Common Upholstery Fibers
In carpet cleaning the main concern is whether the carpet fiber is synthetic (almost all are) or natural fibers (fairly rare). But in upholstery cleaning there are a lot of each. Let's take a look at the different types of upholstery fibers that a cleaner has to deal with and the type of fibers an upholstery piece owner should consider.
There Are TWO Categories of Upholstery Fibers
The two categories of upholstery fibers are:
1. Natural Fibers
2. Synthetic Fibers
Each category of upholstery fibers offers cleaning challenges, but natural fibers can be the most difficult and challenging to clean properly and get good results.
Before we get to the natural fibers we should probably explain what a natural fiber is.
A natural fiber is a fiber that is made from plants or animals. It is really that simple.
So what are the natural fibers? There are a lot of them.
Jute: Jute is a natural fiber that scares the hell out of a lot of cleaners because of its ability to shrink. Horror stories have been told about jute and the problems with cleaning it. Jute has a rough texture which is why some people like it for upholstery.
Silk: Silk is considered a very luxurious fiber but it has a host of problems when it comes to cleaning. It is a very delicate fiber and, in our opinion, does NOT wear well. It is also prone to serious sun fading.
Velvet: Technically velvet can be a natural and/or a synthetic fiber. Velvet more refers to the construction of the fiber. Velvet is a woven fiber that gives a soft luxurious feel and look.
Linen: Linen is a very strong fiber is made from flax. Many times linen is blended with cotton to add strength and elasticity.
Wool: Wool comes from animal hair and is a very strong and resilient. In many cases upholstery fabric made of wool is also blended with a synthetic fiber.
Chenille: This is another fiber that technically can be natural and synthetic. Chenille, like velvet, gets its name from how it is constructed. Chenille gives a very luxurious look and feel, much like velvet.
Leather: Leather is, obviously, from animals. There are four main categories off leather and they are as follows:
A. Full-grain leather
B. Top-grain leather
C. Corrected-grain leather
D. Split leather
In a future article we will cover leather in much more detail.
Now Let's Take A Look At The Synthetic Fibers
Olefin: Olefin is a very strong stain resistant fiber that is fairly easy to clean. Olefin is solution dyed, which means that the polymers and the colors are mixed together so the color of the fiber is actually the entire fiber. The fiber is not actually dyed. The reason this makes a big difference is there are no dye sites to be penetrated by other dyes.
Rayon: A bit of a strange fiber because it is actually cellulose based (natural) but it is considered after processing to be a synthetic fiber. In many cases Rayon is mixed with other fibers.
Polyester: Polyester is a strong synthetic fiber that is many times blended with cotton or other natural fibers. Polyester is resilient to fading and it is fairly easy to clean.
Faux Leather: A fiber made from polyurethane. Made to simulate leather.
So there you have the most common upholstery fiber types. These fibers, in many cases, are mixed and matched to create more color, more strength, better cleaning ability, etc..