What are the Pros and Cons of Vinyl Upholstery Fabric?

Malcolm Tatum

Vinyl upholstery fabric can be a good choice when it comes to restoring older pieces of furniture. Durable and relatively easy to clean, fabric of this type is often affordable and comes in a variety of colors and textures, making it ideal for the do-it-yourself upholstery warrior. At the same time, there are a few potential drawbacks associated with it, including the feel of the fabric itself and the difficulty in repairing rips and tears.

Patches may be used to repair fabric.
Patches may be used to repair fabric.

One of the biggest advantages of going with vinyl upholstery fabric is how easily the material can be kept clean. Unlike leather, which typically requires specific types of cleaning agents to clean spills and other dirt from the surface of the material, a wide range of common household products can be used with the vinyl. Typically, as long as the cleaning agent does not contain ingredients that will cause the material to dry and crack, it can be used successfully to remove everything from finger paints to spilled food.

Vinyl upholstery is often textured and colored to resemble leather.
Vinyl upholstery is often textured and colored to resemble leather.

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Durability is another important benefit of vinyl. While the material is not as durable as leather, it will stand up to a great deal of daily use over a number of years. It's also relatively inexpensive compared to other materials, and the combination of a long life and low cost makes it ideal for people who want to restore older furniture pieces but must stick to a tight budget.

Appearance is also a benefit of vinyl upholstery fabric. Along with basic colors and textures that are similar to naturally tanned leather, the vinyl also comes in various colors and grain textures that are ideal for everything from traditional to contemporary furniture styles. This allows pieces that are upholstered with the vinyl to blend in nicely with just about any decor, provided the right color is chosen for the piece.

While vinyl upholstery fabric does provide a number of advantages, there are also some potential liabilities. Some brands of vinyl are of poor quality and will cheapen the overall look of the recovered piece. In addition, the lower quality could give the impression of sitting on a hard piece of plastic rather than a more supple leather. Depending on the grade of the fabric, the material may rip or tear with greater ease, and it does not lend itself well to patching or similar repairs. Many of these drawbacks can be minimized by choosing material that is of a higher quality.

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