Leather Vs. Fabric Sofas

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Buyers shopping for a new sofa should consider their budgets, lifestyles and decorating tastes when deciding between leather and fabric. Differences between the two include price, durability and choice of colors. Cleaning methods also vary. Manufacturers continue to improve the qualities of leather and fabrics, building on the rich histories of the two coverings.

A close-up of a person relaxing on a couch.
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Sofas date to Greek and Roman times when they were used more for reclining while eating than sitting. Originally covered in fabric, leather has been used as an upholstery material for couches since the Renaissance period. Spanish craftsmen excelled at embossing, tooling and painting leather furniture. The Industrial Revolution caused a steep price drop in couches, making them available to more people. A recent innovation in sofa covering is the 1989 introduction of ultra suede, derived from synthetic microfiber fabrics first developed in Japan in the early 1970s.

A woman reclines while eating a bowl of fruit on an ultra suede couch.
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Manufacturers choose leather for sofas because of its many attractive traits, including its tried and true reputation. Leather is durable and repels stains. It cleans easily, making it a good choice for families with children and pets who need a low-maintenance material. Also, very few people are allergic to leather. It comes in a variety of colors, including red, blue and popular neutral tones. Leather can be expensive, although it has come down in price due to new manufacturing methods.

A leather couch in a furniture store with color swatches draped over the back.
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In the Good Housekeeping article "How to Clean a Leather Sofa," hints maven Heloise recommends dusting often and vacuuming seat crevices. Before applying any surface protectant, make sure it is approved for leather. Use a cloth to wipe up spills as soon as they happen. Avoid using saddle soap, furniture polish or alcohol-based cleaners when cleaning a leather sofa. These cleaning items can change the leather's pigmentation.

A woman wipes a leather sofa with a soft cloth.
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Fabric sofas come in a wide variety of patterned and solid designs, giving a room a specific look. Fabrics provide a wide variety of colors, textures and patterns. Fabrics can be chosen to match drapes and curtains and are made from cotton blends, silks, other natural fabrics, man-made materials or blends. Microfiber fabrics are also used on sofas because they resist wrinkles and moisture while keeping their shape and form.

A girl sits on a red couch in a contemporary home.
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According to the article "Caring for a Fabric Sofa" at professorshouse.com, before treating a stain, spot test any cleaner on part of the sofa that is not usually seen. A wet cloth can usually be used to clean stains as soon as possible. Applying a protective spray can increase the fabric's longevity. Using upholstery attachments for vacuuming is also recommended.

A woman uses an upholstery attachment to vaccum a couch.
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