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18 Different Types of Upholstery Fabric for Furniture (Pros & Cons)

Photo collage of different materials and colors for Upholstery Fabric

Upholstered furniture is known for the comfort, style and luxury that it offers. The padded furniture is enclosed in fabric with a steel or wooden frame over which springs and cushioning are attached.

Available in many designs, styles and color combinations, the fabric material is the most important factor in deciding the look and comfort of upholstered furniture.

The suitability of the material for different uses, maintenance and overall cost, factor into the selection of an upholstery fabric. Below we list the pros and cons of each type available.

Related: Types of Upholstered Chairs | Types of Furniture Styles | Types of Accent Chairs | Types of Slipcovers | Why Chesterfield Sofas are Ugly | Top Sofa Brands | Parts of a Couch

1. LeatherBrown-colored leather sofa

Leather, one of the most common and widely used upholstery fabrics is not synthetic fiber, but tanned animal skin. The material looks luxurious and adds a touch of elegance to any room.

Pros

  • Depending on the grade of leather, usually easy to clean and maintain. 
  • Durable material. Depending on how well you take care of it, leather upholstered furniture can last for decades.
  • Water resistant.
  • Hypoallergenic.
  • Pet-friendly.

Cons

  • Depending on the grade of leather, may require special cleaning products. 
  • Harder surface, may not necessarily be as comfortable as other fabrics. 
  • Tanned skin susceptible to splits, cracks and scratches. 
  • Expensive.

2. Polyester

Polyester is a microfiber that can blend in with whatever theme you’ve chosen for your interior. The material looks attractive and gives an expensive feel similar to leather upholstered furniture.

Pros

  • Soft and comfortable fabric.
  • Easy to clean and maintain.
  • Fabric dries quickly.
  • Durable material: stain and abrasion-resistant.
  • Hypoallergenic.
  • Improved breathability.
  • Relatively inexpensive.

Cons

  • Can crack if exposed to extreme or fluctuating temperatures.
  • Tensile fabric, will stretch over time.
  • Flammable. 

3. Olefin

Olefin, a petroleum-based synthetic fiber, is extremely durable and is perfectly suited for areas where furniturereceives a great deal of wear. Resembling the look and feel of wool, olefin is one of the most long-lasting types of upholstery fabric.

Pros

  • Made from melted plastic, water-resistant.
  • Chemical and fire-resistant.
  • Resistant to fading.
  • Cleaned with bleach.
  • Color of fabric is consistent throughout as the dye is added to the melted plastic, rather than dying the fabric after it is woven.

Cons

  • Vulnerable to oil, light and heat.
  • Limited variety.
  • Oil-based stains hard to remove.
  • Sunlight exposure can make olefin brittle.

4. RayonRayon fabric in blue color

Rayon is a semi-synthetic fiber and offers comfort levels similar to true natural fibers. 

Pros

  • Inexpensive.
  • Soft and comfortable.
  • Resistant to moths and mildew.
  • Newer varieties quite durable.

Cons

  • Does not retain original appearance for long.
  • Scratches easily.
  • Prone to wrinkling.
  • not water-resistant, and loses original appearance when wet.
  • Low elastic recovery.

5. Wool

Wool is a natural fabric with attractive qualities that make it a comfortable option as an upholstery material. Although wool is not commonly used for upholstery purposes, it does come with a number of benefits.

Pros

  • Comfortable.
  • Fire and water-resistant.
  • Environmentally friendly.
  • Insulating properties make it warm in cold weather and cool in hot.
  • Durable.
  • Resistant to mold and mildew.
  • Does not fade or wrinkle.

Cons

  • Expensive.
  • Must be dry-cleaned.
  • Limited variety.

6. Acetate

Upholstered gray-colored sofa in a stylish living room interior.

Acetate is a synthetic fabric which was initially created to imitate silk in its shine and luster. Acetate upholstered furniture adds class and elegance to a formal sitting area, although it’s not as strong as other synthetic fibers.

