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Sofa Materials
Thursday, January 30, 2014

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One of the most important aspects when choosing a sofa is its material. Materials give a charm to the look of sofas and characterize the lifetime and maintenance of your sofa.  Currently, there are various materials available on the market i.e., bonded leather, microfibre, PU materials, Eco leather, Alcantara... Here is some valid data about materials to help you know what to expect when buying a sofa? Let’s introduce the basic materials!

Real Leather

The real leather is on the top of the list of the most popular materials. It looks very elegant and gives the impression of luxury even though it has the hallmarks of natural defects like scars or different fibre density. Its benefits are long life and quite easy maintenance. But in summer it may not suit everybody because such a material misses permeability.

Leather is a durable and flexible material created by the tanning of animal skin. There are several tanning technologies made by using oils, chemicals and the process itself. Further to tanning there are a number of other different finishing processes to obtain the final leather look. These include cutting, splitting some layers of skin, removing natural marks, dyeing, application of other chemicals and polymeric substances to get specific properties and much more. All these technologies, chemicals and processes produce different textures, properties, thicknesses and colours of leather.

Since these finishing processes are used also for artificial leather and moreover, such producers try to imitate leather even with simulating similar smells and surfaces. One of the characteristics to recognize real leather is its exposure to high temperatures since artificial leather would melt. However, it may be impossible to determine genuine leather without making any damage. A tip to help you recognize real leather is to bend it for some time (approx. 5s) and see if the lines remain marked.

Bonded Leather

The bonded leather is the most economical type of sofas material. This is made out of leftovers of organic leather which are them bonded with polyurethane binders. The varying degree of organic leather in the mix is between 60% and 100%. The material is characterized by reduced costs and high durability with similar properties like real leather.

PU imitation

This uses a fabric or synthetic finish to substitute leather. The artificial leather is produced usually from a fibrous base layer with plastic coating – usually a polyurethane with a lot of different finishes (pattern heating rollers, combing, sanding…) to get similar texture and properties like leather. Sometimes you can come across the term “Eco leather”. It’s good to know that this is only a term for sellers to vend products, it doesn’t represent an ecological technology nor it includes a leather component.

The best advantage is a huge variety of colours, combinations and patterns. For manufacturing of upholstering materials usually cotton, viscose, wool, jute and polyester are used. Fabrics bring warm and a comfortable touch. Generally natural materials require very high maintenance.  Some range of fabrics sofas have a stain resistant or finishing for easy cleaning. In some products another advantage is the option to wash and clean removable covers. The lifetime of textile sofa is shorter than that of leather sofas.

Microfibre

Material made out of fibres which are finer than all natural fibres. Their qualities and look are refined by mixing chemical and natural fibres. Their texture is very similar to the synthetic velour leather. They look very exclusive and their maintenance is very simple. In Europe you can find the term Alcantara.

Alcantara

Alcantara is a trade name for an artificial substitute for suede leather. It is composed of about 68% polyester and 32% polyurethane and produced by needle punching, combining and chemical processes. This is produced with flame retardant, stain-water and other resistant finishes.

Chenille

The chenille fabric is a soft and bulky fabric with a high pile created by a weft from specially treated chenille yarns – hair thread which is basically a narrow strip of fabric with a pile surface.

Velvet

The velvet is a soft fabric with a dense, lustrous and short pile created by cutting threads. The pile is often refined further by a special finish. For upholstering mainly PES fibres are used.

Tweed

The Tweed is a porous woollen fabric with a clear, bold surface in linen or reversible twill weave. Sometimes fabric contains “neps” - small reinforced area on a thread, typically in a different colour which creates a rustic or raw effect. The name is coming from Scotland where this type of fabric was first produced. 

Damask

The fabric is woven by jacquard – patterning technology in satin weave. Alternating warp and weft weaves create a wide range of large-scale patterns. It was named after a Syrian city where it was initially manufactured.