Sofas come in a huge range of materials, each offering something a little different (and commanding different price points).

The choice can be overwhelming but you can narrow down your options by looking at your lifestyle. Households with pets and lots of children will need a sofa made from resilient materials that are easy to clean. If you're living on your own or in a couple, you might be able to get away with something a little more delicate.

You should also think about how much use the sofa will get. The main sofa in front of your television will need to be more hard-wearing than one in a room designed for occasional use, for instance.

Read on and we’ll talk you through the more common sofa upholstery fabrics, so you can determine which settee material right for you.

Leather Sofas

Leather sofas are classic choice. Choose right and your sofa will always be in style.

Note that there are two types of leather: natural-looking aniline leather, which displays the qualities of the animal hide, and glossier pigmented leather.

Is a Leather Sofa Right for You?

Leather sofas are highly-resistant to stains and scratches. They're also easy to clean with the help of water and a sponge (most liquids won't leave a mark, provided that they're soaked up quickly.

Bear in mind that you'll be paying a premium for a high-quality leather sofa, and the colour choice can be limited compared to other materials. That said, when you consider the longevity of a leather sofa, this investment usually pays off.

Polyester Sofas

Polyester is a form of plastic which can be spun into threads and woven into fabric. In upholstery, it's typically used in conjunction with another material - often acrylic (which we'll come to).

Is a Polyester Sofa Right for You?

Polyester fibres are good at retaining their shape, and are easily recyclable (though that doesn't make it environmentally friendly).

Polyester is also highly stain-resistant, although oil can soak into the fabric quite easily.

Acrylic Sofas

Acrylic is another form of synthetic fabric. It offers bold and vibrant colours, is easy to clean, and quick to dry. It's great for outdoor furniture.

In an Acrylic Sofa Right for You?

If you're looking for an outdoor sofa, or a sofa for a high-traffic area of the house, dirt-resistant acrylic is ideal.

Bear in mind, however, that acrylic will begin to melt if it's subject to excessive heat. Acrylic can also trigger an allergic reaction in some people, so be sure that no-one in your family suffers from this problem before placing your order.

Linen Sofas

Linen is breathable, comfortable, and you won’t stick to it in the same way that you might stick to a leather or acrylic sofa.

Is a Linen Sofa Right for You?

Linen covers can usually be removed for easy cleaning, which is a big plus. That said, the fibres are a little on the thin side, so can wear out faster than other materials (particularly if you’re washing the covers frequently). This means linen sofas aren't generally recommended for big families or homes with pets.

It's also worth bearing in mind that not all linens are of equal quality - the weave is just as important as the fabric itself. Before buying a linen sofa it's advisable to run your hand over the material to check for tiny knots, called ‘slubs’. Lots of them indicate a poor quality fabric.

This isn't to say that linen is a poor choice for a sofa.

Quality linen looks and feels great and is available in a wide variety of colours.

Velvet Sofas

A velvet sofa screams luxury - but that luxury comes at a price, and the material itself can be an acquired taste.

Is a Velvet Sofa Right for You?

Like the best kinds of polyester, velvet will not warp or mark easily. Its fibres are also unlikely to snag or unravel, because there are fewer weaves raised. The colours also tend to be extremely vibrant, as the fibres are packed much more densely, which means velvet is ideal for homeowners that want to make a statement.

That said, velvet can be produced using either synthetic or natural fibres. Synthetic velvet is generally very robust, while natural velvet needs a little more care. The fibres are vulnerable to direct sunlight, and spillages will be quickly soaked up. Velvet also tends to attract pet hair.

Woolen Sofas

Woolen sofas aren't that common, but that's not because wool isn't a great material for a sofa. It's natural and cosy; just bear in mind that woolen sofas are usually manufactured using a blend of materials.

Is a Woolen Sofa Right for You?

The main advantage of wool is its durability. The fibres naturally revert to a coiled shape, to which they’ll spring back when overstretched. Wool will also readily absorb dyes, and can be easily customised in a range of different colours and styles to suit many different interiors. Wool also doesn't carry a static charge, so you won't need to worry about dust and hair clinging to it.

The major downside of wool is that it needs to be dry cleaned to avoid warping. That coil-shape we talked about will be compromised if the fabric absorbs moisture.

PU Sofas

PU is a glossy plastic made from molten resin often used as a man made alternative to leather. It's naturally elastic, and capable of repelling stains in much the same way as polyester. This is largely because the two materials are the same - the only difference being that one is made from woven fibres and one is a continuous sheet. Take a look at both materials side-by-side and you'll understand the difference.

Is a PU Sofa Right for You?

PU is great for homeowners who'd like the look of leather at a lower cost, or without the use of animal products. It's glossy and at a glance you might mistake it for the real thing. That said, PU isn't as resilient as real leather, which probably means you'll be replacing it sooner. As such, it might be worth investing in the real deal if you have the funds to spare - in the long run, it may well work out cheaper.

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