The right fabric can make you love your new piece of furniture just as much as the wrong one can make you hate it. That seemingly perfect sectional that fits every member of your family may not last long if it’s not durable enough to withstand everyday wear and tear. When choosing fabrics, there are a few factors to consider beyond color, beauty, and style. They need to match your lifestyle. Will the piece be in a formal area with little traffic? Will it be your go-to spot in the family room? Do you have children? Pets? It’s important to consider how the piece of furniture will be used – and who will be using it – when deciding what fabric should cover it.
Fabrics generally fall into two categories: natural or synthetic. Natural materials are soft to the touch, environmentally-friendly, versatile, and breathe well. Unfortunately, natural fabrics also tend to fade in direct sunlight, wrinkle, and soil easily. Synthetic, or manmade, fabrics typically stand up well to daily wear and tear, and they are less likely than most natural fabrics to wrinkle, stain, or fade.
Natural fabrics include:
- Cotton – Durable, soft, and easy to clean, cotton tends to wrinkle and fade in sunlight when exposed for extended periods of time.
- Linen – Best for light-use pieces, linen is resistant to fading in sunlight, but it is known to soil and wrinkle easily.
- Wool – Another durable option, wool is great because it is soil-resistant and does not wrinkle, fade, or pill easily. It can also be spot-cleaned when necessary.
- Silk – Silk is gorgeous, but it is also delicate and highly susceptible to fading in sunlight. On the plus side, it retains its shape well, and it is available in a wide variety of colors and weights.
- Leather – A fantastic option for pet owners, leather is durable, soft, cleans easily, and ages beautifully.
Synthetic fabrics include:
- Rayon – Considered to be a semi- synthetic fiber, rayon can imitate silk, cotton, and linen. Unfortunately, rayon is not very flexible and may wrinkle.
- Polyester – Usually blended with another fiber type, polyester helps to avoid crushing and pilling in fabrics that are more delicate.
- Acrylic – Created to be soft and warm like wool, acrylic is resistant to wrinkling, fading, and heavy wear and tear. It is excellent for outdoor upholstery, yet it is attractive enough to use indoors.
- Acetate – Created to imitate silk, acetate is great for more humid climates because it is mildew-resistant. It is prone to wrinkling and fading, though, so it is not recommended for furniture that sees heavy use.
- Microfiber – Another great option for pet owners, the fibers in microfiber are tightly woven so that claws won’t catch – and hair won’t get embedded – in it. It is soft, wears well, and is easily maintained with a fabric brush. It is also less expensive than leather.
- Nylon – Nylon is a very strong fiber that is usually blended with other fibers to improve resistance to wrinkling and stains. Its principal drawback is that it is sensitive to sunlight and may fade with exposure.
- Olefin – Very strong, olefin is great because it is colorfast, durable, and very comfortable.
If you have active children, a dog, a cat, and a regular gathering of sports fans who will be using your sectional, you’ll obviously want a fabric that is extremely durable. Fortunately, you don’t have to guess which fabrics will be more durable than others. Furniture manufacturers have created industry standards when it comes to durability, and they rate their fabrics against those metrics so that consumers know exactly what they are buying.
The Double Rubs Test
A double rub test – sometimes called an abrasion test – involves rubbing a piece of cotton duck on a fabric, in a back and forth motion. One back and forth motion is considered one double rub. The more double rubs a material can withstand without breaking through, the higher the durability. The rankings are:
- Heavy Duty – Ideal for busy family rooms; 15,000+ double rubs.
- Medium Duty – Good for slightly less busy living rooms; 9,000 – 15,000 double rubs.
- Light Duty – Best for formal furniture used occasionally; 3,000 – 9,000 double rubs.
- Delicate Duty – Recommended for decorative items like throw pillows and window dressing; less than 3,000 double rubs.
The Pilling Test
Another method used to judge durability is The Pilling Test. This test involves rubbing fabric in a circular motion and then rating it based on how quickly it pills or fuzzes.
It’s important to note that when a fabric scores low on a test, it does not mean that it is low-quality. It simply means that it is a less durable fabric and should be used on upholstered items that will not see heavy use.
Fabrics to Meet Your Needs
At The Guest Room, we offer fabrics from Duralee, Fabricut, Kravet, Lee Jofa, Osbourne & Little, and Thibaut. Our selection includes amazing patterns and textures in both natural and synthetic fabrics, as well as blends that offer the best of both worlds. If you’re still not quite sure which fabric is going to work best for you, we invite you to stop by our showroom in Downtown Leesburg. You can feel each fabric and discuss your requirements with our design professionals. We’ll help you find the perfect fabric to match your needs – and your lifestyle.