Leather vs. Fabric Sofas – Is One Better Than the Other?

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If you’re shopping for new sofa, you’re probably looking into the differences between leather and fabric sofas. In this guide we’re comparing leather and fabric sofas side by side to see which is better for various purposes.

Different people have different preferences, when it comes to buying a new sofa. Some people like leather sofas for their exclusive, modern looks, while other prefer fabric sofas for their cozy, comfortable appearance. Whether you prefer one or another, it’s important to know the key differences before making your final purchase decision. Sofas are expensive, and for most people they’re a “once in a decade”-purchase. You wouldn’t want to live with a bad sofa for so many years.

If you really want to know which is better for your needs, this guide is for you.

Differences between leather and fabric sofas

The table below gives you a quick overview of the main differences between leather and fabric sofas.

CriteriaLeather sofasFabric sofas
CleaningRequire occasional cleaning and care with special products, especially if it’s genuine leather.May require professional cleaning once in a while, or you could do it yourself with a proper steam cleaner or similar equipment.
ComfortCan absorb heat quicker and thus be a little sticky to sit on or chilly when it’s cold.Can be more comfortable and cozy, due to fabrics being soft and gentle against the skin.
VersatilityMay not be comfortable enough for a nap, but can be used as part of a seating or lounging area.Some fabric sofas can be transformed into a bed, while others are comfortable enough to take a nap on.
AllergyDo not house allergens, due to the surface being “sealed off”.May house allergens, such as pet dander, pet fur, and dust mites.
DurabilityMay get scratched easily, but last longer with proper care.Do not get scratched or torn so quickly, but when it happens the upholstery may have to be changed or repaired by a professional.

Introducing leather sofas

Should you get a leather sofa? What are the pros and cons of having one?

Pros

  • Durability – When it comes to which kind of sofa will last longer, leather sofas, with their high-quality material, often last longer than fabric sofas. They are sturdy and well-built and can withstand the wear and tear of everyday life, as long as you take good care of them.
  • Can easily be cleaned – Do you live in fear of your little ones accidentally spilling milk, food, and other things on your sofa? Because of the way they are made, leather sofas can easily be wiped down and cleaned, thus making them easier to maintain.
  • Good for those suffering from allergies – Unlike fabric sofas, leather sofas are unlikely to house allergens, such as dust mites and pet dander.
  • Does not lose color or fade – Leather sofas usually don’t fade, unlike the way other types of sofas do. So long as you are able to care for your leather sofa properly, it will last you a long time in prime condition.

Cons

  • Expensive – Real leather sofas are made with high-quality leather which costs more than the average sofa. Nevertheless, you will end up getting your money’s worth because of how long it can last.
  • Not many designs and colors to choose from – Leather sofas are pretty much traditional, in the sense that they usually come in blacks and browns, and occasionally whites. If you’re looking for something that will give you a pop of color to suit your room, then perhaps a leather sofa isn’t what you should go for.
  • Deep scratch marks are obvious – While leather sofas are pretty durable, if they happen to be scratched deeply (by a pet’s claws or a sharp object), the marks can seem unsightly and, in worse cases, can even lower the value and appearance of the leather sofa.

Genuine leather vs. PU leather sofas

PU leather is polyurethane leather that is made up of thermoplastic polymer. You can often find it in shoes or furniture, like sofas. It goes by different names, such as “leatherette”, “faux leather”, “vegan leather”, and “pleather”.

PU leather sofas are cheaper because they are easier to produce as compared to genuine leather. If you are looking for a sofa that supports sustainability, then you should go for one made of PU leather. Plus, 100% PU leather is considered vegan as it is completely artificial. There’s also a reasonable chance that the PU leather could be made from recycled materials.

The problem with PU leather, however, is that it lacks the authentic look and feel that you get from genuine leather. It’s usually not as soft as genuine leather, and it’s not as durable either. You can’t repair it either, and some PU leathers may crack or break after a while.

Introducing fabric sofas

What are the best things about having a fabric sofa? Check out the following pros and cons:

Pros

  • Comfy – If you value comfort and coziness, a fabric sofa will definitely be able to provide you with both, more than a leather sofa can.
  • Come in a wide variety of colors and styles – Fabric sofas come in so many colors and styles and even shapes these days that it can be hard to keep track of them all. If you’re looking for a unique kind of sofa (whether in terms of color, style, or design), there’s a huge chance that you’ll be able to find it. If you want a sofa that will add a pop of color to your room, then a fabric sofa is what you should go for as you will be able to find more options there.
  • More affordable – Fabric sofas are a lot cheaper unless you look for those made of premium quality materials for both frame and upholstery. Thus, they are easier to get and available in many stores across the country.
  • Sturdy and not easily scratched – Unlike leather sofas, fabric sofas are more scratch-resistant. Even if you have naughty pets and kids at home, they are less likely to end up tearing and ripping in your sofa, and it is usually repairable if accidents occur.
  • Can change into sleeper sofas – Due to the fabric being breathable, this type of sofa makes for a great, temporary bed. You can also get sofa beds that transform into a twin or double bed.

