776 Gladys AVE, Los Angeles, CA 90021
The look, feel, durability, cleanability, and resistance of upholstery fabric to soil and fading rely on its fibers. In short, the fabric of an upholstered piece is the most telling sign of its quality, durability, and style. However, it is also the part that is prone to soil and wear. For such reason, the upholstery fabric is a crucial factor when deciding which furniture to buy.

Let’s take a look at the different upholstery fibers so you can find the best match for your needs.

Fabric manufacturers often blend fibers when creating fabrics to produce more exciting textures and colors. Blending fibers also makes the fabric more flexible and capable of withstanding everyday wear and tear.

Fabric Considerations

When selecting a fabric for your upholstery, you may want to consider a few factors:
  • Suitability to lifestyle: Is the fabric appropriate for your interior decor and your lifestyle? For instance, a delicate fabric prone to soiling and challenging to clean may not be the best choice for a family with young kids.
  • Resistance to wear and tear: Examine the fabric and evaluate its resilience against staining, soiling, wearing, and fading.
  • Care and maintenance: Is it difficult to clean the fabric? Can you maintain and properly care for the fabric as needed?
  • Durability: Where will you use the upholstered furniture? If the fabric is for a sofa, chair, or ottoman, can the fabric be expected to last?

Two Fiber Categories

Fibers fall into two categories: natural or synthetic. Natural fibers are made from plant-based fibers or animal/protein fibers, while synthetic fabrics are man-made and produced from chemicals.
Plant-Based Natural Fibers
Two Fiber Categories
Fibers fall into two categories: natural or synthetic. Natural fibers are made from plant-based fibers or animal/protein fibers, while synthetic fabrics are man-made and produced from chemicals.
Plant-Based Natural Fibers


Cotton is one, if not the most, of the commonly used plant-based fiber. The highest quality of cotton, such as the exceptional Egyptian cotton and Peruvian Pima variety, can be almost as expensive and lustrous as silk. The lesser grades of cotton have a shorter fiber length and can be fuzzy and dull. Cotton fabrics are durable, versatile, comfortable, soft, and have good heat conduction and absorbency, making them the perfect material for garments. However, cotton is not particularly resistant to wrinkling and shrinking, and is also prone to fading. Cotton holds finishes and dyes perfectly well. It stains easily and consequently needs protection to prevent stains. Blending cotton with other fibers makes it easier to use than plain cotton.


Linen is another plant-derived fiber that has many similarities with cotton. It is one of the strongest natural plant-based fibers and was one of the first to be cultivated, woven, and knitted for clothing and accessories. The two main types of linen are common flax and perennial flax.
Linen comes in a variety of grades, with the finer grades as smooth as silk.

Like cotton, linen is not very elastic, so it wrinkles easily, but it’s a good blend with other fibers. Linen is easy to clean and can be washed and ironed or dry cleaned. The fabric softens with washes and does not fade from light. It is resistant to insects but prone to mold and mildew and not tolerant of very high humidity. Linen is often used for household products like beddings, interior design, and upholstery.

Animal-Based Natural Fibers

Animal-Based Natural Fibers
Animal-based fibers are obtained from the hair or fur or skin or secretions of animals. The most common animal-based fibers are silk and wool and are expensive to produce.


For many people, silk is the queen of fabrics. For centuries, it has been a symbol of luxury.

Silk is lightweight, lustrous, and soft. It is high tensile strength and long lasting, if not exposed to sunlight and mildew. It can be dry cleaned or washed with a mild detergent.

Reeled silk is smooth and shiny, while spun silk is a more textured variety. Silk is beautiful and widely used in haute couture garments and accessories, and sometimes used for home decor items.


Wool is the most widely used animal-based textile fiber in the garments industry. It comes from sheep fleece, and the term “virgin wool” refers to new, not recycled wool. Wool fiber has a curly appearance, elastic, with a texture that ranges from soft and fuzzy to hard and smooth.

Wool quickly absorbs heat and moisture and releases heat slowly, making them comfortable and warm. The fabric is resistant to wrinkles and soil and can tolerate abrasion, mildew, and sunlight.

However, it needs protection from insects. It is often blended with other natural and synthetic fibers to increase strength. It is commonly used for clothing and accessories and household textile products and industrial development. Wool can be dry cleaned or washed with a detergent and cold water.

Synthetic or Man-Made Fibers

Synthetic or Man-Made Fibers
Synthetic fibers are made of polymers produced chemically in plants or laboratories. Microfibers are the most widely-used group of synthetic fibers in modern upholstery as there is a wide range of possibilities in textures, colors, and patterns with these fibers.


Spandex is a lightweight synthetic fabric with unique properties suitable for sportswear. Spandex can expand up to 600% and spring back without losing its quality. Spandex is a polyurethane, which is responsible for its exceptional elasticity.

A variety of production processes produces the fabrics that make up spandex. The fabric’s ability to wick moisture makes it the best option to create dri-fit tops, cycling pants, bathing suits, wetsuits, and surgical compression garments.


Acrylic fibers resemble the characteristics of wool, but it is purely synthetic. They are used to create plush velvets, knitted to make sweaters and socks, and woven to create rugs. Acrylic fabrics are exceptionally soft and lightweight. They are quick-drying and tolerates sunlight, fading, mildew, and insects. However, it is not resistant to flames. Acrylics can be either washed with soap and water or dry cleaned.


Nylon refers to a group of chemically-related fibers made from plastic yarns. This fabric is sensitive to heat and sunlight, but dyes and drapes well. It is also lustrous and resistant to abrasion, mildew, insects, and wrinkling. Nylon is widely-used to create velvets, woven fabrics, and knits. It can be dry cleaned or washed with soap and water.


Rayon is a unique fabric. It is not entirely synthetic because it comes from naturally occurring cellulose. However, it is not a natural fabric because cellulose needs to undergo extensive processing to become rayon. It is often classified as a manufactured fiber.

High-grade rayon is durable and widely used in industry, while regular rayon is used for synthetic clothing. Rayon drapes well, holds dye, and highly absorbent. However, it is prone to fading and acquires rough textures with wear.

Polyester and Microfiber

Polyester is a durable synthetic fabric. It preserves its shape and resistant to sunlight, stretching, shrinking, wrinkling, abrasion, and mildew. It is also resistant to most chemicals and hydrophobic, which makes it easy to wash and dry. Polyester blends well with other fibers like cotton and can appear silky.

Microfiber is a blend of polyester and polyamide. While traditional polyester gets easily pilled and soiled, microfiber is highly-resistant to soiling and wrinkling.

Spandex Warehouse

Whatever type of fabric you are looking for, you’ll be sure to find it at Spandex Warehouse. Whether you are designing clothes or need fabric for an upholstery project, Spandex Warehouse is your go-to fabric store. We offer a wide selection of ALL kinds of quality domestic and imported fabrics at the most competitive prices.

You can find us at 776 Gladys AVE, Los Angeles, CA 90021, right in the heart of L.A’s Fashion District. If it is difficult for you to visit us, we’ve got you covered. We can ship fabric to any location covered by the Federal Express and the United Parcel Service. For assistance with placing an order, please feel free to reach us at 213.629.7416, [email protected], or spandexwarehouse.com.