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What Is the Best Chair Fabric? How to Pick the Perfect One

Avatar of Autonomous Autonomous | Nov 25, 2021
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Chair fabric may seem strange to talk about, right? There's a lot of talk about office chairs, various models, which ones to choose, what features you should be looking for, and general conversations about selecting the full package. There's nothing wrong with that, as it allows people to consider essential factors as they look to purchase a new piece of modern office furniture

However, what about the conversations that take the chair apart on a granular level? For example, do you know that there is quite a bit that could be said about armrests? Now, you're stopping to think about it. Recommendations could be made based on if they adjust, if the adjustment is 3D, if they're padded, what advantage one type may have over another, etc. 

Similarly, the chair upholstery fabric is a great point of discussion. It’s what you are going to be feeling the most as you sit. This means you would want one that provides a high level of comfort. For example, a mesh ergonomic chair is designed to provide cooling capabilities, making prolonged work sessions more practical. 

You likely get the idea and are in the right frame of mind to continue. With that out of the way, it's time to zoom in on various chair fabric types you may find on a chair and understand where their nuances and differences lie. How does that sound? 

Types of Upholstery Fabric

Manufacturers use fabric to cover chairs for various reasons. Chief among these are appearance and comfort. The more a design can provide either element, the more attractive it is likely to be on the market. 

Chair fabric can be divided into natural and synthetic types. The two are exactly what they sound like, meaning one is naturally extracted from the environment, while the other is completely manufactured. 

Without further ado, this is a great time to dive into both fabric types and understand a couple of the options that fall under each broad category. 

Natural

For someone who may prefer a softer and less of a performance-oriented style, going the natural route may provide the best fabric for your office chair. Some of the most well-known along this line are cotton, wool, silk, linen, and leather. 

Cotton

Cotton chair fabric

Among all the types of upholstery fabric there are, cotton continues to be the one that is most widely used across various applications. However, leather edges it out where chair upholstery, in particular, is concerned.

Durability is a big factor here, as its natural fiber composition makes it a titan. Getting cotton to be of various colors is also not a challenge, as it's dyed very easily. That may explain why you may see it in so many different colors. 

The material can be highly expensive, but it can be one of the cheapest too. That's because cotton is available in different grades, allowing it to fit almost any budget out there.

Some of the chief advantages include resistance to pilling and abrasion, a hypoallergenic composition, comfort, breathability, and its natural status.

On the downsides, however, you may find that this chair fabric wrinkles very easily, spills soak into it quickly, and it is quicker to absorb the color of other items than another material would be.

Silk

Silk is one of the more expensive natural fabric types on the market. You tend to find that it suits certain premium or formal decor styles best. Some avoid the material because they don't like the fact that something so expensive can be ruined before they feel it has demonstrated its value.

However, much of this boils down to the level of care that the material is shown. If properly taken care of, silk can be a highly long-lasting chair fabric. It's the shine and softness that make it stand out beyond anything else.

Silk's variety of design styles, ability to retain its shape, luxurious aesthetic, and potential for longevity make it desirable.

On the downside, it's quite expensive, very delicate, is not suited for areas where the sun is strong, and it can fade or absorb spills way too easily.

Wool

Wool chair fabric

Wool is very often used as a chair upholstery fabric. The nature of extraction makes it highly available, which means designs that feature it don't have to be on the unreasonably expensive side of the spectrum. It's typically associated with comfort, thanks to its incredibly soft and warm feeling.

Beyond the office chairs, you find that it's heavily utilized in couches, as they are meant to provide relaxation.

On the bright side, it's fire and water-resistant, environmentally friendly, durable, doesn't fade or wrinkle, and is highly comfortable.

On the downside, though it may not be ridiculously expensive, it still sits outside the realm of average affordability.

Linen

Linen chair fabric

Originating from the flax plant, Linen is another potential desk chair fabric. It's quite affordable and continues to remain among the most popular. Be that as it may, you are less likely to find it in its pure state, as manufacturers opt to mix it with synthetic fibers instead. While this is not always the case and is not necessary for linen’s use, doing so does improve several of the material’s native characteristics. 

On the bright side, linen has a wonderful texture, it's very strong, it's cost-effective, has abrasion and fading resistance, and is very eco-friendly. 

On the downside, it's prone to wrinkling and soiling, and is better suited to less than regular use. Additionally, if you want to prevent it from shrinking, you are likely going to have to bring in a professional cleaner. 

Leather

Leather chair fabric

The final natural chair upholstery fabric is undoubtedly the most widely used in this application. It's not hard to see why, when you consider the luxurious feel that leather brings. Additionally, designs made from the material tend to have a standout look. It even smells expensive. What's not to love? 

Beyond the office chair context, you find that leather is also widely used in household furniture. Couches tend to be the perfect example of this. Leather is incredibly easy to maintain, and when cared for, it can last for numerous years.

