Couches endure more wear than many pieces of furniture, and the fabric used on their upholstery has to be able to stand up to a vast array of challenges. Couch upholstery is often subjected to heavy usage, spills, sunlight and other conditions that may damage delicate fabric fibers, and the very best couch fabrics are strong, resilient and stain resistant, together with being comfortable and appealing.
Upholstery fabrics made from organic fibers tend to be thicker than synthetic materials, but natural materials are generally more expensive and might not be as durable or easy to clean as synthetic materials. Silk is extremely delicate, but it is perhaps the most fragile of organic fibers; it stains easily, is difficult to clean and may deteriorate when exposed to sunlight for extended intervals. Wool is more durable and easier to clean, and cotton is almost as stain and wear resistant as some artificial fibers.
Synthetic fibers are industrially manufactured and offer superior wear- and stain-resistance compared to the majority of organic fabrics, although the benefits of synthetics generally come at the expense of the feel and aesthetic appeal of this material. Rayon is fabricated from processed cellulose, and it may be made to mimic silk or linen. Polyester, olefin and cotton are cloths made from processed oil, and they are utilized mainly for their durability and ease of cleaning.
The durability of a specific upholstery material is determined partly by the fiber from which it is woven, and at times durable synthetic fibers are combined with organic fibers to create a material that has something of this natural fiber’s feel while incorporating some of the artificial fiber’s wear resistance. The density of the fabric’s weave is another important factor in determining its durability; a closely woven material generally wears better than a more loosely woven material, and fabrics with a higher thread-per-inch count will typically be more durable than those with a lower count.
Several federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, administer regulations that are relevant to the manufacture of upholstery fabrics; such regulations establish standards for fabric characteristics such as flammability and poisonous material content. Some individual states also have their own textile standards; California has regulations that specify testing and labeling requirements regarding the flammability and toxic chemical content of upholstery fabrics.