The Full List: 14 Upholstery Fabric Types and Names (Guide)

No matter what type of chair or sofa you have in your home, it will be used by someone at some time. This means that you need good fabric to cover those chairs, etc., and make them last you a long time. Plus, they need to look good for all those years as well.

The basic upholstery fabric names are the same as the different types. You have cotton, wool, synthetic, and leather types and each one lends its own unique touch to every room they are placed. Some wear better than others and some are easier to clean than others.

To learn more about the different types of upholstery fabrics, just continue to read our article. It has the information you want to know about in order to make a great selection for your home. Take a few minutes to catch up on this important home furnishings topic.

What are Upholstery Fabrics?


These are tougher than normal fabrics that play an important role in your home. One of the first things guests see is the look of your furniture. This means that the fabric you have covering your sofas and easy chairs makes the first impression for you.

These materials are designed to take a lot of heavy traffic as well as support a lot of weight. it is not just people that sit on these fabrics as homeowners place groceries, books, briefcases, and other items on their chairs as well.

That means these fabrics need to be tough and durable. The thread count is going to be higher in these materials but that is a good thing. That tells you that the material will last longer than the material in some of your clothing items.

This material hides all the framework and padding that make up your sofa or chair and creates a nice look which most people enjoy having in their homes. The fabrics are the last piece that ties all the components together and presents you with a very stylish decor.

Plus, they are made from different fibers which make cleaning or other activities a lot better.

Upholstery Fabric Types

There are 2 basic types of upholstery fabric - natural and synthetic. Under these two general categories come many subcategories and the following chart will lay those categories out as well as provide a brief description of each to provide a little detail.

Type of upholstery fabric Description
#1. Natural made from natural fibers
Cotton resists wear, pilling and fading while being vulnerable to dirt, wrinkling and fires. Durability relies on the weave style
Cotton Blend much like above with a few more positive attributes. Can be very sturdy
Leather tough, sophisticated and easy to clean. it adds an element of elegance to any room
Linen best for formal living rooms as it does get dirty easily as well as wrinkles. Not good for high traffic areas or heavy use
Silk very delicate and not for children to play on, etc. Needs professional care when it gets dirty
Vinyl inexpensive, easy to care for and great for high traffic and heavy use areas
Wool very durable, sturdy and resists fading, wrinkling, pilling and dirt. May be blended with synthetics more often than not
Velvet this is the wild card of of these fabrics as it can go in either category. Made from silk, cotton or polyester this is a durable fabric but very difficult to clean
#2. Synthetics man made fibers coming from petroleum products, etc.
Acetate feels like silk but vulnerable to fading, dirt, wrinkling, wear but it does resist mildew. Not for heavy use areas
Acrylic resists fading, dirt, wrinkles and wear making it good for heavy use rooms
Microfiber made from polyester, it resists water, spills, stains and fading and has a velvet like texture to it
Nylon usually found in a blend and not 100% this material is strong, resists dirt and wrinkles but will fade on you
Olefin Good for indoors or the outside. Resists fading,mildew, cuts and scratches as well as stains
Polyester also found mostly in a blend and resists crushing of the nap, fading, wrinkling and will pill when blended with wool
Rayon This material will wrinkle but it is durable and good for families with small children

List of Upholstery Fabrics Names

This is not going to be a complete list of all the possible upholstery fabric names. The different manufacturers may have different names for other well-known materials or the region of the country may change those names.

In other words, there are more names for these fabrics than can be listed here.