On the bright side, you are getting high durability, easy maintenance, spill absorption resistance, smoke absorption resistance, and natural adaptation to heavy use. 

As far as disadvantages go, while it is comfortable, it does have a naturally hard texture, making other fabric choices often more comfortable. Additionally, it is susceptible to cracking or splitting and sharp objects damage it quite easily. Genuine leather products also tend to be on the more expensive side.

Synthetic

Synthetic products have a targeted and optimized structure, which is to be expected considering they are being worked on from the onset. The idea is to achieve greater durability and ease of cleaning. If you were asked how to clean a fabric office chair, what would you say? 

The answers are different based on the context and material, but the synthetic options aim to make things a bit easier on you. The manufacturing process is quite simple and tends to include synthesizing natural products and various chemicals. 

The result of this product is synthetic fibers, which are then woven into the chair fabric choices you know and love. Polyester, mesh, nylon, rayon, and olefin are among the most popular. 

Polyester

Polyester chair fabric

Here is yet another very commonly used upholstery microfiber-based chair fabric. You can get it in a series of colors, which indicates why it is so highly sought after. Customizability and choice are two of the driving factors behind an office chair selection, which means any fabric that can support that need is likely to have a huge audience.

Some fabrics require you to build your office space around them. As far as polyester goes, it can fit into your existing aesthetic in a very attractive fashion. Many people like the fact that it can give the same kind of expensive feel that leather upholstery does without the high price tag. 

On the advantageous side of this chair fabric, it's soft, comfortable, easy to clean, stain and abrasion-resistant, smell absorption resistant, and quick drying. 

There are a few cons including potential for cracking under alternating temperatures, stretching, and high flammability. 

Mesh

Mesh chair fabric

While not too common in all the areas of upholstery, office chairs are notorious for being mesh-based, especially where the backrest is concerned. The justification behind this chair fabric design choice is mostly for airflow. Since there are tiny openings, the air allows those using the items to keep cool.

On the bright side, mesh has great breathability, looks great, conforms to your body shape, and is quite long-lasting. 

As far as disadvantages go with this chair fabric, it is susceptible to tearing, and cleaning it can be a bit of a chore. 

Nylon

Nylon

While nylon upholstery exists, it's one of the less common choices, especially where office chairs are concerned. It almost requires combination, being used in conjunction with natural or synthetic fibers to get the best results. In most cases, you may find that it is used for napping and crushing elimination chenille or velvet fabrics. 

Pilling is one of nylon's biggest weaknesses, and high UV or sunlight protrusion is almost guaranteed to lead to fading.

Olefin

Olefin

You may be surprised to hear of a chair fabric used to cover chairs being petroleum-based. However, that would define olefin quite well, and it's one of the harder materials out there. 

Wherever you may have a situation of heavy use and great wear, that's the perfect place for this one. Some office spaces have chairs that are used 24/7 by team members on rotating shifts. This is just one application to which olefin would be highly suited. 

From an appearance and feel standpoint, it's remarkably close to that of wool. As far as advantages go, olefin is water, chemical, fading, and fire-resistant, it's easy to clean, and is highly durable. 

On the downside, its petroleum base makes it incredibly vulnerable to heat, light, and oil. Its composition makes for a lack of variety, which explains why you don't see it being used much. Should there be any stains from oil, you are going to have the toughest time ever removing it. 

Rayon

Rayon

Rayon is the final puzzle piece to be covered, and it's known for being just as comfortable as quite a few of its natural counterparts. Unfortunately, though you may find it on office and home furniture, its durability leaves a lot to be desired. 

Rayon is cost-effective chair fabric, soft and comfortable, resistant to mildew and moths, and can be durable in a few specific new varieties. 

The material’s elasticity recovery is terrible, there is no water resistance, wrinkles and scratches are almost imminent, the original appearance fades away quickly, and the typical variety is not going to be with you for very long. 

What Is the Best Fabric for an Office Chair?

No, it comes down to attempting to understand what the best chair fabric out there is. Should you be considering polyester upholstery fabric? How about a mesh executive chair? Before that though, you may want to do a comparison of a mesh vs a leather chair. How long do mesh chairs last

These are all questions that you may ask yourself as you contemplate the purchase of office furniture. The truth is there is no best chair fabric. All the options available have advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, you need to evaluate your context to make the right decision. 

For example, for all that's wrong with olefin, heavy traffic areas with constantly used chairs could benefit from its composition. 

On the other hand, the traditional office space is best suited to mesh. The prices are not over the top, and breathability contributes to comfort, which contributes to high productivity. That’s why the Autonomous ErgoChair Pro thrives in such an environment. 

Final Remarks

Now, you have a greater understanding of the various kinds of chair fabric and the implications and advantages that come with using each. Which are you going to choose? Remember to evaluate the benefits of each fabric office chair style, while thinking of its appropriateness to the way you work. 

Much of such decisions are subjective, as you may find that the mesh executive chair that suits you incredibly well just doesn't seem to work for someone else.

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