What Is Olefin Fabric? (Is Olefin Fabric Safe and Soft?)

Fabrics come and fabrics go. That is the way it seems as fabric manufacturers keep reinventing the wheel when it comes to developing new materials for you to sew with. The biggest problem is trying to keep up with all the different fabric options you can buy. They may just be the same thing under a new name.

What is Olefin fabric? Olefin fabric is a product of combining propylene gas with some oil products and ethylene. In other words, it is purely a synthetic material. Yes, it is quite safe even for the environment as it uses no land or water for production and it is comfortable and soft to sit on.

To learn more about Olefin fabric just continue to read our article. it has the information you need to know about so you can use it in the proper sewing projects. It is more of an outdoor fabric than a clothing material.

What is Olefin Fabric?


Basically, this is a synthetic fabric that can be seen as an upgrade over regular polyester materials. it is supposed to be comfortable, strong as well as durable and it does not fade as quickly as regular polyester does.

Its intended use is directed more towards outdoor furniture, umbrellas, and car upholstery. This material does come in a variety of colors and designs making it an attractive option for both polyester and outdoor acrylic fabrics.

Plus, the cost is cheaper than the acrylic options while being a little more expensive than the polyester materials. It is said to be water-resistant and some top-quality materials are said to be waterproof.

Those characteristics make this an ideal material to use on outdoor furniture, curtains, and umbrellas. It should withstand the weather patterns in your area quite well. The material is also durable when you provide the right treatment and maintenance. Normal treatment helps it last a long time.

While it is a synthetic material it is a good option when you get tied to both acrylic fabrics and polyester decorating your pool area or outdoor patio.

What is Olefin Fabric Made of?

For those who do not like synthetic materials, it may be best to skip reading this section as there is nothing natural about this product. It is purely a lab-constructed fabric made from a gas that used to be burned off. The reason it was burned off was that until 1957, no one thought it had any practical uses.

Two things this material is not made from are land or water. That makes it a bit more environmentally friendlier than some natural fibers. Those plants use a lot of water as well as lots of acreage to grow.

To make this material, scientists combine propylene gas with oil products and ethylene materials. A steam cracking process is used to collect all the ingredients and then are combined together. This process creates polypropylene and it uses a polymerizing process to create the physical features of this product.

At that stage, the single molecules are linked together to create a long chain that has repeated structural units. The physical form looks like pellets which are then melted and run through a spinneret. The spinneret changes the melted material into a thread which is then turned into yarn or fabric.

Once made into thread it is impossible to dye or stain. This process actually uses waste material from other petroleum processes making it a green option with a low carbon footprint.

Olefin Fabric Characteristics

There is some confusion about some of the characteristics of Olefin. Some people claim it to be waterproof and water-resistant but others say the opposite. It will depend on the quality of the fabric that you buy whether you get waterproof or water-resistant material or unprotected fabric.

It is also a little confusing about how to clean this material as some people say it can be spot cleaned and bleach can be used. Other people say the opposite again. So check the cleaning tag that comes with the material.

Other than those two confusing characteristics Olefin is supposed to be slower to fade than polyester, almost as durable as acrylic outdoor fabric, and very colorful. Its attractive nature comes from the different dyes given to it at the time of production and the material is also given different designs.

Then it does well as car upholstery as it is stain resistant. The material is washable although you want to avoid exposing it to high heat temperatures. It tends to melt on you if you do.

What does Olefin Fabric Feel like?


Because of its processing, it can feel a little rougher than both acrylic materials and polyester fabrics. The texture is on the rough side but it is not like sandpaper where you can’t sit on it at all.

It is just a little rougher than other fabrics would be. The good news for this material that despite that rough feel, it is still a comfortable fabric to sit or lay on. Most people do not mind the rough texture as the softness of the fabric compensates for that texture.

Of course, the feel of the material will depend a lot on the quality of the fabric. Lesser quality options may be cheaper and save you a bundle but you also lose out in the softness and comfort aspects of using this material.

What will help you enjoy the feel of this material is that it is not supposed to have any other added chemicals to its construction. There is not supposed t be any fire retardant, no chemical stain treatment, no anti-microbial sprays, no PFC treatments, and so on.

