Furniture World–CCI Tip #2: Educating Consumers on Choosing the Right Fabric for their Lifestyle

Furniture Industry News Update – Furniture World Magazine

Posted: 11/11/2014
Furniture World
By Terri Sniegolski

A recent report by IBIS World predicts that a higher disposable income and strong consumer sentiment will help drive furniture purchases over the next five years to 2019. As furniture stores continue to bounce back from a slowdown in growth, industry professionals are looking for a way to stand out from their competitors, by demonstrating to consumers their expertise in furniture care.

One of the most important decisions a consumer can make a furniture purchase is choosing an upholstery fabric type. As they weigh the pros and cons of buying a fabric that is durable but also attractive and fits in with their lifestyle, it is the furniture professional’s job to lead the consumer down the path that can satisfy both those demands and ultimately leave the customer happy with their choice.

Fabric options fall into two main categories: synthetic and natural fibers, while many natural fibers offer a blend of both. One main selling point for finding the fabric that fits the consumer’s lifestyle can be the ease of maintenance and being knowledgeable about how each type of fabric can be preserved to increase the lifespan of that piece of furniture. Providing customized advice for each individual who walks in the door will set your business apart and ensure that those customers will return for their next furniture needs.

The following guidelines from the team at Creative Colors International (CCI) – an industry leader in on-site repair, restoration, cleaning, protection and dyeing of leather, vinyl, fabric, plastic, and carpeting – are designed to educate professionals on best practices as it relates to preserving the life of the fabric.

Natural Fibers: Consumers who are looking to get the longest life out of their furniture and generally have rooms that are high traffic may be interested in a fabric that will provide durability and easy maintenance. Natural fibers are attractive additions to a home but generally require more maintenance and cleaning.

Cotton blends are the most versatile of the natural fibers and one of the more durable fabric types a family can choose. Cotton does not fade easily but is more susceptible to soiling or wrinkling. This tendency is lessened when blended with synthetic materials that make it longer-lasting. To preserve cotton fabric from the moment the consumer purchases it, recommend a stain-resistant finish.

Ramie fibers are one of the strongest natural fibers, a great eco-friendly alternative to using synthetic fibers or non-organic fibers. Ramie can be up to eight times stronger than cotton and is even stronger when wet.

Silk has strong fibers and a natural shine; however, it can be easily damaged by sunlight and will not withstand heavy usage, making it a poor choice for high-traffic areas. Stains can be easily removed from silk with a little lemon juice or vinegar.

Linen is a fabric is best suited for formal living rooms and adult areas because it soils and wrinkles easily. While it won’t withstand heavy wear, linen does resist pilling and fading. This type of fabric must be professionally cleaned.
Synthetic Fibers: Man-made fabrics have been designed to meet the particular needs of the consumer when it comes to durability, cleaning and maintenance care.

Microfiber is lightweight, highly absorbent and does not stain or wrinkle easily. This fabric type is a good choice for pet owners since animal claws won’t easily catch in the fabric and create tears. Microfiber repels water, making it an attractive choice for families and the fabric can be cleaned with most solvent based cleaners, such as rubbing alcohol.

Nylon is one of the strongest fabrics available thanks to the fact that is it usually blended with other fibers. Nylon is very resilient; in a blend, it helps eliminate the crushing of napped fabrics such as velvet. It does tend to fade and pill. These fabrics can be cleaned easily with water-based cleaners

Rayon is the oldest manufactured fiber, created from wood pulp and treated with chemicals. Recent advances have made high-quality rayon very practical for upholstery and supremely durable for families.

Vinyl is easy to care for and is less expensive than leather. This fabric type is the most practical choice for families with children or for higher trafficked areas of the home. Vinyl can be easily cleaned using ivory soap and water. Maintenance is fairly easy as long as your vinyl furniture is kept dry after any spills and kept away from sunlight and harsh chemicals to avoid irreparable damage.
Leather: With many different types of leathers available to the consumer, furniture professionals should be able to discuss the pros and cons of choosing the right leather for their lifestyle. The leather is easy to clean and durable too if you understand what you have and the best practices for each type.
Pigmented leather is the most durable and will withstand heavy use. Scratches, cuts, and stains can be repaired easily. This type is the furthest from being natural leather and also the best for families that want leather that is easily maintained and cleaned. Effective cleaning for this leather type requires frequent dusting using a clean, damp towel.

Pure Aniline is the most natural-looking and the softest feeling leather type. This leather, however, is the least-resistant to soiling and may not be the best choice for families with young children and pets. Aniline leather owners must also follow specific guidelines from the manufacturer for proper care.
Nubuck is an aniline leather where the surface has been brushed to create a texture similar to a velvet. Many people confuse this type with suede leather. The brushing actually breaks the surface and opens up the leather, even more making it incredibly soft. Prolonged exposure to sunlight will cause these leathers to fade. This type of leather is a good choice for families who don’t mind a little extra maintenance to keep the allure of the leather.
What to Avoid

Bonded Leather is man-made leather and is more prone to tearing, wearing, and color/topcoat separation. Most bonded leathers cannot be repaired and lack the luster of natural leathers. For someone looking for longevity and durability from their leather, man-made leathers should be avoided. In this case, the extra monetary investment for natural leathers and/or protected leathers is worth the upgrade.

Velvet stains are the hardest to get out and damage cannot be easily repaired with this fabric. Velvet gets crushed very easily and cleaning up any stains will likely cause permanent damage.

The key to making the best recommendation for your customer is to understand what characteristics fit best with their lifestyle. While leather is the most durable and easy to clean, some leather variations require more care than others making it less desirable for family rooms. When choosing between a natural or synthetic fiber for their homes, consumers may have to weigh the cost of maintenance against attractiveness. Life is full of compromises and guiding the customer to make the right choices when it comes to choosing their furniture is the most vital role that a furniture professional can play.

About Terri Sniegolski: Terri Sniegolski has been CEO/Vice President of Creative Colors International, Inc. since May of 2000. She has been a Director and Secretary of Creative Colors International, Inc. since December 1990. Ms. Sniegolski is an owner of J&J’s Creative Colors since January 2009 and was employed by J&J’s Creative Colors since June of 1988.

About Creative Colors International: Launched in 1991, the Creative Colors International (CCI) franchise system was created through its affiliate, J&J’s Creative Colors, the original industry leader in refurbishment techniques and systems. J&J’s Creative Colors was founded in 1980 by Jim and JoAnn Foster. Today, both companies continue to be family-owned and operated by the second generation Foster family. Catering to the abundance of upholstered items in every home, business, and vehicle, CCI is the ultimate in on-site repair, restoration, cleaning, protection, and dyeing of leather, vinyl, plastic and fabric. Through proprietary technology, CCI restores damaged seats at a fraction of replacement costs, saving customers up to 90 percent. CCI repairs are stronger than the original area and are nearly invisible to the naked eye. In the Automotive, Furniture and Commercial Markets, CCI offers on-site repair and restoration to all types of leather, vinyl, fabric, plastic, and carpeting by repairing and redyeing holes, cuts, tears, burns, scrapes, fading and discoloration. For more information on CCI’s services and franchise opportunities, visit