Pros

  • Resistant to humidity.
  • Lustrous and shiny, like silk.
  • Resistant to pilling..
  • Resistant to mildew and mold.
  • Inexpensive.

Cons

  • Lacks strength.
  • Wrinkles easily.
  • Must be dry-cleaned.
  • Not suitable for everyday use.
  • Not resistant to stains or scratches.
  • Lacks elasticity.

7. Cotton

Cotton, a natural fiber, is one of the most commonly used and durable of upholstery fabrics. 

Pros

  • 100% natural.
  • Can be dyed almost any color.
  • Soft and comfortable.
  • Breathable.
  • Durable.
  • Resists pilling.
  • Resistant to abrasion.
  • Hypoallergenic.

Cons

  • Wrinkles easily.
  • Absorbs stains, spills and smells.

8. Silk

Silk is one of the most luxurious natural fibers and is a worthy investment in areas that feature a formal décor. 

Pros

  • Durable when taken care of properly.
  • Luxurious and formal look.
  • Available in a variety of colors, patterns and designs.
  • Retains shape well.

Cons

  • Expensive.
  • Must be dry-cleaned.
  • Not suitable for high traffic area.
  • Not pet-friendly.
  • Not family-friendly.
  • Susceptible to sun damage.
  • Susceptible to spills.

9. Acrylic

A sofa with cushions and throw

Acrylic is a synthetic fiber that imitates wool. It is available in a number of vivid colors that make it a perfect choice for informal sitting areas.

Pros

  • Soft fabric.
  • Easy to clean and maintain.
  • Dries quickly.
  • Available in many colors.
  • Sun-safe, can be used as fabric for outdoor furniture.

Cons

  • Can develop excessive pilling.
  • Can melt if it is exposed to heat or flame.
  • Allergies.
  • Not resistant to abrasion.

10. Linen

Linen is a natural fiber made from the flax plant and is often mixed with synthetic fibers to improve its characteristics.

Pros

  • Smooth and soft to the touch.
  • Durable.
  • Affordable.
  • Stronger when wet.
  • Does not pill.
  • Abrasion-resistant.
  • Natural luster and sheen. Its natural, earthy color (beige to ecru gray) looks extremely elegant.
  • Antibacterial and is resistant to mildew.
  • Resistant to fading.
  • Environmentally friendly.

Cons

  • Wrinkles.
  • Prone to soiling.
  • Not suitable for everyday use.
  • Should be dry-cleaned.

11. Velvet

Velvet upholstery fabric, traditionally made from silk, is now usually made from synthetic fibers.

Pros

  • Luxuriously soft.
  • Elegant look.
  • Long-lasting when taken care of properly.
  • Durable.
  • Can be dyed in rich colors.
  • Excellent insulation properties.

Cons

  • Difficult to clean and maintain.
  • Expensive.
  • Durability depends on the density of the piles of woven fibers.
  • Only suitable for formal use.

12. Jute

Jute has been used for making textiles for thousands of years in the Indus Valley

Pros

  • Adds an element of texture to any interior.
  • Mainly used as fabric in ottomans.
  • Jute looks great in combination with other fabrics, like leather.

Cons

  • Prone to wrinkling.
  • Rough and hard, uncomfortable.
  • Turns yellow when exposed to sunlight.
  • Loses its strength when exposed to moisture.

13. Chenille

Chenille, French for caterpillar is a super-soft, naturally obtained fabric. The material is a stretchable fabric which means that backing is necessary. Chenille is most commonly used as an upholstery fabric for children’s furniture or in casual pieces.

Pros

  • Soft.
  • Durable.
  • Easy to clean.
  • Available in many colors.

Cons

  • Stretchable — adding a backing adds to the cost.
  • Not pet-friendly.
  • Dust and debris can get stuck in long fibers.