In other words, this fabric is going to feel great because you do not have to worry about all the additives other fabrics have.

What does Olefin Fabric Look like?

It will look like just about any other lightweight fabric. It comes with a wide assortment of colors that do not fade that much. That characteristic means that it should look good even after spending years in the sun.

Plus, you should be able to get it in different designs making the fabric look attractive even when you are close up. Since it resists mold, it won’t take on that ugly mold color after being in the rain for long periods.

Then, because it resists abrasions, it won’t look tattered, torn, and ugly. it should look as almost as good as the day you bought it. That will be due to its colorfast characteristic.

Also, you won’t get that wet fabric look either. This material has a low absorbency rate which means water is wicked away quite easily and quickly. That characteristic let the material dry fast making sure the fabric looks good after a rainstorm.

However, be careful when it is out in the hot sunlight. While steps are being taken to stabilize the fabric, the hot sun can do things to the material that make it look bad.

Is Olefin Fabric Safe?

There is no reason to worry about using this material in your car or outdoor furniture, etc. It is a safe fabric to use despite its synthetic and petroleum ingredients. The reason we can say this is because there are a lot of chemicals omitted from its construction process.

As we said earlier, there are no PFC treatments, no fire retardants sprayed onto the fibers, no anti-microbial sprays used in its construction, and no volatile organic compounds used in it either.

Plus, other chemical coatings are not used in making this material. This lack of chemical additives makes it perfect for the environment as well. it is a biodegradable material that disappears a lot faster than acrylic or polyester will. In addition, it can be recycled up to 10 times before any adverse effects kick in.

That makes it a perfectly safe fabric to sit on and use in different projects that you have in mind to create. The only drawback you may find with this material is that it can melt on you. That is a concern if you use the dryer to dry the wet fabric or leave it out in the extremely hot sun.

Is Olefin Fabric Soft?


Even though it is an outdoor or upholstery type material, it is seen as a soft fabric that should not make you uncomfortable. There is a rougher texture to it than say acrylic or polyester but it still feels soft when you sit or lay on it.

But the degree of softness you feel will depend on the fabric’s quality as well as its weave style. Then your level of softness may be higher than this material provides and you may not think it is too soft.

Once you run your hand across the material, you may feel a wax-like feel to the fabric. That artificial feel is common among synthetic materials and try as they might, scientists still cannot top the softness found in natural fibers.

That is a level of softness that is basically impossible to beat so if you are going to compare Olefin with cotton or wool, do not expect it to be softer than the natural fabrics. Synthetic materials just can’t compete when it comes to softness.

Is Olefin Fabric Breathable?

While this is a lightweight material, no one has claimed that it is great at keeping you cool. In other words, there is no mention of how well the fabric breathes. Since it is made from petroleum products and other non-natural ingredients it is safe to conclude that the fabric is not breathable.

But that is okay since this material is not usually used in clothing. Its purpose is to cover non-apparel applications where breathing is not a necessity. Car seats, outdoor furniture, umbrellas, medical sutures, industrial uses, and similar applications do not need the fabric to breathe well.

Also, since it is similar to plastic in some aspects, plastic does not breathe. It is best to wear this material on the cooler days of the year than it is to wear it when the temperatures soar. With the melting factor, you would want to avoid wearing it where the temperatures are going to be extremely hot.

Is Olefin Fabric Waterproof?

As we mentioned earlier, this is one of the more confusing aspects that come with this fabric. Some people say that it is both waterproof in some cases and water-resistant in others. Then some people claim that it is neither and the material should be kept away from pools and other sources of water.

You would have to check with the different labels to find out if you are buying waterproof material, water-resistant material, or unprotected fabric. It is hard to say what level of fabric is being sold in the stores that you frequent.

The good news is that this material has a low water absorbency rate which means that it will dry quickly. Also, water stains are said to be easy to clean while oil stains are not so easy to clean.

Other people say that bleach is okay to use on this fabric while others say to avoid it like the plague. This is why checking the different labels before you buy is so important. You can avoid being troubled by this confusing information.

Is Olefin Fabric Toxic?


This is a possibility but not so much in the clothing you wear made from this material or the many other uses. However, there is an exception to this rule and the carpeting made from Olefin may be toxic due to the different processes used to make the carpet.

