Penny sofa Rose & Grey

How to Choose the Best Upholstery Fabric For Your Sofa

We know that searching for your dream sofa can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. There’s lots to consider, and fabric is arguably the most crucial choice when it comes to making sure that the new star of the living room is fit for your lifestyle.

There’s no single best fabric for sofa upholstery – it’s really about what look you want to achieve balanced with how you’ll use it. For example, you might know that you want a beautifully plush velvet but need something a little more durable for four-legged friends who like to push their luck. But with so many options, how do you know that you’ve chosen the best material for your sofa? We’ve pulled together a round up of our most popular fabrics and weighed up the benefits and considerations to guide you to your perfect new sofa.

Sofa Material Types

Clever Velvet

Yellow mustard sofa by rose and grey

Although many people love the look and feel of a velvet sofa, some can be hesitant to take the plunge as velvet is often known for being a high maintenance fabric. Our clever velvet has the same look and texture as a traditional velvet, but it’s made with advanced technology for powerful stain resistance. With a Martindale count of 100,000 and using the best stain resistance technology, you get the same beauty and softness as classic velvet without the marks, perfect for busy family life.


  • Clever velvet has a super soft and luxurious texture
  • Spill and stain resistant 
  • Family and pet friendly


  • Traditional velvet is made from silk or cotton, whereas clever velvet is made from polyester

How to clean a clever velvet sofa

Our clever velvet features advanced technology that covers every velvet fibre with an invisible molecular layer, this prevents any dirt from penetrating the fabric on your sofa. This means you can remove the majority of household stains using just water. To clean your clever velvet sofa, start with removing any excess residue and apply water directly over the stain. After waiting a few seconds, gently rub the fabric in circular motions with a damp cloth and your stain will come out, repeat this process as much as you need.


Chorlton corner sofa

Looking for something a little less traditional? A cord sofa could be just the thing. Cord has had a resurgence in recent years as a contemporary option for furniture – think more crisp and clean or rich and warm rather than those dowdy brown corduroys your dad used to wear. With a nod to a seventies aesthetic, this is a soft fabric which usually features cotton as the primary material.


  • All the striking qualities of a velvet
  • Cord has a thick pile which makes it hard-wearing and durable
  • Usually made from a cotton blend, it’s lovely and soft to lounge on


  • This is a distinctive look which fits well into a retro or contemporary home

How to clean a cord sofa

By its nature, corduroy upholstery has grooves running through the fabric which can collect tell-tale crumbs and dirt, but this makes for easy cleaning with a handheld / small nozzle hoover to zap any messiness right up. You can then use a soft bristle brush to catch any remaining dirt, but make sure to brush in the direction of the corduroy’s fibres to keep the “nap” smooth, which refers to that little fuzzy texture on the surface of some materials. For spillages, corduroy will work well with commercial upholstery cleaning products, just make sure to test a small spot first and gently blot the stain to avoid roughing up the fabric.


Richmond corner sofa forest green

The crème de la crème of sofa fabrics, velvet is by far our most popular fabric for customers creating their own made-to-order sofas, and we can see why. It’s timeless, elegant and will never fall out of style. Velvet has been loved by interior stylists for generations and it will continue to be a design staple for decades to come. It’s the perfect balance of durability whilst also having a soft, plush surface and a beautiful sheen. Here are some of our velvet sofa pros and cons:


  • Velvet doesn’t pill like some other fabrics, so keeps its luxurious look
  • It’s super cosy and works well with both foam and feather fillings
  • Polyester velvets have more wrinkle resistance


  • Velvet picks up pet hair easily, so it may need a little more cleaning
  • This is quite a striking fabric which means complementary décor takes some additional thought

How to clean a velvet sofa

Surprisingly, velvet doesn’t require any more particular attention than other upholstery. The best way to look after a velvet sofa is to hoover it once a week to pick up any dust or dirt which can cling to the fabric. As long as your velvet has been treated (as is the case with our clever velvet) then you can gently dab at spills with a lukewarm cloth, otherwise quickly soak up what you can and refer to the manufacturer’s guide.


Leather sofas

If you live in a home of accidental spillages, mucky hands and general chaos (the good kind), then a leather sofa could be right up your street. Often considered a more traditional piece, there are lots of ways to make leather feel modern in your home if that’s your thing – we’d suggest having a browse of the Mid-Century leather pieces from our vintage leather collection (pictured above).


  • Leather is generally much easier to clean than other fabrics due to its stain-resistant nature
  • It ages better than most other fabrics and can actually improve in look over time, so you get some bonus years
  • Leather is one of the most durable materials in the sofa world
  • It’s pet friendly, so long as your cat isn’t intent on scratching your world to pieces


  • A leather sofa can be a little bit more expensive than other options
  • It can be cool to sit on in the colder months, though that’s nothing a good throw can’t fix

How to clean a leather sofa

If this sounds like the fabric for you, then it’s worth getting the lowdown on any cleaning tips nice and early. While leather is much more durable than other fabrics, there are some exceptions to the rule in the case of aniline leather which requires a little more care. For this sort of leather, you’ll need a solution specially formulated for aniline. For the most part though, a good old microfibre cloth will do the trick for wiping down your leather sofa and keeping it in good nick, with just a little warm water and a cloth advised for any minor spills.


Penny sofa rose and grey

There’s been a recent boom for linen upholstery as people move towards more natural fibres, and this is a fabric that works beautifully in most homes. Our linen sofas collection features a cotton-linen mix blend which is robust and hard-wearing, meaning it’ll maintain its look and feel for years to come.


  • Very durable due to its strong fibre
  • Ages well and gets softer after use and cleaning
  • Linen is a more sustainable material than some other upholstery fabrics


  • Linen can wrinkle a little easier than other fabrics
  • It isn’t a stain resistant fabric

How to clean a linen sofa

Rule number one of cleaning a linen sofa is DON’T rub stains or spills. Use a clean, damp cloth to soak up any spillages and blot gently, making sure to stay well away from any products containing bleach as this will damage and discolour the fabric. Bicarbonate of sofa is a good option to sprinkle onto tougher stains and vacuum off with minimal rubbing. As with many fabrics, keeping in a good habit of regular vacuuming is as much as your linen sofa needs to stay fresh and happy.

What’s the best sofa material if you have pets?

Bailey the dog on sofa

This is a question we get asked a lot by our customers. The reality of having a pooch who enjoys prime position in the living room is that your sofa needs to be a little more durable. Shedding hair is easy enough to hoover off most fabrics with daily care, but an unexpected muddy paw or “what on earth is that” sticky tail is where it’s worth considering a fabric to suit. Undoubtedly, leather is the most hard-wearing fabric for households with dogs. However, if something softer is preferred, then a durable cord or treated velvet like our clever velvet (available on our Urban Collection sofas) is an ideal option.

Now you’re armed with all of the information needed to decide on the right fabric for your new upholstery, take a look at our collection of Made To Order Sofas and order some free fabric samples to bring your ideas to life. This is the fun bit!


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