Fabric Tips

How To Select The Right Fabric

Learn about our collection of high "Performance Fabrics"

Furniture should look great for a long time in your home. Choose fabric as durable and practical as possible. Fabric is the costliest part of upholstery, so the higher the fabric grade, the more expensive the chair or sofa will be. The larger the piece, therefore, the greater the incremental price increase by fabric grade. Fabric is often the crux of a better product’s warranty coverage: “limited lifetime warranty” coverage expires when the cover is worn through or frayed (see warranties on each product’s page; “limited lifetime warranty” applies to only Temple and Condo Sofa – others have different warranties).  



Mills producing fabric designate cleaning codes that used to mean something, particularly when getting furniture cleaned by a professional service, or using a cleaner to remove soiling and/or stains. These codes mean less now that most cleaning services use water based detergent cleaners with super strong suction to draw all moisture from the fabric after cleaning.

To be able to remove spills and stains without having to call a professional cleaning service, be sure to select a fabric with a cleaning code of W, WS, or SW. These all mean the fabric can safely be cleaned with a water-based solution.  Fabric with cleaning code "S" are made with the expectation that any cleaning would be done using a solvent cleaner made from petroleum distillates, which usually have a strong odor and likely contain unhealthy ingredients you would not want to inhale or ingest through contact.

Water-based cleaning codes like W, WS, or SW do not indicate a fabric can be put in a clothes washing machine.  The codes imply that the fabrics can be spot cleaned with a water based solution.


Avoid cotton as much as possible. The more you know, the more you care, especially when it impacts your investment. Cotton feels great as clothing, but it is often not durable, stains easily, fades quickly with even ambient sunlight, spot-cleaning of stains may not be successful, and the dyed and finished cotton material may not be colorfast. For anyone interested to know the true environmental impact of making fabrics made of cotton, before the fibers are even made into cloth, a quick read is advisable. Early chapters of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade” by Pietra Rivoli describe from an investigative journalist’s perspective many aspects of cotton farming and production not known to the general public. You ought to be deterred by the lack of practicality from the earlier statement above; further knowledge of cotton farming and fiber production will probably further convince you that you should consider synthetic fibers for your furniture such as nylon, polyester, olefin, acrylic, and most blends of those fibers as stronger and longer lasting than any fabric that has cotton in it.  



The global fabric industry has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Most US mills closed, and production shifted overseas to mills that produce beautiful fabrics in more varieties than ever. The main drawback, aside from not really knowing when an out of stock fabric might be in stock again, however, is the majority of fabrics available for use on furniture are not as thick and strong as they were. To make the less substantial fabrics strong enough for upholstery, most have a latex-based backing film applied to the reverse side. This is most often a thin, sprayed on latex backing similar to what keeps natural fiber area rugs from unraveling. These types of fabrics are therefore vulnerable to any prolonged exposure to moisture, which can cause the backing to separate from the upholstery fibers. Such moisture can come from a spilled glass of water quickly cleaned up, if the fabric is not immediately blotted dry and the back of the fabric dried as well. That could involve pulling the seat or back cushion off the furniture, unzipping, and placing paper towels behind the fabric as well as making sure the exterior is dried as quickly as possible without stretching the fabric too much.



Our factory partners don’t always have the durability test data (number of double rubs) for all fabrics readily available. We can obtain that information for you from the factory or mill upon request. Combinations of acrylic and polyester are often very durable and cleanable. Those fabrics with a percentage of olefin material tend to be even stronger, and while olefin is great for stain resistance, colorfastness, and to some extent, fading from UV exposure, it can add a bit of shine to fabrics.

Some consider 15,000 double rubs to be heavy duty.  We have some that are rated at over 100,000 double rubs, and they are still quite soft and inviting to the touch.  


If you must choose a cotton fabric for the body of your furniture, consider adding a custom detail to fortify the parts most vulnerable to wear. On pieces with welting or piping on the outer radius of the arm, where the rings on a hand might fall at the end of the arm and on the back and seat cushion seams, deciding to use a more durable material just on the welting may extend the lifetime of an upholstered piece by many years. For under $100 per piece you can get contrast welting in one of many durable fabrics that can either be a subtle complement to the body fabric, or a statement of fashion when the welt is a high contrast to body fabric. 



It’s unusual for seating manufacturers and makers of furniture coverings to directly address the subject of pets inside the home, enjoying the furniture with you. Every home and every pet is different, and furniture makers generally don’t warranty what might happen as the result of anything pets can do. Expect clauses in a warranty to exclude damage done by pets. Do consider the advantages of surfaces and fabrics you can clean without professional help, and refrain from using professionally applied or over-the-counter stain protection treatments whenever possible.