Upholstery fabric samples

 

14. Vinyl

Vinyl is a durable, synthetic fabric that is often used in upholstery, clothing, and other applications. It is available in a wide range of colors and patterns, and can be easily cleaned. Vinyl is also resistant to fading and tearing, making it an ideal choice for many applications.

Pros

  • More durable and easier to clean.

Cons

  • Vinyl upholstery can crack and fade over time
  • it is not as breathable as leather
  • It may not be as comfortable in hot weather.

15. Denim

A woman holding a denim fabrics.

Denim is a sturdy cotton twill fabric with a blue-black color. It is typically used for jeans, shirts, and other clothing items. Denim is also often used for upholstery and other applications where a durable fabric is needed. Denim is available in a wide range of colors and styles, and can be easily cleaned.

Pros

  • Sturdy and durable
  • Available in a wide range of colors and styles

Cons

  • Can be difficult to clean
  • May fade over time
  • Not as breathable as other fabrics

16. Nylon

Nylon is a synthetic fabric used in many ways. It can be lightweight, or a sturdier design. Also, nylon has a high resistance to wear and tear. This makes it perfect for items that will see a lot of use, such as clothing, upholstery, and carpeting. Nylon is available in a wide range of colors and styles, and can be easily cleaned.

Pros

  • High resistance to wear and tear
  • Available in a wide range of colors and styles

Cons

  • Nylon can melt if exposed to excessive heat
  • May not be as breathable as other fabrics
  • Can static electricity.

17. Microfiber

A person holding a fabric with different shades.

Microfiber is a synthetic fabric made from extremely fine fibers. It is often used in clothing, upholstery, and other applications where a soft, smooth fabric is desired. Microfiber is available in a wide range of colors and styles, and can be easily cleaned.

Its soft and smooth texture makes it a popular choice for many applications.

Pros

  • Soft and smooth texture
  • Available in a wide range of colors and styles
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not as durable as other fabric types

18. Coquet

Coquet is a type of natural fabric made from the bark of the coquilla nut tree. It is very strong and durable.

Coquet is used in a variety of applications, including upholstery, clothing, and other applications where a strong fabric is desired. It is available in a wide range of colors and styles, and can be easily cleaned.

Pros

  • Strong and durable
  • Available in a wide range of colors and styles

Cons

  • May not be as breathable as other fabrics
  • Can be difficult to clean

Upholstery Fabric — Top Brands

1. Waverly

Different types of fabric for making chair.

In 1923, a manufacturer of European fabrics established Waverly in order to bring European furniture fashions to Americans. Some years after its inception, Waverly added wallpapers to its line of fabrics, with a complete line of home fashions a few years later. Today’s Waverly high-end products glow with life, color, and character in any print, plaid, or solid you care to choose.

2. Covington

Shears and different types of equipment for making chair.

Have you ever noticed that no matter where in the world you travel, the hotel bedspreads and curtains all look the same? Covington supplies the worldwide hospitality industry along with residential consumers with the highest quality textiles in hundreds of patterns and colors. From their New York design studio, Covington does it all, designing upholstery, bedding and curtains.

3. Mill Creek

Fabrics with different colors for Upholstery.

Swavelle is the design house and Mill Creek is the line of high-end upholstery fabric. Indoor, outdoor, marine: Mill Creek covers it all, pardon the pun. Any kind of pattern or color, Mill Creek has it and it ships right to your door.

4. Hamilton Fabrics

A person holding different types of fabrics.

I’m sure you’ve seen those trucks in parking lots selling furniture from North Carolina. I’ve seen their warehouses when I stopped in on my way to see the family in Georgia. The variety, style, and colors are nothing short of jaw-dropping.

You can design a chair yourself, but it won’t have character until you cover it in a Hamilton upholstery textile. Oh, yes, and they’re located in North Carolina, too, so it’s a win-win.

5. Schumacher

A person making a chair on a workshop.

