UPHOLSTERED FURNITURE BUYING GUIDE
Wear: As a consumer you can choose furniture upholstered in thousands of fabrics made from many natural or synthetic fibers. The "best" fabric depends on the use that an item will receive. A heavily used "family room" or "TV chair" usually requires a long wearing, practical fabric. A less heavily used, more decorative, living room chair may give greater overall satisfaction in a more beautiful but less durable fabric.
Among the best fabric choices for durability are nubby textured tweeds, tightly woven friezes, and leather. Heavy grade corduroys, velvets. and microfiber suedes also wear well, but may show crushing or characteristic "shading." This shading or light and dark areas of pile surface results from differing levels of light reflection depending on the direction the pile is facing. On new pile fabric pieces, the pile is very uniform and shading is usually visible where panels of fabric curve around the piece, or when one cushion is reversed. When the piece is first used, some areas of pile will be bent and set in different directions, causing light or dark areas or marks to appear. Although these areas can be steamed and brushed back in the direction of the surrounding pile, it is better to just continue to use the piece until the pile crush is randomized into a normal velvet "patina." High strength fibers such as nylon polyester or olefin also increase fabric wearability.
Price itself is not a good indication of wearability, as some expensive "decorator fabrics" are woven more for appearance than for wear. Loosely woven patterned or textured fabrics often wear unevenly and tend to pull apart more easily at seams. Your sales person can usually assist you in comparing the relative wearability of different fabrics. Welted seams, which are important to the attractiveness of many styles, will also wear more rapidly at contact points, and should be selected with caution for heavily used pieces.
Fading: Almost all fabrics and leathers will fade to some extent and should be protected from sunlight and strong chemicals. Print fabrics may lighten on the seat cushions due to wear as well as fading. Green, blue and red dyes are more sensitive to sun fading.
Shifting: Shifting of welding or seam lines on cushions is normal, and can be corrected by opening - but not removing - the zippered cover, and pulling the fabric back into alignment from both the inside and outside. Reversing cushions regularly helps reduce shifting, which is caused by friction of the fabric against the cushion core.
Stain Resistance: Most upholstery fabrics can now be covered with protective finishes to repel stains and olefin fabrics have high natural stain resistance. Even the resistant fabrics, however are susceptible to certain stains, dyes, bleaches and acids. Spills should be immediately removed from all fabrics. The stain repellent finishes are not permanent and will gradually wear off.
Stain Removal: All excess liquid should be blotted up. Water based stains should be blotted with a clean, damp (but not wet) cloth. Mild detergent solutions or foam upholstery cleaners may help. Always pretest for bleeding and shrinkage on a hidden area and don’t use water on rayon or natural fabrics. For larger or resistant stains, consult a professional upholstery cleaner.
Regular Care: Upholstery should be kept clean with regular vacuuming and light brushing. Never use a stiff fiber or metal brush. If cushions are reversible, reverse them regularly when cleaning. Cushion covers should not be removed and should never be removed and washed or dry cleaned.
Vinyl Fabrics: Plastics require special treatment. Although durable and stain resistant, the vinyl fabrics can be damaged by contact with oils or solvents. Oils, including body oil, should be removed regularly by washing with a preservative vinyl cleaner. If oils remain on vinyl, particularly on less expensive grades, it will harden and may eventually crack. Solvents such as nail polish, nail polish remover, paint thinners, tar, etc., may also dissolve or permanently stain vinyl. There is no guarantee on vinyl plastics against damage caused by oils, solvents or heat. Light colored vinyl, with printed grain textures will lighten in heavy wear areas as the printed overlay wears down. The "glove soft" plastics are more resistant to oils but are intentionally softer and thus more subject to cuts and abrasions.
Leathers: Upholstery leathers should be cleaned only with a damp cloth and a mild soap or upholstery grade leather cleaner. Non-finished "full aniline" or "naked" leathers will stain very easily and can fade very rapidly with ultraviolet light exposure.
Relaxed Upholstery Styles: Many of today's most popular upholstery styles are designed to have a casual, relaxed, slip cover like appearance. To achieve this look the designer may use loose, over sized, cushion covers, loose fabric panels, and deep unlined skirts which drape and fold. Many manufacturers also use soft un-backed or "washed" fabrics along with extra soft foam or thick fiber fill cushioning. With use, these styles will quickly become even more relaxed in appearance with wrinkles and folds in the fabric and a loose, comfortable shape to the cushions. If this is not the long term appearance you are seeking, please select an different more tightly structured style. Because the materials and tailoring are designed to create the relaxed look, these characteristics are considered normal and expected, and are NOT covered by manufacture or store warranties. Although some of these characteristics can be partially modified, there would be an additional modification charge for any added materials or labor.