Cons

  • Not so durable – Fabric sofas are not the sturdiest of sofas and have to be replaced or reupholstered from time to time, as compared to leather sofas.
  • Susceptible to spills, stains, and smells – If your fabric is made of low-quality cloth, there’s a chance that it can be difficult to clean, especially when there are spills and stains, something that you can almost always expect when you live in a house with pets and kids. Food spills and the smell of cigarettes can also become trapped in between the fibers of your fabric sofa, causing it to give off an unpleasant odor that will require professionals to remove.
  • Fading – Fabric fades over time, especially if it is exposed to the sun. If only certain parts of your fabric sofa are exposed to the sun, and not the whole of it, the fabric will fade unevenly, which can make your sofa look worn and unattractive.
  • Residing allergens – Fabric sofas can trap allergens like dust mites and pet dander and fur, which can pose a problem if family members suffer from allergies or asthma.

Linen vs. cotton vs. polyester fabric sofas

There are various kinds of fabric sofas, made from different kinds of materials. Some of them are made from natural fabrics, such as linen, wool, silk, or cotton. Some of them are made of synthetic fibers, such as polyester, nylon, acrylic, olefin, and vinyl.

When you’re choosing your fabric sofa, it all boils down to what kind of touch and feel you want the fabric to have, as well as where you will put it. Among the natural fiber fabrics, sofas that are made of silk and linen are highly sensitive and may tear, stain, and wrinkle easily, which is why it’s best to get sofas that are made of these types of material only if you will place them inlow-traffic or formal areas.

Sofas that are made of cotton or wool, however, are better at withstanding fading, wear, and tear. Wool is also great at resisting staining and wrinkling. Those kinds of sofas are great to get if you live in a house full of pets or kids.

If you’re looking at sofas made from synthetic fibers, polyester sofas are the more common ones that create a sofa that is resistant to wrinkling, crushing, and fading. Nylon, however, is great at resisting staining and fading. Acrylic works like imitation wool and resists wear, wrinkling, soiling, and fading well. If you’re looking for more heavy-duty sofas, you might want to check out olefin which resists stains, sunlight, and chemicals, or vinyl, which is a great alternative to leather.

What is the most durable material for a sofa?

When it comes to durability, both fabric and leather sofas are quite durable, but it all depends on two things. First, your sofa is only durable if you care for it properly. A leather sofa, which is quite durable, may show signs of wear if it isn’t cared for. Second, you will only get what you’re willing to pay for.

Naturally, sofas that are more expensive are more sturdy. Leather sofas are undoubtedly more expensive but that is because they will last you a long time and they are made of good, quality material. If you look around, you will be able to find premium fabric sofas with pretty durable material, too, that might cost a bit more. Nevertheless, you’ll be getting a sofa that you can keep for a longer time.

While leather is known to be pretty sturdy and to last a long time, one deep scratch can ruin the material. While fabric has to be replaced more often, they aren’t as prone to scratches and tears.

What is the best fabric for a sofa with pets?

If you are concerned about your pet scratching up your sofa, it’s best to go with a fabric sofa, especially those that are resistant to scratching. The Spruce suggests using weaves like microfiber as it doesn’t rip or scratch easily (source).

If you are, however, concerned about allergens, pet fur, and dander getting all over the sofa, especially if a family member has asthma or allergies, then it’s better to get a leather sofa. You have to make sure that your pet’s nails are trimmed always so they don’t end up scratching up the leather surface.

Should you buy a leather or fabric sofa?

Still not yet sure whether to get a leather or a fabric sofa? It all boils down to what kind of sofa you want. Are you looking for something cozy to curl into at the end of a long day? Are you looking for something that will last you several years?

Comfort

If comfort is your chief priority, go with a fabric sofa. While comfort goes beyond how the fabric feels against your skin, people generally find fabric sofas to be more comfortable to the touch and when you’re sitting on them. They are also softer, cozier, and warmer than leather sofas which can be sticky in the summers and uncomfortably cold in the winters.

Durability

Is it your priority to find a sofa that will last you for a longer time? Get leather.

Leather sofas are more durable, and as a result, may last some five years longer than fabric sofas. Fabric doesn’t scratch or tear easily, but if you take good care of your leather sofa, you’ll be able to avoid damaging it.

Cleaning and care

Leather sofas are easier to clean. If you or someone happens to spill something onto your leather sofa, you can just quickly clean it up. Maintaining and caring for a leather sofa is also relatively easy, as compared to fabric sofas. You just need a few special materials and set a regular schedule for you to clean it.

Fabric sofas, on the other hand, may require professional cleaning, especially if it has been stained over and over again or even if it is starting to emit an unpleasant odor, from cigarettes or spilled food.

Pets

Both fabric and leather sofas have their pros and cons when it comes to pets. If your pets scratch a lot, then it’s better to get a fabric sofa that doesn’t tear or rip as easily as leather sofas. Nevertheless, fabric sofas tend to house pet fur and dander, something that could be a concern if your family has allergies or asthma.

If that is the case, then it’s best to go with a leather sofa because it does not house allergens and is also easy to clean. Just make sure that your pet’s nails are trimmed so they don’t damage your leather sofa, or keep your pet away from your sofa as much as possible.