The sofa is often the main piece of furniture in a living room, and it can be the most expensive. K.R. Tremblay, Jr. and K. Williams of Colorado State University Extension suggest the consumer, "Consider the amount and kind of use the piece of furniture will receive, the amount and kind of care you are willing to give for its upkeep, and the length of time you expect it to last. Begin your evaluation with the fibre content." Choosing between fabric and microfiber is not a difficult decision if you have determined what you expect from the sofa, and you know the differences between the fibres that make up the fabric.
Microfiber refers to both the fabric and the fibre. With a diameter of one one-hundredth of a human hair, woven microfiber creates a drape-able, strong fabric that is impervious to cat claws, rips and tears. It is cleanable with mild detergent and water, is resistant to sun damage, is colour-fast, does not pill and does not produce lint.
Microfiber is man-made, and as such feels warm to touch on cool or hot days. It does not absorb moisture well, but absorbs oil readily; stains tend to set and are difficult to remove. Microfiber is sensitive to heat and melts at temperatures that do not affect natural fibres, such as cotton. Pressure marks made by hands and clothing stay visible until smoothed.
Fabric sofa coverings are frequently natural fibres, such as cotton or linen, in combination with some man-made fibres such as polyester, acrylic or nylon. The combining of fibres allows the best properties of each to prevail in the cloth. For example, polyester may be blended with cotton to increase the fabric strength while retaining the cottons' absorption rate, ability to accept dye and cool feel. Sofa fabric is available to suit any style, taste and budget.
Fabric with a high natural-fibre content is susceptible to sun-fade. This decreases the fibre strength and manifests as fraying seams or separating fabric near pressure points -- problems which are difficult to fix. Some fabrics are cleanable with solvents only and some require professional cleaning only. A high man-made fibre content increases the tendency to pill, feel warm to the touch and to decrease absorption, making the fabric feel clammy on humid, warm days.