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Furniture Fabrics: 5 Tips for Choosing the Best Upholstery Fabrics

Furniture Fabrics: 5 Tips for Choosing the Best Upholstery Fabrics

When that raggedy, stained sofa is ready for a haul-out, your next logical trip is to the furniture store to find a replacement couch.

If you’re like most people, you plop down on one of the display couches, wiggle around a bit, test it for comfort, and ask yourself, “Will it match?”

But how much do you think about the upholstery fabric?

That might explain why your dining room chairs and living room sectional always look like a warzone!

Follow these five tips for choosing the best upholstery fabrics that’ll last for years and match your lifestyle.

Ask Yourself Who’s Most Likely to Use It

Whether you’re reupholstering your current furniture or splurging on a new piece, ask yourself this one question:

Who (or what) is most likely to use this? 

Best Upholstery Fabrics for Kids

Wherever your kids go, the mess seemingly follows. The last sofa had Magic Marker strokes, juice blots, and mysterious stains everywhere.

For kids, the best upholstery fabric is microfiber.

It’s not only tough and impressively stain-resistant — it’ll also survive until your kids reach high school, won’t break the bank, and comes in various creative textures (like faux suede or corduroy).

Best Upholstery Fabrics for Pets

Fido and Fluffy want nothing more than to snooze on the couch next to you. But their company comes with two major downsides:

Woven-in hair and ultra-sharp claws.

If you’re looking for pet-friendly furniture, go with canvas upholstery fabric.

Its tight weave will prevent a territorial cat’s claws from pulling up fibers and threads. Canvas is also soft, washable, and doesn’t collect pet hair. Just don’t forget to choose a color similar to your pet’s natural coat, if possible.

Best Upholstery Fabric for Spills

If you’re notoriously clumsy or eat dinner and drink red wine on the sofa, zero in on a stain-resistant fabric.

For spills, the best upholstery fabric is leather.

Leather has some level of water resistance, allowing you a few moments to rush into the kitchen, grab a rag, and blot up your mess. Wipe those pesky stains clean in seconds without sacrificing that classy, vintage look.

Think About Your Budget

Reupholstering a couch can cost anywhere between $600 and $4,000. If you’re really lucky, you might be able to snag one for less than $500.

Either way, the upholstery can add (or remove) a few zeros from the final price tag.

Here are the most affordable upholstery fabrics (from least to most expensive):

  1. Suede
  2. Faux leather
  3. Canvas
  4. Velvet
  5. Olefin
  6. Chenille
  7. Jute

You can get a better taste of how much the entire project will cost on Remember that prices are listed by the yard, and the average sofa needs 12-24 yards of fabric to cover it end to end.

Consider Its Location and Use

Now, switch your attention to three things:

  1. Where is the furniture?
  2. How often do you plan to use it?
  3. What design style or theme are you looking to achieve?

If it’s in a sunroom or the direct path of a sunny window, choose a durable and UV-resistant Sunbrella fabric to prevent color fading.

If you’re looking for long-lasting upholstery that’ll survive heavy use, choose a fabric with a 15,000+ double-rub rating (like velvet, suede, or corduroy).

If you want to add some personality to a bland room, choose a vibrant-colored or even patterned fabric.

If kids leave stains behind or pets drop hair wherever they nap, go for a tight-weave fabric that closely matches your pet’s hair.

If it’s a dining chair where spills are almost guaranteed, you can’t go wrong with stain-resistant dark leather.

Choose Easy-to-Clean Fabrics

Any upholstery fabric can be cozy and nap-worthy. But when it comes to cleanliness, there’s an entire spectrum. 

Some fabrics wick spills and stains away while others soak them up in record time (often permanently). And if you’ve ever tried lint-rolling tweed upholstery to remove embedded pet hair, you likely quit halfway through.

‘Easy-to-clean’ is the name.

Best Upholstery Fabric for Vacuuming

Wool is generally the best natural fabric in the worlds of resiliency and easy care. All it takes is a quick run-through with a vacuum’s upholstery attachment to remove any lingering dust, debris, and stray hairs.

Best Upholstery Fabric for Removing Stains

Regular, rough-and-tumble microfiber is the best upholstery fabric for stain removal. Not only can it tolerate deep fabric cleaning, but you can also unzip the cushions and toss the outer covers in the washing machine.

Best Upholstery Fabric for Cleanliness

Crypton upholstery fabrics are among the cleanest. They don’t absorb spills that cause odors, bacteria, and mold growth. Instead, dripped liquids will bead on the fabric’s surface until you blot it clean. 

Crypton also naturally resists MRSA, hepatitis, and staph bacteria. But the company sells a disinfectant and deodorizer that kills 99.9% of germs to guarantee a safe and clean sofa.

Learn About Each Upholstery Fabric’s Perks

There’s no single ‘best’ upholstery fabric. It depends on your needs, budget, color considerations, and more.

But if you want the easy answer before reupholstering your ottoman, sofa, headboard, or dining room chairs, here are the perks of each common fabric:

  • Velvet: It’s soft, inviting, durable, and easy to wipe clean.
  • Microfiber: It’s stain-resistant, easy to clean, and long-lasting.
  • Leather: It can last for decades and doesn’t absorb spills quickly.
  • Linen: It’s stronger than cotton and is quite eco-friendly.
  • Chenille: It doesn’t pill or wrinkle and can handle wear and tear well.
  • Silk: It’s unusually durable, easy to upholster, and doesn’t tear.
  • Wool: It’s soft, repels spills, and doesn’t collect dust.
  • Vinyl: It’s flame-resistant, hard to damage, and has a long life span.

Narrow your list down to about 2-3 fabrics before going furniture (or fabric) shopping. That way, you can guarantee furniture that lasts long!


A typical sofa will last about 7-15 years, but it’ll start showing signs of wear-and-tear well before that. 

You might notice your bright red couch has gone dull, years-old stains are no longer fading, or pulled threads are becoming eyesores.

But replacing a sofa could rack up a hefty $3,000+ bill. 

If you’re looking for quick and affordable ways to bring that old sofa back to life, try using a slipcover or even deep cleaning the fabric. Or, if you’re committed to a change in pace, reupholster the piece or buy a new one.