Types of Upholstery Fabric

Updated February 21, 2017

Choosing a new upholstery fabric requires matching the style and colour scheme of the rest of the room, but many other factors affect your decision as well. Price is important for those on a budget, while durability is a major factor for the family with children and pets. Browse the selection of fabrics available and compare their advantages and disadvantages before making your final selection.


Cotton upholstery fabric is available in natural cotton and cotton blends. Cotton blends tend to be stronger and more durable than cotton. When covered with a stain-resistant finish, they hold up well around children, according "Better Homes and Gardens Fabric Guide," though staining and wrinkling can occur. According to Target Woman, natural cotton is more comfortable in warm climates.


Leather is more expensive than other types of upholstery, but is extremely durable and easy to clean. It is resistant to staining, and a simple wipe-down from time to time keeps it in good shape. Leather is a wise choice for high-traffic areas of the home and for families with children or pets. Various colours are available for leather upholstery. Leather's main drawback comes during extremely hot weather when it may feel uncomfortable against bare skin.


Silk is a fragile material for use only on pieces that are not used often. Silk is easily stained or damaged and should not be used around children or pets. Silk is often chosen to cover an expensive piece of furniture used primarily for decoration. The colours and patterns of silk are rich, and the texture is smooth to touch. Silk comes in a range of fibres, from thin to thicker and slightly stronger, with finishes from smooth to slubbed. In case of staining, "Better Homes and Gardens Fabric Guide" recommends having silk professionally cleaned to prevent permanent damage.


Linen is another strong, durable material that comes in a wide array of colours and patterns. Linen wrinkles and stains easily and must be cleaned professionally. It's not a family-friendly material, but works for pieces of furniture that see occasional use. Linen is a better choice than silk for furniture you wish to use.


Acrylic is a synthetic material that is strong, durable and less likely to shrink or wrinkle over time. Acrylic is also easy to clean and comes in many colours and patterns. For a family with children or pets, consider using a high-quality acrylic fabric to upholster any furniture in a main room, such as the living room. Those with allergies might consider a hypoallergenic acrylic fabric for their furniture.

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