  • Cotton - comes in canvas, duck, and lame to name a few that work for upholstery. Very soft, comfortable, and wears well. Plus it is affordable.
  • Denim - this is thick cotton as well but it deserves its own spot as it makes any room look casual while providing very durable material for heavy use rooms.
  • Wool - usually wools are blended with synthetic fibers to make them more durable and avoid any felting that may take place during use
  • Polyester - can be woven to meet just about any furniture need. Also may be easier to clean and can come in a wide variety of colors and patterns.
  • Microfiber - also from the polyester family, it is a bit softer than regular polyester and it has a nice feel to it.
  • Velvet - is made from both natural and synthetic materials. The silk version is more expensive than the cotton or polyester and it is best for formal living rooms.
  • Faux leather - made from petroleum products but more affordable than real leather. It can clean up nicely while giving your room that leather look without the expense.
  • Vinyl - may be a little sticky to hot skin but it is an easy material to clean and it should not stain that much while resisting liquids and spills.
  • Marine - this upholstery material is for boats and other outdoor seats and chairs. It is made to take the harsh treatment riding across a body of water will give it. Handles the rain well as well.
  • Leather - when you want to add a little class to your home, leather is the way to go. This material can last under the right conditions for over 30 years and it never goes out of style. The longevity makes it worth the cost.
  • Chenille - great for indoor furniture and has a lot of durability to it as well as good looks. This is a material that is a poly-cotton blend sop it should resist fading, wrinkling, and more fabric ills.
  • Coquet - another poly-cotton blend that holds up well under heavy use situations. best for dining room chairs and table cloths.
  • Silk - just the mention of its name puts this fabric into a high-class category. It is expensive and should not be used in the family room but it is great for adult gatherings where treatment is light and spills are rare.
  • Nylon - is rarely used all by itself in upholstery fabric. It is blended most often with wool to help that fabric stand up to heavy use and not get ruined.

There are a lot of upholstery fabrics that are named for the colors and designs they are offered in. This makes it difficult to place them all on this list. Also, there are special upholstery fabrics made to meet difficult circumstances like Sunbrella which is more of a brand name than a fabric name.

But this list should get you started and there are more subcategories under the natural fibers that broaden your selection and help you find that unique look you want for your home.

But expect to pay more for upholstery fabric no matter its name. The thread count is higher so you will be paying more for the extra material. Take your time as there is never any rush to pick the fabric that will create your home decor.

What are Upholstery Fabric Grades?


Hold on tight as there is some bad news to deliver first. While there is a grading scale, each manufacturer creates its own grading scale. In other words, there is no consistency to the grades we are about to give you.

Everything depends on the individual manufacturer and they all use the same basic criteria:

  • Type of fiber
  • Type of weave style
  • Performance expectations
  • Construction of the fabric
  • Thread count

The grading system does go from A to F with A being the least expensive and the lowest quality of material. F is the most expensive and most likely the highest quality upholstery fabric you can buy.

When it comes to the construction of the fabric, a pattern woven into the material lasts longer than one that is merely printed on the fibers. Then there are rare fibers, hard-to-clean ones or easy to clean fibers, and so on.

These elements play a role in their grading result. The fabric cards that come with the swatches will clue you in on the quality of the material.

What Upholstery Fabric Pills

Wool is probably the biggest offender here, especially when it is blended with polyester. Expect a lot of pilling when your furniture material is made out of a poly-wool blend.

Nylon is another material that pills when placed on furniture. It is not good for high-use items as the pilling will take its toll in the looks department. These are the two major offenders and it is hard to say about the other fabrics that did not make our list.

Most synthetic materials are designed to thwart pilling. One of those is acetate, unfortunately, this material does fade easily as well as wrinkle and wear out. Acrylic is another material that should not pill a lot on you unless it is made from low-quality fibers.

It is tougher than acetate as it resists fading, wears, wrinkling and dirt. It is a wool replacement fabric that needs to be purchased in high-quality form.

Sofa Upholstery Fabric Types


Probably the one type we did not mention above is Jute. This material is good for sofas and it adds a special touch to the decor when added to any room its colors match. It works well with leather materials and is usually reserved for ottomans although it can be couch fabric as well.

Then the 12 types we placed in the chart above will work well for sofas, especially leather and silk. Both materials add a unique look to a room making them high class, sophisticated, and ready for adult discussions.

Unfortunately, these materials can be expensive, as will be Velvet which lends a regal look to any room it is used in. Except for leather, you need to be careful around these materials as they can damage quite easily.

Linen has a lot going for it but it is not for everyday use or traffic. It gets stronger when wet but it also gets dirty fairly easily. Cotton materials are always good as they absorb spills and can be dyed very easily if you need to change the color for whatever reason you may have.

The synthetic materials are also good and have many positive aspects about them. However, their main vulnerability is that they can be very flammable. That is not good when you have a house full of children.

Finally, vinyl is good as it was designed to replace leather. It has the look of that great material but not the cost. It is also easy to clean, resists dirt and it should last you a long time.