We’ve all admired the stunning interior decorating of celebrated design house Schumacher. We see their work in magazines and online. We’d love to have our homes look like that, and we begin poring over wallpaper samples, fabric samples, and upholstery patterns.

6. Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg bed and some pillow.

If you’ve ever toured an antebellum home such as The Hermitage just outside Nashville, TN (President Andrew Jackson’s home,) or Arlington in Arlington, VA (General Robert E. Lee’s home,) then you’ve seen the beautiful textiles of the draperies, the furniture upholstery, and the bedspreads. You wonder where to buy upholstery fabrics with that Early American aura. You’re in luck. 

Colonial Williamsburg textiles isn’t a place; it’s a style, and the textiles are sold by many companies, such as Waverly and Swavelle. Reproductions from the 1700s and 1800s are their specialty. You can make draperies, pillow and cushion covers, as well as furniture upholstery that will make your room look just like those celebrated homes.

7. Roth & Tompkins

A beautiful sofa with different colors.

Today’s homeowners seek out interior designers who choose natural fibers and hand-painted designs for their creations. Family-owned for over 20 years, Roth & Tompkins does just that with an eye toward color, composition, and innovation.

Check out their crewel and embroidery upholstery textiles for an old-fashioned look or their prints that look, and some are, hand-painted. Look for a Roth & Tompkins retailer or a designer using their upholstery fabrics near you.

8. HGTV Fabrics

A fabric with violet patterns.

Home and gardening guru HGTV isn’t the only place to find the Property Brothers list of home renovation shows. Learn here how to cover a statement wall in pretty upholstery fabric. Check out how to cover a tray ceiling in pleated or tufted upholstery fabric.

Do you have an old-fashioned four-post bed? HGTV will show you how to make draperies for it. Want to make an upholstered covering for your bed’s head and foot boards? Tune in to HGTV.

9. Lelievre Paris

Two woman checking on a beautiful fabric.

For homeowners wishing for a more continental look to their décor, we offer one of the top brands of upholstery fabrics. Lelievre showcases designers whose wares run the gamut from the sands of the desert to the whimsy of the arts to outdoor upholstery fabrics for relaxing by the sea.

Lelievre has showrooms in London, Italy, Germany, and the Middle East, so wherever you are in the world, drop in and view their wares. 

10. Oscar de la Renta

Speaking of the Property Brothers, they have lines of home décor items including upholstery fabrics. Pretty much every celebrity worth their salt has a line of something out there with home décor designs being one of them. But, hey, if you’re going with a celebrity, go straight to the top. De la Renta offers upholstery fabrics in bright gold, red, and green in chintz, damask and more.

Where to Buy Online

Shopping for and purchasing upholstery fabric online is an easy process once you know where to buy online. These are some top options to choose from, whether you want a couple yards of upholstery fabric or a large amount of fabric. 

KOVI Fabrics

Different types of KOVI Fabrics.

KOVI Fabrics prides itself on offering the highest quality of upholstery fabric to its customers. The company indicates that their business and “the success of your project depend on the quality of the fabric we use.”  

Customers may pay a higher price, compared to some other online companies offering upholstery fabric online. The customers know that KOVI stands by their quality. Choose your fabric, your preferred color or pattern, and the application from more than 25,000 KOVI Fabric upholstery fabric choices. Consider genuine leather, faux leather, suede, microsuede, denim, linen, tweed or your other favorite fabric.

The company offers samples for a small fee, which they credit towards your order. 

Online Fabric Store

The Online Fabric Store offers designer upholstery fabric consisting of your choice of solid colors, designs and textures. The company features fabrics known for their high quality and durability. 

Choose from linen, velvet, denim, faux leather or faux suede, burlap, or fire-retardant upholstery fabric. Looking for boat and marine or automotive upholstery fabric? Online Fabric Store has those in stock for you. Consult the upholstery yardage chart on the site so that you know how much upholstery fabric that you need for your project.

