Best Performance Fabrics for Upholstery: A Review of 3 Leading Brands

ultra suede-sofa-circle-furnitureBest Performance Fabrics for Upholstery:
Fabrics that Work for You

Performance fabrics are more than your favorite Dri-Fit running tee. In fact, these durable, comfortable fabrics are arguably best served on upholstery. Here at Circle, we have over 60 years of experience with upholstery; in fact, we’ve even been around longer than many of these performance fabrics. Not sure what performance fabrics really are, or wonder if they could be perfect on your next sofa? Read on.

What are performance fabrics?

Generally speaking, a performance fabric is exactly what it sounds like: any fabric engineered to perform, whether you’re in hot or cold weather, climbing a mountain, running a marathon, or playing a game of pick-up basketball. Performance fabric was created to provide extra comfort and protection. In the case of upholstered textiles, performance fabrics go a few steps further: they have to last a long time, take a lot of wear, and look great doing it.

The construction of performance fabrics ranges in complexity. A fiber is blended with performance fibers during the spinning, knitting, or weaving processes. Sometimes the fabric is finished with a chemical blend, oftentimes called a protective coating. Other performance fabrics incorporate nanotechnology; known as “value-added textiles” – they provide high durability and exciting new properties.

Though performance fabrics can incorporate new and exciting properties, many use natural fibers like wool and cotton. Wool is popular among hikers and the outdoor community for its ability to regulate body heat and wick moisture without retaining odor. Popular synthetic materials include bamboo, nylon, polyester, polypropylene (made from plastic and completely water resistant), and spandex.

Three Brands to Know

Sunbrella®

Sunbrella set out to make awning canvases. Their goal? They wanted their awnings to last longer than those made from cotton. Sunbrella didn’t stop there; their fabrics were later adapted for interior and exterior upholstery fabrics in addition to marine textiles. Sunbrella fabrics are resistant to fading from sunlight and chemical exposure; they’re also mold and mildew resistant and can be power-washed and bleached. Further, Sunbrella fabrics can be used to make drapes and curtains, as well as cushion covers, pillows, home accessories and of course, fully upholstered pieces – meaning you can furnish entire rooms knowing just how long they’ll last (and how easy they’ll be to clean). Most importantly: the fabrics come in a range of styles and feels that are as comfortable as they are beautiful. 

Crypton®

Crypton Home Fabric’s performance technology is resistant to stains and odors and comes in an array of fabrics and textures. It’s clean, too: Crypton was awarded the GREENGUARD Gold Certification, meaning that it has low chemical emissions which makes for healthier indoor air quality. If you’re looking to furnish outdoor spaces, look no further than Crypton Outdoor: all of the stain-resistant features of Crypton Home, plus enhanced anti-microbial protection and fibers that are UV-resistant for up to 1000 hours. 

A note on the key differences between Sunbrella and Crypton:
Crypton is stain repellant while Sunbrella is not.
Both Sunbrella and Crypton Outdoor are fade and mildew-resistant.
Sunbrella and Crypton Outdoor are easy to clean, but only Sunbrella is bleachable.

Ultrasuede

Invented in 1970, Ultrasuede is made of ultra-fine polyester fibers that are spun together, resulting in a high-performance non-woven fabric that is as soft as it is durable. Ultrasuede’s aim is to be as environmentally responsible as possible, which is why the polyester used in Ultrasuede® is recovered from pre-consumer waste. It has industrial uses, often paired with electronics or orthotics, in addition, to use in interiors or in cars. Ultrasuede is highly abrasion-resistant and resists pilling; it’s widely regarded as one of the most durable fabrics on the market. Even better: it’s so tightly woven that claws don’t get through. (Ultrasuede: 1. Your cat: 0.)


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So, why should I spend the money on performance fabrics?

Performance fabrics will last a long time (Crypton’s fibers resist fading for at least 1000 hours, for example), and they’ll look just as good as the day you bought it. If you have kids (or messy husbands) and pets, you’ll value the ability to clean your upholstery thoroughly and easily; if you live in regions that get a lot of sun or rain, and like spending time outside, then performance fabrics are definitely for you. Ultimately, if you could buy a fabric that was stain, fade, mold, and mildew repellant, and was going to last… why wouldn’t you?

Which performance fabrics do we offer in-store and online?

–       Sunbrella

–       Crypton

–       Ultrasuede

–       Revolution

–       Bella-Dura

–       Perennials

Have some questions? Eager to feel these fabrics in person? Come on into one of our six locations, and chat with our design consultants.

Some links to check out:

–       Already got your upholstery? Great! Here’s how to keep it clean.

–       Keep furniture care stress-free with our furniture protection plan.

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Liv Burns

My name is Liv, and I grew up all over the east coast of the USA and in Seoul, South Korea. I'm inspired by travel, words, and people; in my free time, I like to run and row, eat way too much aioli, and take portraits.