Natural or synthetic fabrics: which is best for reupholstery?

December 8, 2014

Upholstering old furniture is a great way to revive it's beauty and usefulness. But when it comes to choosing fabric—natural or synthetic—what's your best choice?
You have a couch or an ottoman to reupholster, but you’re not sure about the best fabrics to use. These days, there’s no lack of choice. If you prefer to make sustainable choices, there are plenty of sturdy natural fabrics you can use. If you’d rather have a material that is super stain resistant, then a synthetic may be the best choice. Here are some of the features of the most popular upholstery fabrics used today:

  • Cotton ticking is affordable, sturdy and easy to maintain. It fits well with a casual decor.
  • Embossed velvet and wool are suitable for chairs and couches. You can choose plaid, jersey, tweed or felt. The latter is soft, durable and doesn’t fray, and looks good in a more formal setting.
  • Imberline is a sturdy satin-like fabric that’s commonly used in upholstery. It comes in many elegant patterns and is great for high-traffic areas.
  • Vinyl and acrylic are affordable, durable and easy to wash but are more likely to show scratches and scrapes. If budget is an issue, vinyl and acrylic are your best choice.
  • Good quality leather upholstery can last more than 50 years, and it just gets better and better with time. You should avoid leather if you have animals who like to use their claws.
  • Suede is soft, supple and easy to wash. It's also very comfy when the weather is chilly.
  • Flax is a fairly expensive natural fibre, but it’s strong. It’s a good idea to choose a blend of linen and cotton, as flax wrinkles easily. Flax is also eco-friendly.
  • Fabrics containing polyester are very durable and are therefore ideal for covering chairs.

Choosing the right fabric

Upholsterers will tell you that you shouldn’t choose a fabric just because it’s pretty and soft to the touch. You also need to take into consideration its washability and affordability. Its strength is also important, as it takes sturdy stuff to cover a seat. The best fabrics for upholstery have been tested for double rubbing (sitting and standing movements). They should be able to withstand 15,000 double rubs in their lifetime. And be sure to look for fabric with a tight weave.

Select your favorite style

Because reupholstering furniture can be quite costly, it’s a wise idea to choose a neutral fabric that won’t go out of style in a few years or look out of place alongside updates to your home’s decor. If you want a more original or extravagant look that you can toss out when you’re tired of it, slipcovers might be the best solution.

Natural or synthetic fabrics: which is best for reupholstery?
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