Microfiber does have to contain polyester by definition, but most of the microfiber used in furniture upholstery does consist of polyester or nylon, either by themselves or as part of a synthetic blend. This attractive and durable substance looks and feels much like suede while also offering the benefit of durability and easy cleaning. According to Baneclene, microfiber strands thinner than fine silk form a dense fabric that stands up against water, mold, pests and sunlight.
The term “microfiber” applies to the size of a fabric’s individual fibers, not its material. According to Microfiber.com, any fabric with individual fibers less than one denier in size qualifies as a microfiber. A denier represents how many grams of mass a 9,000-meter strand of fiber weighs. One denier therefore refers to a 9,000-meter strand strand weighing one gram. Most polyester and other synthetic microfibers have diameters of less than ten microns, while asbestos, a naturally-occurring microfiber, consists of strands less than a single micron in diameter.
While not all microfiber substances include polyester, most of the microfiber fabrics used in today’s furniture, clothing and other textiles consist of polyester or nylon, often blended with each other or with other synthetics. According to the Ohio State University Extension, textile manufacturers spin these man-made materials in their liquid form through a spinneret containing many tiny holes. The manufacturers blend different synthetics, fiber shapes, thicknesses and weaves, giving the fabric particular properties ideal for furniture upholstery or other applications.
Polyester-based microfibers behave according to their weave. A loose weave that exposes most of the fiber surfaces, for instance, makes the microfiber highly absorbent, a useful property for mop cloths but a problem for furniture. By contrast, microfiber fabrics designed for furniture upholstery feature a tight weave that emphasizes the polyester’s stain-resistant and water-repellent qualities, easing the cleanup of food or drink spills on upholstered furniture.
Polyester-blend microfiber sees regular use a popular alternative to suede for sofas, loveseats, armchairs and reclining chairs. The first mass-produced microfiber, in fact, went by the trade name Ultrasuede, according to the The Ohio State University Extension. Its soft feel and velvety sheen under light have aesthetic appeal, while the toughness and stain resistance of the woven polymers help ensure many years of attractive, low-maintenance service from the furniture.
For all its resilience, microfiber furniture requires a degree of basic care and maintenance to continue to look its best. The Ohio State University Extension warns that polyester microfiber does not stand up to heat as well as natural fibers and that sustained heat will cause the fabric to take on a glazed appearance or even scorch. Microfiber also tends to trap dust and pet hair, and Baneclene recommends regular brushing or vacuuming to prevent buildup of these materials in the fabric.
- Photo Credit rocker recliner chair image by James Phelps from Fotolia.com
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