Choosing a fabric for a sofa

livvysmomJanuary 17, 2008

I am considering a Flexsteel sofa. I am trying to learn about the wearability of certain fabrics.

I know to avoid cotton (I have furniture with a cotton fabric and it is worn, faded and stained).

I know I want some polyester but not 100% polyester. How much is good?

What if it is a polyester blend with "viscose" or acrylic or rayon?

Somewhere I read to avoid anything that can't be water cleaned. Pretty much everything BUT 100% polyester can't be water cleaned.

Most of the fabrics I like say "S - mild water-free dry cleaning solvent" Is this bad? If someone spills something, can I use a damp cloth to wipe it??

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Your Flexsteel dealer can help you with that. Every Flexsteel fabric has a durability code on the sample swatch and if your dealer doesn't know how to decipher the codes tell them its on Page 3 of the blue dealer price book. Codes will be "HHH" or "WWW", etc.

There is no one right answer to this question. Its more than just content that makes fabric durable. Closeness of the weave, thickness of material, even the final finish on the fabric come into play. As a general rule of thumb, the more man-made the fibers are, the more durable. Take Oelfin for example, which is a petroleum-based material. I think 100% Olefin can withstand just about everything short of a nuclear explosion, but its very scratchy and not comfortable. Blends are generally good.

Most every modern fabric has a durability rating somewhere - where it has been abrasion tested using machines designed to measure wear-through and pilling. Schumacher, for example, uses a MAR rating system and you will see one fabric have a rating of 9,000, another at 30,000. Thats how many 'machine rubs' the fabric can take before showing noticeable wear.

Every fabric maker uses Cleaning Code S to protect themselves from that steam-cleaning guy who comes in your house and shrinks the fabric on your sofa when he cleans it. Don't think you'll find anything but an S code on most pieces. Water can set some stains, so I never use it on material, rather get a small bottle of CARBONA at the grocery store which is the same as dry cleaning fluid, and never rub it into a spot, always dab it.

Scotchguard is your friend. Buy two cans and treat your new upholstery with it. When water no longer beads on the seating surfaces, get the can out and re-apply.

-Duane Collie

    Bookmark   January 17, 2008 at 5:08PM
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So you feel I can trust the durability code that is on the Flexsteel fabric swatch? Most, but not all, say HHH so it made me suspicious.

Since you are very familiar with Flexsteel -- do you recommend upgrading the cushion to get a firmer feel? Will an upgraded cushion wear better (less sagging years later?)

I would ask the dealer but there is only one in my area and they haven't called me back. When I make my decision I may go the North Carolina route.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2008 at 10:18PM
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Among other things I professionally spot clean upholstery. I agree with you on 100% cotton. It was my nightmare until I started to see more and more rayon. Viscose is a type of rayon.

I agree with Duane that S-coding fabric is a nasty trick mills play on us guys. I regularly water clean S fabrics. But I know what I'm doing and what I can get away with. The general cleaning rule is "if it goes in wet, it comes out wet."

Nearly all the stains I see need water cleaning (dry cleaning fluid just does not do much for foods and body fluids). Even the stains that can be dry cleaning removed, I generally wet clean with a POG (Paint-Oil-Grease) cleaner, with the exception of 100% cotton and anything with rayon.

If had to pick one fabric to clean, it would be microfiber. There's nothing, including a whole pen's worth of ink, that I have not been able to get out of it.

Another option, if you have it available, is Crypton or Sunbrella. I saw some spec sheets for Sunbrella and you can clean it with straight bleach, acetone, and a number of other things that would destroy mortal fabrics.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cleaning chenille

    Bookmark   January 17, 2008 at 10:33PM
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Yes, I think the durability code on Flexsteel is an good as any other indicator.

Cushions are a matter of personal preference. Most new, modern cushions from a reputable maker will not break down over time. If they do, they will replace them.

Flexsteel is a line that is going to be hard to get a discount on from North Carolina, because part of being a dealer for them is they transport with their own trucks at a fixed freight rate and will NOT drop ship to a customer. So any non-local store must first have it freighted to them, and then reship to you on another carrier. That double tap on the freight will negate any savings over your local dealer.

bobysmyuncle, thanks for the cleaning tips! You clean a lot more than I do, so I'm keeping that little primer for the next spot I run into.

Duane Collie

    Bookmark   January 18, 2008 at 12:15PM
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RE: Stain guides. Here are couple that I use

First is using commercial products that I have:
Spotting guide

Second is using household or consumer products:

and another:

Not an advertisement, I just like and use CTI's products quite a bit.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2008 at 9:45PM
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Great information! Regarding viscose, I recently purchased COM fabric that's 100% viscose (for a sofa I'm going to have made).

It's listed as "heavy duty" by Kravet and given a rating of 60,000 double rubs. Sounds like it'll wear well but be a pain to clean? Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2008 at 1:55PM
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I am deciding between 2 Flexsteel fabrics - both with HHH wearability. One is 100% polyester, rather tightly woven, and the other is 52% rayon and 48% polyester but more loosely woven. Would I be better off with the 100% polyester since it's more tightly woven?

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 11:51AM
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At that point, check the 'hand' of the fabric and see which one feels better to you. Put the fabric sample to your cheek and see which feels better. Some 100% Poly's can feel a bit scratchy (but not all of them).

Duane Collie

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 11:36AM
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OMG, can't believe I have to type this ALL AGAIN!!!
Looking for clarification on fabric tag of sample: Is "S" for spot clean or solution? And "W" is for washable? Also, the fabric class (ie. NM), what does that stand for? I guess HHH wearability is supposed to be good? AND what does the "Grade #" signify (anywhere from 05 and way up)?...I am looking for a good fabric for a new couch in my family room, my old one held up for a fairly long time. I believe the warranty on Flexsteel furniture is considered good, but am concerned with picking a good, wearable fabric to compliment the product.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 3:58PM
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I did get one of the fabrics that can only be cleaned without water,I already did use water on it by mistake it made the spot a different color. So now I only use spot shot on it other than finding out the hard way I love my flexsteel furniture I will buy it again if this one ever wears out!!


    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 1:05PM
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