The truth about sofas in high traffic areas of your home is that over time, they’ll be challenged by stains. This is especially true if you live in a home with kids, pets, or are often the host of social gatherings.
Enter: performance fabric sofas. These are sofas made from durable high-performance fabrics, the knitty gritty of which we’ll get to later. Performance fabric sofas are the perfect choice for those looking for durable, low-maintenance furniture, or those looking to invest in their dream white sofa.
We've put together this comprehensive guide to performance fabric sofas, including the benefits of performance fabric, types and variations, and suggestions for companies to check out while shopping for a new sofa.
Meet the experts
At Living Cozy, we produce our content alongside interior design and home decor experts. In this guide, you’ll advice from:
Bridget Giroux, Sr. Manager of Fabric and Material Innovation at Interior Define
Performance fabrics are upholstery fabrics that withstands spills and dirt, repels water and stains, and can stand up to the wear and tear that comes with everyday activities. According to Megan Torres, performance fabric is usually made from a type of yarn that’s been treated with a high-performance solution.
But this isn’t always the case. Bridget Giroux of Interior Define says that performance fabric at her company is “any fabric with a stain resistant finish applied, making it easy to clean and hold up to life’s messes.”
Regardless of how performance fabric is made, we get the gist: performance fabric is known for its durability, and has been specially treated to hold up to stains, dirt, and more. Furniture made from performance fabric is popular for those with kids, pets, or those looking for durable pieces that require minimal maintenance.
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Types of performance fabrics
Just like any material, some varieties of performance fabrics will meet your lifestyle needs better than others. Below are four types of performance fabrics, and their pros and cons, to help you find your perfect sofa.
Olefin: Unlike treated performance fabrics, Olefin naturally resists stains, water, grime, and more. The washable, easy to clean fabric is upcycled from petroleum production and can be woven into flat woven fabrics, velvets, and textures.
Acrylic: A material that closely resembles wool, acrylic is a performance fabric that’s resistant to stains, chemicals, and water. It’s easy to clean and both wrinkle and shrink resistant. On the other hand, acrylic is known to pill, as it’s not resistant to abrasion.
Nylon: While many associate nylon with stockings and other garments, the fabric is used in furniture as well. Nylon is durable, resistant to elements such as mold, and is elastic.
Polyester: Quick-drying polyester makes for an extra durable performance fabric due to its ability to resist stretching, abrasion, and chemicals. Additionally, polyester is washable, and known to blend well with a variety of other fibers.
What should you look for in performance fabrics?
When considering a performance fabric sofa, think about why you’re shopping for performance fabric in the first place. Are you looking for a living room sofa that will hold up to stains? One that’s easily washable? Or a sofa that will withstand heavy traffic from friends, kids, and pets? Thinking about your priorities will help you decide which type of performance fabric best suits your needs.
“When shopping for a performance fabric sofa, I would encourage you to find fabrics that are Oeko-Tex Certified and PFC free."
“When shopping for a performance fabric sofa, I would encourage you to find fabrics that are Oeko-Tex Certified and PFC free,” says Bridget Giroux. “These standards ensure that the fabrics do not contain harmful chemicals, which is just as important as performance.”
Kristin Kong recommends considering rub count while shopping for a sofa, or, the number of times a piece of fabric can be rubbed back and forth before the textile begins to wear through. Rub count is meant to inform shoppers as to how durable the fabric is.
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Floyd is known for its sustainability, highly-modular furniture made for people on the move— and more small spaces. This includes its sofas, made from 100% polyester performance fabric meant to hold up to stains, abrasion, and whatever else life throws at you.
According to our review of the Floyd Sectional, the sofa’s “performance fabric is essential,” whether you're looking for a minimalist sofa that will stand up to kids, pets, or everyday stains. The Floyd Sectional is made from washable fabric that’s easy to spot clean if necessary. Add-ons include throw pillows and sectional pillows.
