No matter which type of sofa or chair you currently have in your home, someone is going to use it at one time or another. This means that you need a good fabric to cover it that will make them last a long time while avoiding stains. There are many couch fabric types available, but basic upholstery fabric can get broken down into different categories. You can choose from synthetic, wool, cotton, leather, and many more to bring a durable but unique look to each room. Some are easier to clean than others and some don’t break down nearly as quickly with heavy use.
If you’re wondering which couch fabric types are best for your home, you can continue on. We’ll help break down your options to ensure that you get a solid pick for your needs that will look great for years. If you have pets or kids, make sure to keep an eye out for the couch fabric types that are easy to clean as well.
You can get couches for both indoor and outdoor use, but the fabric is the defining factor on the area where it’s best suited. Couch by Katherine Esposito / CC BY-NC 2.0
Defining Couch Fabric Types
Most couch fabric types are much tougher than normal fabrics, and they play an important part in your home. The fabric is one of the first things your guests see when they come into your home and look at your furniture. So, the couch fabric type you pick out will have a big impact on the first impression your guests get of your home in general.
The materials come designed to withstand a lot of heavy traffic and support a great deal of weight without breaking down. After all, it’s not just people that sit on these fabrics. It’s also common to place briefcases, books, groceries, or other items on them if they’re close to the door.
So, any couch fabric type you pick out has to be durable and tough. The thread count is going to be slightly higher in these materials to help them withstand heavy use without breaking down. So, the material will usually last much longer than the material for your clothing or sheets.
Additionally, this material is responsible for hiding the padding or framework that makes up your sofas, and it creates a nice look that most people enjoy in the house. The fabric is the piece that ties most components together and gives you a very stylish decor. They’re also made from different fibers, and this makes cleaning them easier.
This couch fabric type is a much cheaper alternative to silk, and it gives you a lustrous and shiny look for your couch. If you’re after a fabric that will imitate silk and give your furniture a very luxurious and high-end look, this is a great option to consider. It adds elegance and class to the living room, and you’re going to love sitting on it. Also, this couch fabric type will resist humidity damage and mildew or moth damage.
However, you should keep in mind that you can’t wash this couch fabric type a lot, and you can only dry clean it. This can be an expensive process for larger furniture pieces. It’s not a good pick if you have pets or kids running around because it stains easily. It also scratches very easily, so you have to be careful with it. It’s more common as a formal upholstery option.
Do you want fabric or upholstery for your outdoor furniture? If so, acrylic is a fantastic couch fabric type that fits your needs. It can get brittle with constant sunlight exposure, and it mimitates the same quality you’ll get with wool. The synthetic fabric can work well for your backyard or patio furniture.
The other thing you may be worried about is the rain. However, this fabric has a reputation for drying very quickly, so rain shouldn’t pose a problem. Also, it’s very easy to clean and wash whenever you need to. If you plan on keeping it by your pool, this couch fabric type will get dirty much quicker. When it does, you should take it out and wash it very well. It’ll dry within a few hours, and you’ll have cleaner sets by nighttime. You can see marks on it easily because it’s not protected from abrasion.
Chenille is a natural couch fabric type that works very well for kids’ furniture and in your kid’s rooms. It’s a French word that translates into “caterpillar”, and this is what it’s supposed to feel and look like. You’ll get a very comfortable and thick feeling with this upholstery. Also, this fiber will catch the light, and it’ll form natural shadows when the light streams into the room. So, it’ll look different, depending on the direction you view it in due to the fibers catching the light differently.
A great advantage of working with this couch fabric type is that you can wash it yourself. You can either machine or hand-wash it and dry it on low heat in your dryer. However, you do want to try and dry it flat. You shouldn’t hang it out to dry as it can lose its shape. The material will also catch debris and dust very easily. So, you shouldn’t put it right next to windows. Exposure to too much heat can also lead to shape distortion or stretching. You should try to keep it in the middle of rooms.
Chenille is a more high-end fabric that comes with a very plush look and feel to it, but it requires specific care instructions to keep it looking nice. Sectional by Posh Living / Kerry Ann Dame / CC BY-SA 2.0
One of the most popular couch fabric types available is cotton, and you’ll find it in virtually any home. Cotton is a very durable option that you can dye very easily. Also, you can find cotton in virtually any color due to the popularity. You can even dye them in your home at your convenience if you want to switch it up.
Cotton also comes in a huge range of price ranges. The price depends on the thread count, and there are options for everyone. Also, cotton is hypoallergenic and it’s suitable for people with sensitive skin. So, it’s a great choice for your kid’s room or nursery. It’s very versatile, and it works in virtually any room in your house. The material is soft and breathable, and it won’t irritate your skin. However, cotton is one couch fabric type that is prone to stain easily. Since it dyes very well, if you drop colors on it, they can be challenging to get out. This is especially true if you get light colored cotton.
Anyone who wants a textured fabric should consider jute for the couch fabric type. The fabric comes from Bangladesh and India originally, and it’s still very popular in these places. It works well alongside leather and compliments any smooth textures. You could easily get leather couches with jute ottomans. The colors will also contrast nicely to give you a very attractive look.
