Fabric is both attractive and practical and an excellent material for sofas and armchairs. The specific qualities of each fabric are determined by, among other things, the type of fibre it's made of and how it is woven. At IKEA we have many different covers, so chances are good you'll find one that's just right for you. The majority of our fabric covers are removable and washable, which makes them easy to live with. If you should happen to spill something on them, it's not a catastrophe - all you have to do is remove the cover and wash it. You can even buy a new cover whenever you like and renew both the sofa and the room it's in. One idea is to have several covers that you can switch between - one for every season!
What is fabric?
Fabric consists of fibres that are spun into yarn, which are then woven into different textiles. Textiles consist of natural or synthetic fibres. The most common natural fibres are cotton, linen and wool. Natural fibres often feel somewhat softer and more pleasant to the touch than synthetic fibres. Polyester and polyamide are examples of synthetic fibres. The advantage of synthetic fibres is that they are hard-wearing and don't shrink or stretch out when you wash them. It's common to blend natural and synthetic fibres to obtain the strength of synthetic fibres and the soft, pleasant feel of natural fibres.
What makes a fabric strong?
The strength of a fabric is determined by fibre, yarn, weaving technique and final finishing. The strongest fibres are polyester, acrylic, polyamide and wool. Tightly twisted yarn is stronger than loosely twisted yarn. And when it comes to weaving, tightly woven, heavy fabrics with a smooth surface are strongest. The fabric will also become stronger if it is finished with, for example, a stain repellent or is pre-shrunk to reduce shrinkage. A fabric that is dyed holds its colour better than a fabric with a pattern printed on it.
Rubbed, washed - and approved!
At IKEA we test all fabrics before using them. We rub them to be sure that the fabric is durable and that the surface will remain looking good. We wash them to be sure they will keep their shape and colour. We subject them to strong light to see how well they can stand up to sunlight. We even try to set them on fire to test their flame resistance. And we also check them to ensure they don't contain any forbidden chemicals. And that's just an example of some of the most important tests we conduct. The goal of all the tests is to be sure that the fabrics are strong and will continue to look good after you use them. It's not until a fabric is tested and approved that we use it for our sofas.
Take care of your sofa
With a little care you can keep your fabric sofa looking good, longer. Vacuum it regularly, since dust and dirt break down the fibres and impair the quality of the fabric. Feather cushions should not be vacuum cleaned - the feathers can slip through the cover. Beat them instead. A tip is to move the cushions every once in a while, so your favourite seat doesn't become more worn than the other seats. Try to protect your sofa from exposure to direct sunlight. It's also a good idea to close curtains or blinds during the hours when the sunlight is strongest.
Easy to wash
Our removable covers can either be machine washed or dry cleaned. You should always wash the entire cover, so there is no risk of colour shifts between different areas. Who the fabric should be washed depends on many things, such as the material, how it is woven, the texture and the shape of the cover. For this reason it is essential to follow the washing instructions in the label. Close the zipper on the cover when you wash it - it reduces stress to the inner seams and zipper. Don't put the cover in the dryer - it may shrink. Hang it up to dry instead. It's better to iron the reverse side of the fabric and to do it while the fabric is still a bit damp. That makes it easier to get creases out - and easier to put the cover back on the sofa.
If you should get a stain on your cover, it's important to remove it immediately. Sometimes ordinary water will be all you need. If you're not sure what caused the stain, it's best to bring the cover to be professionally dry cleaned. Otherwise, you risk "washing in" the stain rather than washing it out. If you use a stain remover, it is advisable to first test on an area of fabric that is not usually visible. The stain should be "lifted" and not rubbed away. Some of our sofas are treated with a stain repellent to repel stains. Stain repellent becomes less effective with time.
Different types of fibres
The fabric in our sofas is made of natural fibres, synthetic fibres - or a blend of different types of fibres. Different fibres have somewhat different qualities and origins.
Natural fibres are, for example, cotton, linen and wool. Cotton is made of seed-hair from the cotton shrub. It is a soft and pleasant fabric that is also strong and able to withstand high temperatures. We treat the cotton so it will repel dirt and shrink less. Linen is made of fibre from the stalk of the linen plant. The fabric has a fine texture and lustre, and also repels dirt. The disadvantages are that it creases easier and wears more than other fabrics, such as cotton. It's also expensive, because it takes so long to produce. Wool from sheep doesn't crease, is naturally dirt repellent and fire resistant. Coarser wool is stronger and therefore the type used for furniture covers. The disadvantage of wool covers is that they shrink if you wash them in water.
Synthetic fibres are strong, easy to care for and keep their shape well. We use nylon and polyester for our sofas.
Synthetic fibres are charged with static electricity and tend to attract dust and dirt.
Blended materials are quite simply a combination of different materials. The reason for this is to get the best qualities from each material.
By blending cotton and linen, for example, we get the lustre and texture of linen and the softness and durability of cotton. By blending cotton and polyester, the result is a soft fabric that both creases and shrinks less than a 100% cotton fabric would."
Some common fabric terms
It may be useful to be familiar with a few terms when you're deciding on a fabric cover. For example, there are different types of yarn that influence the appearance of the finished fabric. Chenille has small protruding thread ends, which give the fabric a plush-like pile. Fabric of microfibres has a surface that resembles suede. Yarn-dyed fabric is made of yarn that is dyed before weaving to give the fabric a woven pattern. There are also different weaving methods. What distinguishes Jacquard weaving is that it is capable of weaving intricate patterns. Twill is another weaving method, which produces a hard-wearing, strong fabric, such as denim. Some fabrics are woven in two layers which then are cut apart. This is how velvet and corduroy get their soft surfaces. A quilted cover is one made of two layers of fabric that have been sewn together with wadding between.
A personal choice
There are many different fabrics and all look and feel differently. This is why at IKEA we have sofas with a wide variety of fabric covers, so you can find your very own favourite. One of the biggest advantages of our fabric sofas is that most of the covers are removable and washable. That not only makes them easy to keep clean, but also means that you can change covers whenever you want to renew your sofa. You'll find it easier to decide on a fabric sofa once you know something about them. But choosing a sofa has to do with more than facts - it has to do with feelings, too. You'll live with your sofa for a long time - so choose one that suits your own personal taste.