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A Quick Guide to Upholstery Fabrics

Choosing your upholstery fabric wisely can mean the difference between keeping your furniture looking great for a long time or watching in horror as your fabric falls apart due to excessive use. Use this quick guide to fabrics to ensure you are picking fabrics that accommodate the needs of how the furniture will be used.

A lthough linen upholstery adds an air of elegance to sofas and chairs, it wrinkles and stains easily so should not be used as upholstery for furniture placed in living rooms, TV rooms or other areas where a lot of activity is going to happen. If linen upholstery becomes dirty, you will have to have it professionally cleaned so that the material doesn't shrink and pull away from the furniture's edges.

Cotton is a great choice for all types of furniture because it resists fading, wrinkling and soiling. However, be aware that cotton comes in different "thread" counts, which indicate its quality level and durability. A cotton thread count of 150 is considered the standard thread count while 180 means the fabric is excellent quality and anything higher than a 200 thread count is called "percale" cotton fabric.

Leather is tough, sporty and easily cleaned with a damp cloth or special conditioners formulated to clean leather and keep it supple. Just remember to tell everyone to take their car keys out of their pockets before sitting down on your new leather couch!

Invented as a less expensive alternative to leather, vinyl is sometimes called "faux" leather and is made from ethylene and chlorine to create a durable type of plastic resin. Vinyl is an excellent choice for kitchen furniture because its smooth surface is highly resistant to permanent staining. However, aging vinyl tends to split as worn spots develop and color fading occurs.

Upholstery that is considered "wool" is usually combined with synthetic fibers so that it resists felting and is easier to wash. Felting often occurs with genuine wool upholstery when fibers start to bond together due to wear and tear and start to feel like felt instead of wool. Wool blends also take a long time to fade and do not wrinkle like other, less sturdy blends.

As an imitation silk upholstery fabric, acetate is suitable for furniture that is not used everyday or furniture meant for "looks" only. Although acetate withstands shrinking, pilling and mildewing, it provides only average resistance to wrinkling and fading due to ultraviolet light from the sun.

Additional kinds of upholstery include acrylic (an ersatz wool blend), nylon (a blend of exceptionally strong fibers), polyester (another blended fabric resistant to wrinkling) and rayon (a durable imitation of cotton, silk and linen).
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