If you’re concerned about the environment, this fabric uses a very small amount of chemicals during the manufacturing process, and this makes it an eco-friendly choice. It’s 100% natural, and it won’t negatively impact the environment when you get rid of it. However, you can’t wash this fabric. You can get out a vacuum to clean it and dust away any stray debris, but you don’t want to wash it. Also, it turns yellow when you leave it out in the sunlight, so it works better for indoor furniture.
If you want your furniture to have an elegant and luxurious touch, leather is a couch fabric type to consider. It’s one of the most widely used textiles for furniture, and it feels and looks expensive. Also, genuine leather will last you over five years if you make a point to take care of it. However, this is relatively easy and it won’t absorb smells or liquids.
So, having leather around pets and kids won’t be a huge issue. It won’t smell like your pets, and it won’t absorb any smells if you smoke around it. It gives you an odorless, grand look and feel. Leather is prone to cracking and splitting since it’s made from tanned skin. So, it can crack without routine maintenance or if it comes into contact with sharp objects.
Leather is a very popular material in office settings, but you can also find it used in the home as a classic but durable pick. Couch by astrangegirl / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
If you’ve loved those soft, earthy shaded couch fabric types at your friend’s house, you can easily get the same feel with linen. Linen comes from the flax plant, and it is 100% environmentally-friendly and natural. It has a reputation for being very comfortable and affordable for many budgets, and it has a very alluring and smooth nature to it. You can also easily wash it in the washing machine to clean it. You won’t have to take it out for expensive dry cleaning, and this makes it more affordable. It also won’t lose the natural sheen and luster when you wash it.
Earthy-toned linen couch fabric types look best because it’s very close to the plant’s original shade. The furniture will be protected from mildew and molds because it has natural antibacterial properties attached to it. This makes it a great pick for any home. The only downside to linen is that it will wrinkle easily. So, you’ll have to iron it a lot and ensure that the fabric doesn’t move a lot.
If you’re looking for a couch fabric type that isn’t as luxurious and more for heavy use, this option is a nice choice. There are areas in your home where you need furniture that is going to get a lot of use, so the fabric needs to be able to resist wear and tear without failing. This is a petroleum-based, synthetic fiber that looks a lot like wool. However, it’s made out of melted plastic.
This fabric is resistant to water, and it’s also protected from fire and heat. When it comes to stains, any water-based ones can wipe away easily. You can also use bleach to clean it between uses. It won’t cause this couch fabric type to fade as the dye gets mixed right into the melted fabric when they produce it. However, oil-based stains are harder to remove from the fabric. You also shouldn’t leave it in the sun as it can get brittle. Allow it to dry under your shade trees instead.
Do you want to get a more high-end feel in your living room without spending a ton for expensive couch fabric types? If so, polyester is one way to easily achieve this with its comfortable and soft feel. You can use it to cover sofas and chair cushions, and it can replace more delicate fabric types if you have kids in the house. It’s also very easy to clean, and you can wash off all types of stains. Polyester will dry very quickly, so you can wash it as often as you like.
This couch fabric type is slightly more breathable, but it won’t absorb smells. This makes it a solid pick if you have pets in the house. Even if your child happens to smear paints or colors on the fabric, you can remove both the stain and the smell easily. You do need to be careful because the fabric is flammable, so you need to be careful about having an open flame around it.
This is a semi-synthetic couch fabric type that is comfortable and soft to the touch. You can find it to be very similar to cotton, and it’s a very durable choice if you take the time to take care of it. This makes it a good choice for homes without pets or kids. It drapes very well, and you can dye or print on it without an issue. You will need to dust it regularly, and the material isn’t waterproof. So, it can lose shape if you wash it to clean it. You should only wash it once or twice a year as necessary, and you can vacuum it to clean it too. The fabric also has natural protection from moth and mildew attacks.
Since you can’t wash this couch fabric type regularly, this is a very beneficial feature. However, the fabric does tend to wrinkle very easily, so you may want to have a steamer on hand. Use it on low because too much heat can easily scorch the fabric.
Silk is considered to be one of the most luxurious and expensive natural fabrics you can buy today. Silk has a long history of use by royals, and you can easily find silk dresses on sale as well as using it as a couch fabric type. This is a very delicate fabric that requires care to keep it looking nice. You have to make sure there’s no rough use to it, and you most likely don’t want it on your furniture if you have pets running around the house.
It catches fur and dirt easily, and if you wash it too much, it’ll lose both the color and the luster. You should also send your silk away for dry cleaning and don’t wash it in your home. You can dust it to keep the dirt off.
Turn the space into a luxurious room with this soft and regal fabric. Velvet is one of the most expensive and beautiful couch fabric types you can have in your home. You can dye it in a huge range of colors and shades to lift up the ambiance in your room too. Velvet also has excellent insulation capabilities. You can easily use it as a duvet cover or as a material to cover your comforter to hold the heat in during the colder months. It’s the perfect addition to any home in windy or hilly planting zones.
