The pros and cons of microfiber upholstery fabric generally have to do with how the fabric holds up to stains, how easy it is to clean, and how it looks after extended use; in some cases, how it is made also factors in. People who love the material often talk about how well the colors stay bright and how easy it is to remove stains. Others have problems with watermarking, though, particularly if stains aren’t removed right away or damp cloths are left too long on the surface; the material’s static cling is also often a “con,” particularly for people with a lot of lint or hair in their homes. Microfiber is usually made as a byproduct of petroleum and crude oil refining, which can also raise a number of environmental and ethical concerns.
One plus for microfiber fabric is its ability to hold color well. This has resulted in a range of furniture color options, from “natural” looking beige and brown to more non-traditional colors like bright red, plum, tangerine, and various shades of green. Fabric featuring print designs is also readily available. Most of the time these colors won’t fade, even if they’re placed in direct or uneven sunlight or exposed to varying temperatures. Comparable materials, particularly leather, can’t usually claim the same.
People with children and those looking for sturdy furniture for a family room or game room may especially like microfiber upholstery fabric for its durability and stain resistance. The material is so tightly woven — with fibers thinner than a human hair in most cases — that it naturally repels water and stains. Even highly staining substances like wine and coffee can usually be wiped away without a trace if they are caught right away. The material typically wicks away moisture which makes spills bead up on the surface, at least at first.
Discoloration and Damage
Stains that aren’t addressed right away often lead to bigger problems, though. The material is water and spot resistant, but not water and spot proof. This means that stains can be a big problem if they aren’t noticed or treated right away.
The material is also prone to water marking. Water marks or water “rings” happen when moisture penetrates the surface of the fiber and causes discoloration. This isn’t usually noticeable when the material is wet, but usually becomes increasingly evident as things dry. Marks and rings are most common when people have spent a lot of time scrubbing at stains, or when they’ve left moist towels on top of stains for too long. In rarer cases wet clothes and perspiration can cause marks, too. Skin oils may also penetrate the fabric and can lead to permanent stains over time.
A number of microfiber furniture companies offer extended warranties or insurance protection plans that can help people protect their investment from this sort of staining and damage. Some also offer “help center” phone lines where customers can call in with questions on stain removal and best practices. Policies vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but in some cases this sort of remediation can make the possibility of permanent staining less of a “con.”
Static and Cling
One of the biggest downsides for many consumers is the fabric’s tendency to grip dust, hairs, and other small particles. This is actually one of the reasons microfiber material makes great cleaning cloths; the particles on the fabric’s surface really cling to dirt and debris. While this is great on floors and counters, it isn’t usually as helpful for furniture. It can be difficult to remove hairs and other fibers, particularly from light colored upholstery. People with pets often have the biggest issues in this regard.
Static can also be problematic. Microfiber is generally a good conductor for static electricity, which in simple terms means that it can store electrons that will alternatively attract and repel other fibers, particularly hair and clothing. Static is often more of a problem in the colder, drier winter months, and even still not all upholstery owners will experience it. Those who do often complain of clingy clothing and charged hair after spending a lot of time sitting or resting against microfiber, though, which can be annoying.
The microfiber production process can be either a pro or a con, depending on perspective. The material is made from petroleum waste, which some tout as a form of recycling and resuing what might otherwise simply be discarded. People in this camp sometimes also point to the material’s natural stain resistance as another way in which it’s “good” for the environment, since it doesn’t need to be treated with chemical stain repellents they way many other fabrics do.
On the other hand, there are arguments to be made that petroleum mining is bad for the environment in the first place, and as a result microfiber production may be spurring on an otherwise objectionable practice. Some critics also argue that the material could spread potentially harmful chemical into homes, either through contact or fumes it may emit over time, where they fear it could pollute the buildings’ indoor air quality.