The company ships across the U.S., Canada and internationally. 

JOANN Stores

JOANN features upholstery fabrics for a variety of needs. Choose faux suede, faux leather, cotton linen blend, cotton canvas, chenille, and other choices. Choose from collections that include Calming Blues, Light Neutrals, Cozy Home, Earth Tones, ROT, Tommy Bahama, and more options. Choose the solid color or pattern for your indoor or outdoor upholstery needs. 

Choose your upholstery online for small orders or bulk orders that ship across the U.S. for a small handling fee. The company also ships internationally. 

1502 Fabrics

A man working on a fabric workshop.

Are you looking for a unique pattern of upholstery fabric, kid-proof fabrics, performance fabrics or designer fabrics and textures? Perhaps you want some flower power in your upholstery fabric choice. Look no further than 1502 Fabrics for indoor and outdoor upholstery fabric.

The company, based in High Point, North Carolina, offers free shipping on sample orders. Upholstery fabrics ship for $7.95 flat rate shipping to the contiguous 48 states. 

Sunbrella

Sunbrella believes in worry-free fabrics that retain their beauty in any environment. The company expanded its upholstery options from outdoor uses to include indoor upholstery needs, boats, and more options. 

Customers choose Sunbrella fabrics for their durability, stain resistance and comfort. Select upholstery fabric by application, pattern types, collection, weather resistance, or your desired combination of upholstery fabric options. 

Enjoy the free shipping on all orders of $99 or more. The company has a global site for international options

Fabric Warehouse

The Fabric Warehouse, originally called Sharlaine’s when it started in Auburn, Maine some 50+ years ago, is still known by its original name by faithful customers.  

Do not think that, because the company is a discount warehouse, that the fabric is not first quality. The company offers designer fabrics sold by theme, color, design and brand. Customers have thousands of fabric options when shopping online at Fabric Warehouse. Many fabrics ship for free in the U.S. 

BestFabricStore.com

Choose your desired fabric between the light traffic, standard traffic or heavy-duty upholstery fabric when shopping online at BestFabricStore.com. Customers have options that include contemporary, chevron, paisley, animal, damask, or geometric, among other fabrics. Choose your color, design, and width from over 4,000 upholstery fabric options. 

Order a sample, which ships free inside the U.S. The company does not offer sample refunds or credits. 

Fabric Guru

Fabric Guru explains that it can offer its low prices because the company specializes in “buying large lots, store liquidations, remnants, closeouts and overruns.” Customers still receive the newest fabrics from major upholstery fabric designers at costs that are often below wholesale prices. 

The company offers traditional styles of upholstery fabric, the latest trends, novelty fabrics, and a variety of other fabrics. Choose textured fabrics, high end Italian wovens, textured solids, high performance fabric, chenille, Crypton fabric, vinyl, welt cord, velvet, UltraSuede, or embroidered fabric.  

The company offers free shipping on orders over $99, and a flat rate of $7.95 for orders under $99, shipped within the lower 48 states. Canadian shipping duties and taxes are not included in the shipping costs.

Best Type for Various Purposes

When it comes to choosing the best type of upholstery fabric for your home, there are a few factors to keep in mind. If you have pets or suffer from allergies, you’ll want to choose a fabric that is easy to clean and won’t trap pet hair or dust.

For those with sensitive skin, it’s important to find a fabric that won’t irritate. And if you’re looking for a fabric that will hold up to wear and tear, you’ll want to choose something durable.

Best Fabric for CleaningA person cleaning a leather using fabric.

When it comes to cleaning, microfiber is one of the best fabrics for upholstery. It’s easy to clean and resists stains. For those with allergies, a tight weave is important to prevent dust and pollen from getting trapped in the fabric. And for pet hair, a fabric with a short pile will make it easier to vacuum away any loose hairs.

Dining Room Chair

A simple dining room with upholstery chair.