Car Upholstery Fabric Types

If you want the popular fabric types, leather is the one to go to. It has all the same properties as sofa upholstery fabric has. Then, the faux leather alternative is also popular because car owners can get the look of leather for about half the price.

Those materials are very durable as well as being known for being nice and soft. Then there are cloth upholstery fabrics for cars which the less expensive car models have in them. Nylon and other synthetic materials are used here and they hold up quite well under heavy use.

The cloth fabrics used in cars can also come in natural fibers and those materials will act like the natural fibers used in other areas of your home. There are also designer fabrics that some car owners want to have on their car seats.

These fabrics carry designer labels or logos or they can come with a personalized touch and have the owner’s initials on them. The key to car upholstery fabrics is that they need to be resistant to stains as well as pet fur and accidents.

Can Upholstery Fabric be Used for Curtains?


Yes, they can and the designs and colors found on upholstery fabric can add an interesting look to your home’s decor. One of the positive aspects of using this material for curtains or even drapes is that they resist stains and are easier to clean.

Then the material is very durable and comes with a higher double rub score than curtain fabrics. If you want a more formal look to a room, the thicker and heavier upholstery fabrics will provide that look for you.

If the fabric doesn’t have a lining or a backing, clean up is very simple. Just toss the new curtains into the wash and let the washing machine handle the task. The drawback to using this material instead of curtain materials is that the upholstery fabric only comes in 54 to 60-inch widths. They may be too small for some windows.

Then another drawback will be the backing which doesn't have the same pattern on the back like the one on the front.

Are Upholstery Fabrics Fire Retardant?

Chances are most upholstery fabrics have a fire retardant added to them. The one for this material is called CRIB 5 and this is woven into the material itself. What that means to you is that the whole time you own the piece of furniture with upholstery fabric that comes with that fire retardant. you have fire protection.

There is a big but thought. While certain types of upholstery are given this protection, mostly for special event gathering locations like theaters, etc., the fabrics for sofas and chairs, etc., for the home does not have it.

The reason is that there is no federal law mandating that residences have this protection on their furniture. California passed a law in 1975 to make it mandatory but this is not the same for every state.

Some manufacturers have already begun applying this protection to all their lines and your furniture should have it despite the lack of laws in your state.

Why is Upholstery Fabric so Expensive?


You are paying more because the upholstery fabric is thicker, longer-lasting, and has a higher thread count than most other fabrics. There is no other explanation for the high cost. Plus, with all the protective coatings and other elements that go into making this fabric, production costs are high and those costs are passed on to the consumer.

Given that a leather couch can last for over 30 years, stores do not see return customers for the same piece of furniture any time soon. That is a factor in the cost of the fabric.

Patterns and color dyes drive up those production costs so you will pay more for a colorful and well-designed sofa than you would for a plain solid color couch. Labor costs also play a role in the high price of this material.

What Width does Upholstery Fabric Come In?

Usually, this material is found in 54 to 60-inch widths. This is basically standard across the board. This is what may cause you some trouble when you want to use this material for other projects like drapes. The panels just won’t be wide enough to cover large window areas.

There are some exceptions to this rule and you may be able to find some good upholstery fabric in both 48 and 72-inch widths. You would have to check with the outlet you do business with to see what widths are available in the design and colors you want.

The issue you have to deal with if you are recovering your own sofa is that any roll-up bolt may create seams where they are not wanted and are the most uncomfortable. Then you have to match the design correctly when using a fabric that comes with a nice pattern.

Just make sure to have extra material on hand before you get started.

Who Carries Upholstery Fabric


Most of your big box stores should have some upholstery fabric in their fabric sections. How much they have and how big a selection remains to be seen. Sometimes they may sell a lot at one time so their selection will be limited.

Then if your box stores do not have what you want, you can go to the local department stores or locally-owned fabric stores to see if they do. It may be possible to get them to order some in for you.

If all else fails, there are a myriad of online fabric outlets, retail, wholesale, and discount, that carry this material. One store we saw had over 50 different options for you to look at. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a store that sells the type of fabric you want in your home.

Some Final Words

Upholstery fabrics are going to cost you because so much goes into making them. But the cost will be worth it when you get the material and the look you want. The hardest part is choosing the fabric for your home, there are so many options available.

Leave a Comment: