes and spaces also emphasize very smooth fabrics and feel great on the skin. For work seats and commercial spaces, however, the texture is many times, not a priority. Some office seats are even specially designed to not give too much comfort and ensure the user stays alert.
Natural vs. Synthetic
Upholstery fabrics come as made from either natural or synthetic compounds. Natural fabrics like Linen, cotton, wool, and leather are extracted from plants and animals and processed. They provide a very soft, skin-friendly unit and are very durable.
Synthetic fabrics, on the other hand, are artificially created and include polyester, rayon, velvet, etc. Synthetic fibers provide greater versatility as the constituent compounds can be tweaked to exactly suit the upholstery demands.
Head on back to Chapter 5: Fabric 101!