The off-gassing that comes with many different carpet fabrics does take place with Olefin materials. You have to be a bit wary of this and make sure the room is well ventilated until that off-gassing ceases. Or use an air purifier, AC unit, or a dehumidifier that filters the air.

Because this material is not supposed to have all the chemical coatings and additives other synthetic fibers receive, it may not be toxic in other applications. But, this is still a material made from gas, petroleum products, and ethylene so do not think it is entirely safe either.

So far, other than carpeting, we have not seen anyone mention that it is toxic but that doesn’t mean it isn’t either.

What is Olefin Fabric Used for?

There are some apparel uses for this material but that is very minimal at this time. You may not find a lot of clothing items made from this material as its purpose is for non-fashion uses.

You will find the material used in carpets, outdoor furniture fabrics, umbrellas, car seat upholstery, ropes, fencing, vehicle interiors that require cloth, industrial products, automotive parts, and panels.

This material is more for commercial use than it is to set a fashion statement. because it is a durable fabric, you may find it in athletic wear, socks, and hoodies but not dresses, blouses, pants, or suits.

In the home decor sector, you will find this fabric is used in drapes, wall coverings, carpet tiles, indoor and outdoor carpets, slipcovers, and so on. With the wide array of colors available you should be able to match up the wall color with the sofa, chair, or even drape color made from this material.

Designs should not be a problem either.

Olefin Fabric for Sofa

This material does make nice sofa upholstery especially if you are going to use it outside on your patio furniture. It has all the elements you want in a good indoor and outdoor fabric.

It is a soft, comfortable material to sit on and it can be pleasing to the eye if you select the right colors and designs. With its stain-resistant qualities, children and pets should be able to eat and play on the sofa.

Also, it may be waterproof, water-resistant or it may not be and if it is the former two, you have lots of protection when spills and accidents take place. Then depending on who you listen to, you may be able to use bleach to clean up any stains that do take place except for oil-based stains.

The only drawback will be to having this material in your home is that it is not usually sprayed with a fire protector, or given any other coatings. That will make the sofa a bit of a fire hazard if flames do reach it or someone drops a cigarette onto the sofa.

You will have to weigh the pros and cons before you buy the material.

Where to buy Olefin Fabric by the Yard?


This is not going to be a hard process. You can start in your local area and check out the locally owned fabric shops. Then move on up to the different department stores in your local malls. if those two outlets do not have the material at the price you want, etc., then go to Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, Joann’s to see what they have in stock.

Not to be outdone, the other big box stores like Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowes may have a selection of this material on hand. The latter two should be great for finding fabrics for outdoor furniture.

If these all fail to satisfy your search, then you should turn to the online options. There are more than enough online outlets that have this material ready to sell you by the yard. The good news is that their prices may be a bit lower than all the other store options you have.

The drawback to online shopping is that you do not get to see the quality, condition, and actual color till the material arrives at your home. Plus, you may have to wait several days before you can use it in your next project.

Olefin Fabric Price

One thing about this fabric is that it is not the cheapest material you can buy nor is it the most expensive outdoor fabric you can purchase. It is the middle-of-the-road option that does a good job for you if it is treated right.

We cannot speak to the traditional in-store price tag of this fabric but it will usually be more expensive than your online options. One online outlet had a range of prices going from $5 to over $16 per yard. The exact price will depend on the quality of the material.

Etsy was selling some for around $11 to $12 per yard, while Amazon was all over the price map going from under $25 to over $25 to well over $25. if you want to get this material really cheap, you would have to buy wholesale and then buy more yardage than you would ever need or want.

Some wholesalers have the material selling for about $2 a yard. Then if you are lucky, some of the previously mentioned stores may be having sales, giving out coupons, or some other special to lower the price of their fabrics. Those options will save you a little bit.

Shop around first to make sure you are getting the best deal possible.

Some Final Words

What is Olefin fabric? it is a synthetic material that is supposed to be environmentally friendly as well as having a low carbon footprint. It is characteristics you do not normally see in synthetic fibers and that may be a good sign.

Plus, the material can be durable, soft, comfortable as well as attractive. If you do not want to use polyester on your outdoor furniture, this may be a good option to use. It costs a little more but it is better than polyester.

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