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A Guide to Commercial Upholstery Materials

- 6 min read

Commercial furniture faces more wear and tear than home furniture for several reasons. Various patrons often use these furnishings frequently, and they’re moved and cleaned more regularly. Choosing durable commercial upholstery materials helps your furniture last longer, even with heavy use.

Learn more about the commercial upholstery fabric options in this guide. 

Why Upholstery Material Matters on Commercial Furniture

If you’re new to the world of commercial upholstery material, you may not understand why it matters. However, the fabric you choose will determine how the furniture pieces look and how long they last. 

Higher usage will wear out soft materials faster, requiring more frequent replacement. Investing in high-quality commercial upholstery fabric is the best solution to ensure longevity and visual appeal. 

Factory worker sewing upholstery for banquet seating

Durability or Amount of Rubs

Commercial-grade upholstery is designed for durability. In the upholstery world, the durability measurement is called the double rub test. 

This testing process involves rubbing a piece of fabric back and forth. One back-and-forth motion is called a double rub. The higher the double rub count, the longer the material lasts against typical wear and tear.

Furniture needs to be upholstered with fabric that’s rated higher than other textiles, like curtains and bedding, as they need to withstand a higher level of use. The Association for Contact Textiles (ACT) issued a voluntary abrasion guideline of 30,000 double rubs for public spaces and high-traffic areas. At MityLite®, we understand the need for durable fabric—all of our commercial upholstery fabric options have a rating of 30,000 double rubs or higher. 

Some commercial locations—such as medical facilities—may have more specific preferences for flammability. These designations give you all the information you need to make the best choices for your facility.

Types of Upholstery

Commercial upholstery must also meet specific federal regulations for fire safety. All our products meet these guidelines. When choosing upholstery from our website, you can view the flammability designation for each option. You can contact your Sales Representative for free fabric samples.

Hands holding upholstery samples

When you work with MityLite, you have three choices for your type of upholstery, each with its unique features and benefits. 

• Fabric
• Vinyl
• Polyurethane

Fabric upholstery offers the most comprehensive selection of colors, patterns, and textures. Fabric tends to be the softest and most comfortable material for upholstering furniture, and it’s also more familiar to those with fabric furniture in their homes. However, the softness of this material may result in more wear over time than vinyl or polyurethane options, particularly in places like hospitals with strict disinfecting routines.  

Vinyl is a plastic-based material, so it’s waterproof and typically very easy to clean. Compared to other commercial upholstery materials, it is the most durable option. The caveat to vinyl is that it can be sliced or scratched, even unintentionally, which will completely destroy it. While vinyl has fewer color and pattern choices than fabric, our inventory still includes many choices. Most types of vinyl are fully recyclable.

Polyurethane balances the features of fabric and vinyl, retaining the durability and flexibility of a plastic-based material. It can also more easily mimic the textures of familiar fabrics to provide more comfort. Polyurethane can even mimic the look and feel of leather, offering a more upscale feel. However, one drawback to polyurethane upholstery is that it is usually difficult to recycle.

Types of Performance Finish 

Performance finishes enhance the durability of materials and make them easier to use. Standard performance finish options include:

  • Antibacterial
  • Antimicrobial
  • Stain repellent

These finishes help keep furniture pieces clean and ensure long-lasting use. We work with trusted brands to bring you a variety of options, including: 

  • Crypton® 
  • C-Zero
  • iC-clean™
  • Imperviseal 
  • Pinnacle® 
  • Resilience 
  • Sta-Kleen®
  • Teflon™

A performance finish may slightly alter the color or texture of a material, so you’ll want to view a finished product or a test piece of upholstery to understand what the final product will look like. Not all finishes are compatible with all upholstery materials.

People standing at a table comparing upholstery swatches

Types of Cleanability 

The type of material and finish will also dictate how you should clean a piece of furniture. Depending on your facility, you may have established or preferred cleaning methods. In this case, you can choose the cleanability option that matches your needs. 

We use these designations for the cleanability of our products: 

  • Bleach cleanable
  • Solvent cleaner 
  • Water-based
  • Water-based/solvent 

Even if you don’t have a cleaning preference, knowing what methods are safe for use on your furniture will help you provide the best care.

Types of Prints and Patterns 

The most noticeable feature of commercial upholstery material is the print or pattern. Your patrons won’t clean the furnishings or even sit on every surface, but they will probably see the pieces and respond to their aesthetic designs. 

Most commercial clients choose prints and patterns that align with their company’s image and brand. Our selection of over 2,000 fabrics includes various shades, designs, and textures, helping to support your branding or color palette. 

Panama Convention Center
The upholstery selection for the Classic Banquet Chair at the Panama Convention Center seamlessly combines simplicity and sophistication, resulting in an upscale appearance.

Talk to Our Experts Today

Working with MityLite gives you access to hundreds of fabrics and materials. Contact us today to learn which material is best for you. Our sales reps will guide you through the process and send you fabric samples to help you find commercial upholstery fabric that delivers just the right mix of aesthetic appeal and longevity.