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What Are the Pros and Cons of Microfiber Upholstery Fabric?

By A. Preble
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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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.

Colorfast Qualities

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.

Stain Resistance

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.

Environmental Concerns

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.

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Discussion Comments
By anon937539 — On Mar 05, 2014

Eww. We had a microfiber set for three years. It got grease stains on it were my husband's head always lay. When I tried to clean stains out of it water rings would stay in the stain's place. I thought they looked disgusting after three years. We learned our lesson and bought a Bernhardt leather sectional. It is beautiful and way easier to clean than microfiber.

By Agni3 — On Nov 02, 2011

Around my home, we are not real uptight folks. We lounge. We put our feet up. We hang out in our pajamas. We eat in the den, and no one is yelled at when they have a spill.

However, no mother (or father, I hope) wants their home to look dirty, and unfortunately when you have stains it comes across that way. That’s just another reason that I love my microfiber furniture.

We can lounge, snack and relax all day and all night and never once worry about being uncomfortable on our microfiber furniture.

By mabeT — On Nov 02, 2011

Well, geesh! I was considering buying a microfiber living room suit, but now I’m rethinking that plan. I had no idea that a good number of scientists feel that this could pollute air quality within the home.

Actually, I’m just a little bit angry over this whole situation. All I’ve told by employees of the stores that I’ve went to shopping around is how durable it is for children to sit and play on. No one bothered to tell me that it was recycled petroleum that could actually be harmful!

I’m really starting to think we’d all be better off just sticking with things the way the good Lord made them! The more we ‘improve’ the more junk we bring into the world! And it’s harmful to our bodies, to boot!

By shell4life — On Nov 01, 2011

@OeKc05 - I have a bright red microfiber recliner, and I love how well it resists fading. In fact, it is the most resistant fabric I have in my house, on several different levels.

In addition to holding its own against the sun, it builds a barrier between the stuffing inside the cushions and any liquid that I spill on it. I like to eat and drink in my recliner while watching television, and I have a bad tendency to spill water as I drink it.

The water drips off the material as though it were coated in oil. What would normally be a puddle turns into droplets that separate and sit atop the fabric to be wiped up easily.

By OeKc05 — On Oct 31, 2011

I went shopping for a sofa three years ago, and I knew I wanted it to be the focal point of my living room. I didn’t even consider beige, black, or brown couches. When I saw the bright orange microfiber sofa, I knew it was the one for me.

The sofa is still as bright today as it was when I bought it. It is very resistant to UV rays and fading, and this is perfect for me, because I have lots of windows in my living room. I like to have the curtains open to let in daylight.

By lighth0se33 — On Oct 31, 2011

I have a sofa upholstered with chocolate brown microfiber. I loved the bright red one next to it in the store, but since my curtains, doors, and floors are brown, I figured I keep with that color scheme.

If I drop any food on it, all I have to do is wipe it with a damp cloth and the spot disappears. A red sofa might have made spots more obvious.

Also, I have a dog who lives indoors, and even though she knows she isn’t supposed to be on the couch, she sneaks up there at night sometimes. Any dribbles or dirt that she leaves behind are super easy to clean off of the material, and the shade of brown hides stains.

By StarJo — On Oct 30, 2011

My microfiber sofa is so comfortable to sleep on, which I wind up doing on most nights. My husband snores loudly, and I am a light sleeper. When he wakes me up, I move into the living room.

If it weren’t for the couch having gaps between the cushions, it would be even more comfortable than the bed. The microfiber is soft and soothing. It’s like lying on a blanket. I don’t even have to spread one out to lay on, so I can use one as cover instead.

Once I fall asleep on it, I have trouble waking up. The cozy microfiber must put a sleep spell on me, because trying to wake up enough to go to the bathroom is like coming out of a coma.

By SarahSon — On Oct 30, 2011

I have not bought any microfiber furniture, but have many friends who have gone with this discount upholstery fabric and have been very satisfied.

I have used microfiber material for other things in my home and have been pleased with the results. I have some microfiber cleaning towels with all of my cleaning supplies and prefer to use these over paper towels or anything else.

I also have some warm microfiber sheets on my bed that are very comfortable and wash well. I usually only have these on in the winter as they are heavy and would be too hot in the summer time.

I even like them better than flannel sheets.

It is easy to see why the microfiber fabric has become so popular. When you find something that wears well, is inexpensive and easy to take care of, you will find many people who will buy it.

By Mykol — On Oct 29, 2011

I absolutely love my microfiber couch and recliner. We previously had a leather couch that looked really nice, and was easy to keep clean, but was also very expensive.

When we were looking for new living room furniture, I loved the look, feel and price of the microfiber. You have a classy look without the high price of leather.

One thing I didn't like about leather is that sometimes it can be cold when you sit down. The microfiber always feels warm and soft.

I think this contemporary upholstery fabric is the way to go. It is a very affordable option for families. If you get the fabric treated with stain guard, it is really easy to keep clean and looking like new.

By sneakers41 — On Oct 29, 2011

@Mae82 - I have to say that I love the feel of microfiber fabric. I have a microfiber sectional and the fabric is so soft and comfortable. It is also easy to clean and the nice thing about it is that it is much less expensive than the leather counterpart.

I think that this is the reason why there are more and more furniture stores offering furniture pieces made of microfiber. It is really an unbeatable fabric.

I used to always buy leather, but I am sold on microfiber now. It is the best especially if you have kids that spill things on furniture.

By EdRick — On Oct 28, 2011

@ElizaBennett - I have microfiber furniture, too, and for the same reason - I have a ten-year-old son and a baby girl.

I'm pretty happy with it, I guess. It cleans up easy and is wearing well so far. But real leather is still my favorite sofa upholstery fabric. I used to have a leather recliner back when I was single; it was the most expensive thing I owned. I took such good care of it - always oiled the leather when I was supposed to.

Sigh. Someday when my kids are older, I will own a lovely leather sofa again.

By Mae82 — On Oct 28, 2011

@manykitties2 - I would avoid any fancy designer upholstery fabric like velvet if you have pets and just stick with the microfiber. If you are just looking for sofa upholstery fabric it does a great job and it can be really stylish.

Just recently I redid my own furniture and I love microfiber as a chair upholstery fabric. No matter what my cat does to that chair it cleans up easily, and since I am a bit accident prone, it is also holding up well to spilled drinks and dropped bits of food.

One thing I would warn you about though, is to not get the microfiber if you like candles. The material is really flammable.

By manykitties2 — On Oct 27, 2011

Do you think that microfiber furniture upholstery fabric is a good choice for those with pets?

I am thinking about changing the look of our furniture and since I am a pretty good do-it-yourself gal, I was thinking of heading to a upholstery fabric outlet and picking up everything I will need later this week.

I really love velvet upholstery fabric but it is so expensive and hard to clean that I am pretty sure I can get a similar look with microfiber. Do you think that microfiber is soft enough to give me a similar feeling to velvet? Or should I just bust the budget and get the real thing?

By ElizaBennett — On Oct 27, 2011

I'm usually too crunchy for petroleum-based anything, but I have to say that I love microfiber fabric for upholstery. My mother had bought a microfiber couch but didn't really like it much, so after a few years she gave it to me for my basement TV room.

It has been so practical. The kids and I can cuddle up on it with snacks and drinks and I don't have to be too worried. (It's dark brown - even better for stain-hiding!) They have often spilled a little on the couch and as long as I get right to it, it just wipes right up. Even Kool-Aid.

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