When it comes to durability, leather is one of the best choices for upholstery. It’s strong and resistant to wear and tear, making it a good choice for high-traffic areas. However, leather can be difficult to clean and care for, so it’s important to choose a quality leather that has been treated to resist stains and scratches.

For those with sensitive skin, natural fibers like cotton or linen are often the best choice for upholstery. They’re soft and

Durability (Pets, Kids, Summer Homes)

For those with pets or kids, or who live in a summer home where the furniture gets a lot of use, durability is key. Natural fibers like cotton and linen are strong and can stand up to wear and tear.

Synthetic fabrics like polyester and microfiber are also durable, and they’re often easier to clean than natural fibers. Leather is one of the most durable options for upholstery, but it can be difficult to care for.

Hot Weather Temperatures

In hot weather, natural fibers like cotton and linen breathe well and won’t trap heat like synthetic fabrics can. If you live in a warm climate or tend to keep your home on the warmer side, natural fibers are a good choice for upholstery. They’ll help keep you cool in the summer months.

Outdoors

An outdoor sofa with pillows.

If you’re looking for upholstery fabric for outdoor furniture, you’ll want to choose a durable fabric that can stand up to the elements. Sunbrella is a type of fabric specifically designed for outdoor use. It’s made from acrylic fibers and is treated to resist water, mold, and mildew.

Other synthetic fabrics like polyester and microfiber are also good choices for outdoors, as they’re resistant to moisture and won’t fade in the sun. Natural fibers like cotton and linen are not as durable as synthetics when exposed to the elements and should only be used indoors.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much upholstery fabric do I need?

The best way to determine how much upholstery fabric you’ll need for your furniture is to consult with an upholstery professional. A good rule of thumb is that most accent chairs require six yards of upholstery fabric, sofas typically require 16-20 yards, and sectionals may need 34 yards or more.

How much upholstery fabric do I need for a dining chair?

You’ll need to use a piece of upholstery fabric that’s 27 inches long by 54 inches wide to upholster a standard-sized dining room chair. However, larger dining chairs like armchairs, parson’s chairs, and dining room chairs that are covered in upholstery on the back as well as the seat usually require more.

Can you wash upholstery fabric? Can you wash upholstery fabric in the washing machine?

Some types of upholstery fabric can be washed in the washing machine, while others should be spot-cleaned or professionally cleaned.

Always look for the fabric’s care label to help you determine whether or not it’s safe to wash the fabric in the washing machine. Be sure you choose the correct settings and use the appropriate laundry detergent. In most cases, the cold cycle is best for upholstery fabric.

Can I paint upholstery fabric?

Tightly woven upholstery fabric can usually be painted without any issues. Fine materials like silk, linen, and leather should not be painted in order to prevent damage to the material and to prevent peeling and flaking. If you’re planning to paint upholstery fabric, make sure that you use paint specially formulated for upholstery and not wall paint or exterior paint. 

What upholstery fabric is best for pets?

Leather, canvas, denim, microfiber, and outdoor fabrics are the best upholstery fabrics for pets. These materials can withstand heavy wear and tear and won’t rip when claws and paws snag on them. Look for upholstery fabric that’s easy to clean so that spills don’t lead to stains.

What to make with upholstery fabric samples?

You can make pillow covers, table runners, lampshades, tote bags, and even wall art with upholstery fabric samples.

Look for ways to get creative so that you don’t waste any extra upholstery fabric scraps. Make a matching pillow to coordinate with a chair or sofa using the same exact fabric you used to upholster the furniture. You can also stitch different fabrics together to make a quilt. 

Heavy upholstery fabric types?

The best heavy upholstery fabric types include wool, leather, tweed and denim. Outdoor upholstery is also heavy and works well in busy households since it’s durable and easy to clean. Velvet is another beautiful, soft, and heavy upholstery fabric that adds a modern, elegant touch to your furniture.