Fabric Upholstery Guide

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Guide to Modern Furniture Fabric Upholstery

So much furniture is upholstered in fabric - but are you familiar with the many types of fabric and the characteristics of each? Do you know how properly care for your fabric upholstery? Do you know what fabric pilling is? If not, read on to get the basics on contemporary furniture fabric upholstery.


Fabric Types


Natural Fabrics

• Cotton
• Linen
• Wool
• Silk
• Rayon (Cellulose)


Synthetic Fabrics

• Polyester
• Polypropylene
• Nylon
• Acrylic
• Olefin


Additional Fabric Categories

• Woven - fabrics woven together on a loom
• Knit - interlaced loops curled from single thread
• Velvet - two pieces of fabric are woven face to face on a loom and then cut apart
• Non-woven - very thin fibers bonded in irregular tangle - i.e. felt


Fabric Pilling

A pill is a ball of fabric fibers that form on the face of a piece of fabric. It is caused by a abrasion and wear on the surface of the fabric. Pills can make upholstered furniture much less attractive.

Fabric - Pilling vs. Not Pilling

Fabric on the right is pilling, fabric on the left has been cleared of pills.


Loose fibers that move to the face of upholstery tend to get tangled with each other as abrasion occurs on the surface of the fabric. This is what causes pilling. Pilling tends to be more noticeable on synthetic fibers, but is not exclusive to them.

Remedies for Pilling

Pilling does not mean the quality of your fabric is low, but it does mean that some maintenance may be required to restore the upholstery to its original look. There are several methods. The most common is to use a fabric pill shaver.


Using a fabric pill shaver is the most common way to remedy fabric pilling.


Pill shavers are affordable electric appliances that very easily and effectively clear fabric of pilling. If you would like to address fabric pilling without buying a new tool, it can be as easy as using a comb or a face razor to shave away the pills. If you use a razor, be extra careful not to slice the fabric itself.


Care for Upholstered Furniture

• Don't expose to direct sunlight
• Treat spills ASAP
• Dab spills, never scrub
• Remove dust + dry stains with vacuum + soft brush every 2 weeks
• Fluff pillows once a week
• Rotate + flip cushions once a week

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