One nice property of velvet is that it is great at reflecting the light. It catches the light easily when the sun comes through your windows. In turn, this will accentuate the shape and make your fabric look much fuller. So, when you use it as a couch fabric type, it looks plusher and bigger. Also, velvet comes made to last, so you won’t have anything to worry about if you make a point to take good care of it. It is difficult to clean, and you should send it out for dry cleaning to keep it looking like new.
Velvet is a very luxurious fabric that many people use because it has a very plush, soft, and comfortable feel to it. O’ahu – Honolulu – Waikīkī: Moana Surfrider – The King Sat Here by Wally Gobetz / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Wool is known to be one of the most comfortable couch fabric types you can get, wool is 100% natural. It’s also one of the warmest and softest choices you have, and it’s very popular to use in areas with cold weather or rooms that have rich interiors. Wool is a fantastic option for couches to make them look very plush and luxurious, and it’s nice to sink into these couches after a long day of work. The insulation capabilities are nice too, and they’ll keep you warm.
Also, wool is resistant to fire and water. If you drop a small amount of water onto it, you can wipe it away. However, you should be careful not to spill a lot of liquid on it. While stains can be removed, the thicker fabric makes it very hard to dry. Also, wool is expensive, so you have to maintain it to keep it looking nice. Once you start to see dirt, you should take it to a dry cleaners.
How to Clean Your Couch
To remove dirt very quickly and easily, you can use the vinegar method. You’ll add a few drops of vinegar into a half of a cup of water. Put it in a spray bottle and apply the solution to the dirty area. Blot it without rubbing with a dry cloth or paper towel to lift the stain. Double-check the couch fabric type first because some only recommend dry cleaning.
Popular Upholstery Cleaning Products
For the best possible outcome when you want to clean your upholstery, you can use a combination of the following items:
- Baking soda
- Dry brush
- Drying towel
The Basics for Cleaning Your Couch’s Upholstery
As with any cleaning project, counters, car interiors, windows, or furniture, it’s best to know exactly what you’re working with. Check out your furniture care codes to help get a good understanding of which cleaners or solvents are okay to use. Once you figure out the correct solutions and apply the cleaning liquid to the upholstery, you want to blot it dry. Never rub it to dry it.
Common Cleaning Codes for Fabric Couches
|Cleaning Code||What it Means|
|W||Water-based cleaner. You should only use a water-based cleaner on your couch fabric type. A water-based cleaner is one that has water listed as the main component.|
|S/W||Solvents and water-based cleaners. You can safely use both water-based cleaners and solvents on the fabric.|
|S||Solvents. You can only use solvents to clean the fabric. A solvent is a solution that has a cleaning chemical as the main formula component.|
How to Clean Stains on a Fabric Couch
Stains happen, especially when you have a busy household. So, knowing how to safely remove them without damaging your couch fabric type is key. Stained Couch by B.B. / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
You want to start by getting to the stains quickly. As soon as a stain or spill occurs, you should start cleaning it. Waiting too long to treat a spill or stain, even a few minutes, can cause the stain to set into your couch fabric type and be more difficult to remove.
Before you use any cleaning detergents or solutions on the stain, check the manufacturer’s recommendations. They’ll outline how to care for the fabric, and you can usually find this on your couch’s tags. Failing to follow these recommendations could mean that you damage the upholstery permanently.
Use a dry brush to get rid of any loose particles. You should go over your entire couch with a stiff brush that has natural bristles to help loosen up any stains and bring dirt and dust to the surface. Once it’s there, you can vacuum. Before you scrub and clean the spot or stain, get a hand-held vacuum and remove loose particles or crumbs with it. This makes it easier to spot and focus on the stains when it comes time to clean them.
Clean the spot with baking soda. Unlike what you may think, baking soda is an effective cleaning treatment. Sprinkling it over the whole couch will help remove odors and loosen up the stains even more. You can also use a mixture of homemade baking soda for deep-set stains. Get a bowl and mix in equal parts water and baking soda to make a paste. Allow it to sit on the stain for 15 to 20 minutes to fully absorb the stain. Once this time passes, put the brush attachment on your vacuum and suck it up. You always want to spot treat a small area before you cover a stain to make sure it won’t impact the color.
Next, spot treat with the recommended agent. Test a small area that isn’t noticeable and look for discoloration. If you don’t see any, you can proceed to cleaning the stain. No matter if you use a water-based or solvent-based cleaning agent, follow the instructions on the packaging when you clean. If the instructions say you can, use a soft cloth to wipe the solution away.
Dry the couch fabric type with a soft towel. Pat at any wet areas with a dry towel to soak up the residual moisture. Gently brush any of the remaining solutions off. Allow the fabric to air dry overnight.
We’ve outlined the 13 best couch fabric types for you to consider and gave you a few hints to help keep them clean and make them last longer. You can compare the options we outlined and figure out which ones are going to work best for your space.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.