How to Pick the Best Upholstery Fabric for Your Sofa?

May 4, 2022
how to choose upholstery fabric

Whether you’re buying a new sofa or just want to change the looks of your old one, picking the upholstery is one challenging task. It can be mind-boggling because there are too many options! The wide variety of patterns and colours isn’t helping either.

Making a wrong choice is worrisome, and that piece of furniture is a part of your home, so it’ll keep staring at you every time you walk into the room.

So, how to pick the best upholstery fabric for your sofa? We’ll tell you everything you need to know in this article. Stick around!

Types of Upholstery Fabrics

Before we dive into how to pick the best fabric for you, you need to know what types of materials are most common.

There are three types of fabrics: natural, synthetic, and semi-synthetic.

Firstly, natural fabrics. They come from plant and animal sources; they’re mostly known for comfort, but they’re not the most durable out there.

The most common natural fabrics include:

  • Cotton
  • Linen
  • Leather
  • Wool
  • Silk

Secondly, synthetic fabrics; they’re manufactured to be more durable and less expensive than natural fabrics.

The most common synthetic fabrics are:

  • Nylon
  • Polyester
  • Faux leather
  • Acrylic
  • Olefin

Lastly, there are semi-synthetic fabrics, which contain both natural and synthetic materials.

The most common semi-synthetic fabrics include:

  • Viscose
  • Modal
  • Bamboo

The Essential Factors You Should Consider While Picking Your Upholstery

There are some essential factors you should consider while buying your upholstery. Here’s a roundup:


Sofas used daily require highly durable fabrics; less durable upholstery can be easily scratched, stretched, or even torn.

The durability of upholstery fabric is usually measured using the Martindale Rub Test. The fabric is tested to see how many rubs it can withstand before wearing off, and those rubs represent each time someone uses the sofa.

The results of the test are put into five grades according to their recommended usage:

  • Decorative (10,000 rubs or less)
  • Light domestic (10,000 to 15,000 rubs)
  • General domestic (15,000 to 25,000 rubs)
  • Heavy-duty (25,000 to 30,000 rubs)
  • Commercial grade (30,000 rubs or more)

General domestic grades are often what you want for an occasionally used sofa, while for an everyday-used sofa, it’s best if you choose a heavy-duty fabric.

Durable upholstery fabrics must pass the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations. So, always check for the label that indicates the ignition resistance. 

Pattern, Colours, and Style

Picking the design and colour scheme is one of the most puzzling aspects of choosing the fabric.

Start by picking colours that complement your existing scheme. For instance, the colour should match the fabrics of your curtains, carpets, and wallpaper.

The safest and easiest option is to pick a simple neutral colour; you can’t go wrong with beige, grey, or blue. 

White is a safe and elegant option as well. However, it’s easily stained and requires high maintenance. It’s advised to use fabric stain guards if you want a light-coloured sofa.

There are no right or wrong options regarding colour picking; it’s a matter of personal taste.

Pattern Matching

After picking a pattern to your liking, pattern matching is an essential consideration.

When you have a repeated pattern, the entire furniture needs to line up and have a nice flow. Otherwise, the fabric will appear awkwardly cut off.

Pattern matching requires more skill and more fabric and, therefore, requires more money. However, when done right, it makes for a beautifully decorated room.


When it comes to comfort, it’s easy to know what you want. Even if you have a different definition of comfortable than most people, you’ll likely agree that the fabric needs to be soft, breathable, and non-irritating.

With these considerations, the most common soft fabrics include:

  • Cotton
  • Linen
  • Silk

If ‘comfortable’ means something else to you, that’s fine. It’s a matter of personal preference.

Some people consider leather as the most comfortable fabric, while others consider the cosiness of wool their best choice. It’s up to your preference and the aesthetic of the room.

Stains and Fabric Care

Stains are a nightmare to see on a sofa! The cleaning process will not be easy.

Having kids and pets around means that you’ll face this nightmare every once in a while.

So, if you’re worried about stains, choose a stain-repellant and water-resistant fabric; it’ll reduce the risk of those accidents. 

For instance, microfiber is naturally stain-repellant and requires low maintenance.

Another example is Olefin, which is a water-repellant fabric; it comes in handy when you spill liquid on the upholstery. A simple wipe of the liquid will take care of the problem. Olefin is also known for handling heavy wear like a champ.


Prices of fabric can vary extensively! Plan your budget ahead, and choose a reputable store to buy from.

Buying upholstery fabric is an investment; if you’re not on a limited budget, buying long-lasting fabrics like leather, wool, or linen can be a good decision if they fit your needs.

They might be expensive, but they can get passed down through generations if their quality is good enough.

However, if you’re sticking to a budget, opt for affordable synthetic fabrics instead.

Personal Factors You Should Consider

Other personal and lifestyle factors might vastly influence your choice.

For instance, having kids or pets around the house means a lot of accidents happening on the sofa. In that case, you should choose a more durable fabric that’s easy to clean.

It’s strongly advised to try the fabric before you buy it, which means buying in-store is preferred over shopping online. Stores will offer a sample of the fabric for you to check.

Additionally, always check the materials for allergy triggers. Polyester is a common cause of contact dermatitis allergies. Wool can cause mild allergic reactions as well.

Safer options include:

  • Microfiber
  • Leather
  • Cotton

Lastly, if you’re planning to place your sofa in a place where it’ll be exposed to sunlight, make sure the colours are fade-resistant.

In Conclusion

Picking upholstery fabric for your sofa can be overwhelming. You have a lot of options to choose from, and the variety isn’t helping.

However, considering your lifestyle and figuring out what you need can narrow down the choices. Make sure to arrange the priorities you need in the fabric before viewing options.

Lastly, take the following factors into consideration while choosing:

  • Durability
  • Pattern and style
  • Comfort
  • Fabric care
  • Budget