Interior Define offers a variety of performance fabric sofas that can be customized with different colors, fabrics, and configurations. According to Bridget Giroux, all of Interior Define’s fabrics are “either inherently stain resistant or have a c0 finish that makes them stain resistant.” Additionally, some of the company’s performance fabrics are machine washable, an added benefit for easy maintenance.
Interior Define’s Sloan Sofa is an example of a highly customizable performance fabric sofa. Shoppers are able to choose between fabrics like performance velvet, linen weave, and more to create their ideal sofa.
Our content editor, Alessandra Dubin, has personally dealt with a spill accident while reviewing MadeRight CA's Venice sofa. Her experience was pretty straightforward - "... MadeRight fabrics are stain-resistant and can be easily cleaned with a damp cloth. When it was dry, there was no evidence of the incident left — at all."
In the words of the company's founder Edgar Blazona “We provide a spill-proof sanctuary where vino, coffee, and life mishaps are mere blips on the radar.” Read more in our interview with Edgar about what makes MadeRight CA stand out from other brands.
BenchMade Modern uses a product called LuxGuard to treat the fibers of their performance fabrics to resist stains. According to our BenchMade Modern sofa review, the fibers hold up to even the worst of stains… and we’re talking red wine.
Reviewer Zoë Roscoe says “We’ve spilled red wine, pizza, salsa — you name it — on the couch and have been able to easily get the stains out without any issues.”
Apt2B uses breathable, hypoallergenic performance fabrics in the creation of their sofas. All of Apt2B’s fabrics are durable and stain resistant, meaning that you can bet on your dream sofa’s ability to last for a very long time, and most come with a lifetime warranty.
The Melrose Sofa, for instance, is available in 57 colors made from high-quality hypoallergenic fabrics. According to our review of the Melrose Sofa, it’s “clear that the performance fabric will hide stains well.”
Burrow offers a variety of performance fabric sofas made from easy-to-clean olefin. The company offers different configurations, colors, finishes, and more, for a piece sure to fit your living space.
In our team’s review of the Velvet Nomad Couch, the performance velvet upholstery easily stood up to coffee stains, dog paws, and more. The combination of a sturdy Baltic Birch frame with performance velvet makes the sofa practically indestructible. Additionally, the fabric passed a 100,000 double-rub test, meaning that it’s proven to hold up to wear and tear in high traffic households.
Inside Weather’s modern sofas are available for purchase in a variety of performance fabrics, from performance velvets to mod loom and satin weave. While each fabric has its benefits, all of Inside Weather’s performance fabrics hold up to stains and are easily washable.
In our team’s review of the Aero 3-Seater by Insider Weather, the sofa’s performance fabric demonstrated impressive durability by holding up to coffee stains, cat pee, and more. Sofas in the Aero Collection are available as low-profile loveseats, sectional sofas, chaises, and more.
Maiden Home’s performance fabric sofas have been engineered to hold up to stains, pilling, abrasion, and more. Each fabric passes a 25,000 or above double-rub test to hold up to daily use in high traffic areas, and has a pill rating of 4 or above. The variety of colors available guarantees that you’ll be able to match the color scheme of your your living room furniture.
Additionally, all of Maiden Home’s fabrics are Greenguard Gold Certified, meaning that they’re free of chemicals like VOCs, flame retardants, and other chemicals harmful to human health.
In our team’s review of the Jones Modular Sofa, reviewer Zoë Roscoe writes about finally trying out a white sofa in her space, which she describes as “surprisingly easy to keep clean” as well as stain and water resistant.
Medley’s 100% polyester performance fabric passes the 100,000 double-rub test in addition to being Oeko-Tex certified. Each sofa is washable, stain resistant, able to resist abrasion from daily wear and tear, and available in a variety of colors.
Sasha Weilbaker is a freelance writer with bylines in Thrillist, Business Insider, and The Vegetarian Times. She's particularly interested in the intersection of sustainability and materials. In the wild, she can be found cycling around New England, scouting coffee shops, or obsessing over new podcasts.
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