The term performance fabric may lead you to think of the spandex, lycra, or dri-fit materials that make up your exercise attire, but that’s not exactly what we’re talking about today. We are talking about the fabrics that are used to create the durable, stain-resistant, and easy to clean upholstered furniture that you need in your busy life. Performance fabrics are the perfect way to use light-colored fabrics in busy households – they can withstand muddy paw prints, red wine spills, and juice box mishaps.
Our Top 3 Performance Fabric Brands
There are a lot of performance fabrics on the market today, we’re going to share three of our favorite brands with you which we tested in our interior design studio with marker, red wine, and coffee. The fibers in these three types of fabrics repelled the liquid so the coffee and red wine were easily blotted off the fabrics with a paper towel. The marker was simply removed with a mix of water and Dawn dish soap. The three brands we tested, and use most often in our clients’ homes, are Crypton, Sunbrella, and Inside Out.
Crypton, Sunbrella, and Inside Out are all stain-resistant and most stains will sit on the surface of the fabric and be easily removed by blotting with a cloth. All three brands are also very durable - combining strong fibers and heavy-duty construction. Below we’ll outline where they differ from each other.
Crypton is marketed as “Best in Performance Fabrics” and it lives up to the hype. In addition to resisting water-based stains, Crypton also releases oil-based stains – like pizza grease, butter, and crayons. Crypton is also odor resistant, it resists microbial development which inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria – so it’s a great choice for homes with pets. Crypton is not UV fade-resistant, so it wouldn’t be the best choice for outdoor fabric. It is also not bleach cleanable but Crypton has developed their own specific cleaning products for their fabrics so you know what you’re using won’t harm the material. As you saw in the video, we just used Dawn and water to clean the marker off.
Sunbrella is the original performance fabric. Sunbrella was originally marketed as an outdoor fabric but as the brand started to see designers using it indoors they created designs that fit the interior environment. Since Sunbrella was originally designed to be used outdoors it offers superior fade resistance to UV light. For the same reason that Sunbrella is fade resistant in the sun, you can use bleach to clean it. The acrylic fibers are solution-dyed, when the fibers are in their liquid form, the color is added. Then the solution goes through a shower-head-like device called a spinneret and comes out as long fibers which later become the fabric. Since the color goes all the way through the fiber it can’t be removed by the sun or bleach. Sunbrella fabrics also repel oil-based stains. Most of the Sunbrella fabrics feel soft and comfy but there are still plenty on the market that have a more plastic feel because this brand was originally only selling outdoor fabric – so get a sample first.
Lastly, we’ll touch on Inside Out, one of the newest brands in the performance fabric marketplace. Inside Out fabrics do not repel oil-based stains but they will repel all water-based stains. They are also bleach cleanable, UV fade resistant and odor resistant. What sets them apart from the two brands mentioned above is that they are completely free of fluorine and PFC chemicals and made or finished with sustainable practices in mind. These fabrics have been derived from natural, upcycled, or partially recycled synthetic fibers which make them a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly choice.
Performance fabrics are incredibly easy to live with and can be helpful for a variety of lifestyles. You can use light-colored fabric in your home without fear and cleaning is a breeze. Keep in mind, lots of fabrics call themselves “performance fabrics” it’s important to research just what that means, it doesn’t always mean stain resistant, it could just mean that it’s durable. It’s always best if you can get a sample of the fabric and do an at-home test before making a big furniture purchase. Or partner with a designer who will help you choose the absolute best fabric for the way you live your life.
This blog post was written by Brick + Beam Studio’s intern, Jessie Vogel. Jessie is a senior at Roger Williams University, studying Communications and Media. She also studies Marketing and Graphic Design. She is from southern New Hampshire and when not in school, she likes the beach, photography, fashion and hanging out with friends and family; interior design is also one of her personal passions.