What Upholstery Material Should I Choose?

So, you’ve decided to breathe new life into a piece of furniture? When it comes to choosing a piece of material for your next upholstery project you’ll definitely need to consider a few things. For example, what look to choose, what tools you need and what’s the best material for the job. This guide to choosing the right material should help.

Furniture that’s been upholstered can get a lot of use. A family sofa gets daily wear and tear, an ottoman or more ornate piece of furniture may get very little. So aside from the aesthetic requirements of your project, you’ll need to consider the staying power of the material you choose. After all you don’t want to go and upholster a piece of furniture only to watch it fall to pieces or become threadbare within a few months.

As a general rule, the higher the thread count the better it will fare when the kids or the pets treat it like their home from home. And just so you know the thread count is the number of threads per square inch in the material.

Natural material is fabric woven from things found in nature. It includes material made from plant fibres or animal products. Think cotton, leather, wool or silk as leading examples.

Man made fibres are synthetic weaves created from a chemical process. Nylon, microfibre and polyester are perhaps the most widely known of the man-made materials.

If you are considering buying furniture with upholstery made of natural or man-made fibres, it is important to note that there are trade-offs between the two. Natural fibres are appealing and cooler, but man-made fibres are often more durable. When it comes to cleaning, natural fibers can be difficult to clean as compared to their synthetic counterparts. Regardless of the fabric you choose, it might be necessary for you to use good fabric cleaners like those listed at www.rent.com/blog/best-upholstery-cleaners-of-2023/ in order to clean them properly.

Also, whichever fabric you choose, reupholstering a piece of furniture can transform the appearance and add extra years to something that might otherwise have gone to landfill. If you’re new to upholstering be sure to choose a piece of material that’s easy to work with. For some of the harder to work with materials, such as silk, you may need extra upholstery supplies you hadn’t considered.

Common Fabrics for Upholstery


Cotton is a natural fibre and how long it lasts on a piece of furniture depends on the weave’s thread count and if any finish has been applied. Generally speaking cotton doesn’t wear, fade or pill as much as some fibres. But when it comes to flammability and dirt, cotton is not a leader. Some cotton fabrics might have been treated to reduce these.


Linen is made from the fibres of the flax plant and often something that has a linen weave is still referred to as linen, even if it’s made from cotton, hemp or other material.

Linen dries faster than cotton and is lightweight and very strong. It’s downfall is its tendency to wrinkle, but despite this is still common in upholstery.


Silk is super delicate and provides a beautiful shimmering appearance. However it’s unsuitable for busy family areas and is traditionally used in more formal settings when used in furniture. The man made fabric acetate is used as a more hardwearing alternative to silk.


Leather is tough and durable and fairly easily cleaned. Whereas most materials degrade over time and can prove to be a challenge when it comes time to restore stained upholstery. Quite contrary to this, leather develops its own patina, and looks better after time. Vinyl is a less expensive leather look-a-like. It’s ideal for busy family homes and furniture that sees a lot of traffic. The durability of vinyl largely depends on the quality of the material.


Olefin is a by-product of the oil industry and makes up around 16% of the textile industry. It resists staining, is comfortable and holds its colour too. It’s highly durable and is especially good in outdoor applications.

Other Popular Choices for Upholstery

  • Wool – wool is very durable, while wool and wool blends offer great resistance to fading or wrinkling.
  • Acrylic – a synthetic fibre developed as an alternative to wool. It resists wear, wrinkles, dirt and fading.
  • Microfiber – a durable fabric made from polyester with a velvet-like texture. It resists water, dirt, and fading.
  • Nylon – nylon is usually blended with other fibres, making it one of the strongest upholstery fabrics.
  • Rayon – high-quality Rayon is very practical as a family-friendly upholstery fabric.

If you’re upholstering a piece of furniture it’s worth taking a few minutes to think about the material you’ll be using and how suitable it is for your project. Think about how the furniture will be used and what material will keep your project looking its best for years to come – or until you want to make another change.

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