Buying new lounge sofas, dining chairs or recliner chairs can often be a confusing process for most home owners. Many customers look at the colour of the sofa, its design, style and shape, and how it might fit into their space and match with the rest of their furniture. All of these issues are important but there’s one more crucial factor that is often overlooked – what is the sofa made from? Choosing the correct fabric at purchase time and knowing its advantages and disadvantages is the difference between having a sofa that will look great 10 years from now versus needing to buy a new sofa only a few short years later because the one you bought was stained and the stains can’t be cleaned as they are permanent.
Shop assistants will often have no clue about fabrics and fibres nor their cleaning and restoration, so having some knowledge about them will give you an advantage is the sales negotiation. Often the branding won’t display the fabric or fibre make-up and you will have to explicitly ask to get this information. Many sofas today are made from multiple fabrics which are woven together so knowing exactly what you are getting is valuable information when it comes to the cleaning and maintenance of your new sofa.
Polyester (Micro-Fibre, Macro-Suede)
A popular synthetic fabric used in modern sofas and chairs, polyester has very low moisture absorbency meaning it tends to naturally resist absorbing in stains and spills. Because of this it is by far the best choice for families with children and pets who are likely to spill things on it. Polyester is however oleophilic meaning it has an affinity for oils, so oil-based stains can easily bind to it and become permanent. Care must be taken if eating oily foods such as fish and chips as touching the sofa with oil deposits on one’s fingers is a very common way for permanently staining polyester. Because of this it is highly recommended that high quality upholstery fabric protection is applied when the couch is purchased then every couple of years after, which will help prevent oil-based stains from becoming permanent.
Linen, Cotton, Wool
Very popular natural fabrics used either by themselves for pieces which have a traditional look and feel, or together with polyester in a composite blend. Buyer beware; in some countries it is legal to advertise a sofa as “Linen” when it contains at least 10% Linen, and some manufactures will sell a “Linen” sofa at a premium price while it is in fact 80-90% polyester. When it comes to cleaning both Linen & Cotton are highly absorbent fabrics; they are significantly more likely to absorb in stains and dyes and not release them during the cleaning process, making them permanent. Fabric protection is highly recommended to prevent stains from absorbing into the fabric, and removing stains as quickly as possible is key. Care should be taken with Linen as any spotting agents based on hydrogen-peroxide (commonly having “Oxy” in the product name) will pull colour out of the Linen.
The oldest man-made fibre, viscose is often used in composite blends because it is cheap and can convey a silky texture and appearance. Unfortunately viscose is among the most absorbent fabrics used in upholstery construction; it is 3 times more absorbent than Wool! Fabric protection is absolutely mandatory and the best cleaning results will likely come from hydrogen-peroxide based spotting agents.
A plush luxurious fabric similar to velvet. Can be made either from cotton or from polyester which will drastically affect the cleaning outcomes! Very important to ask what it is made from before buying as polyester-based velour will clean much better than cotton-based velour.
Many modern sofas are made from more than 1 fibre; Linen/Polyester, Linen/Cotton and Linen/Viscose/Polyester are all common combinations. Adding polyester decreases the absorbency of the fabric and hence increases its ability to be cleaned, yet also makes it more likely to permanently absorb oil-based stains and spills.
Regardless of the sofa you settle on having it professionally protected after purchase then professionally cleaned and protected every couple of years will help to significantly extend its life and keep it looking as close as possible to showroom condition. For families with small children and pets the easiest sofa to clean and maintain for a decade or more is something as close to 100% polyester/micro fibre/macro-suede as possible. Families with small children and pets are advised to staying away from the more absorbent natural fibres such as linen, cotton and wool.