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rolls of fabrics

You’re looking to revamp your trusty IKEA sofa. But, you’re stuck, wondering about fabrics. The million dollar question in your head right now is, “Which is better? Natural fabrics or synthetic?”

To help you figure out which would be the best fit for you, we’ve taken it upon us to do some digging and compare the both of them, so that you don’t have to.

The Difference

So, how exactly are they different from each other? And, why does it even matter?

For starters, natural fabrics are from a natural source: like plants or animals, while synthetics are man-made from a complex combination of chemicals and resources such as petroleum, coal and plastics, just to name a few.

On the surface, synthetics don’t sound great but we’ve come a long way with fabric technology – reaching a point where many man-made products have become undoubtedly better than natural ones.


Let’s start of by comparing comfort firstly. Natural fabrics are much more comfortable than their synthetic counterparts.

Why, you ask? That’s because these fabrics are naturally breathable unlike synthetics, which are usually more compact in terms of weave.

Are Natural Fabrics Better Than Synthetic Fabrics? - Our Ultimate Review


Are Natural Fabrics Better Than Synthetic Fabrics? - Our Ultimate Review

Let’s use these two Comfort Works fabrics for a sort of case study: our Cotton Canvas (a 100% cotton fabric, top) versus Kino fabrics (our 100% polyester fabric, bottom).

The difference is pretty obvious between the two; the cotton one has tiny spaces between fibers while the synthetic polyester fabric has nearly non-existent spaces.

You could even experiment with your very own samples for the Cotton Canvas and Kino and compare them yourself.

And even if the weave were exactly the same for both fabrics, organic fibres are naturally porous compared to synthetic ones, making natural fabrics breathable no matter how tight the weave.

Natural fabric in terms of comfort and breathability, natural fabrics are the clear winner.


Spills are a sofa nightmare

The next most important thing would be to evaluate absorbency. You wouldn’t want spills and puppy tracks to soil your brand new covers after all so, how would these two types of fabric fare in this test?

Naturally, synthetics are more waterproof as they’re not porous.

Natural fibers such as cotton, absorb liquids pretty well, with cotton being the ultimate champion that can absorb liquids up to 27 times its weight. That’s probably not fun if you have kids or pets around.

So, if you are looking for a spill-resistant option, synthetics would be the one for you.


This is where the synthetics have the upper hand as well.

Being synthetic, technology allows us to make these fabrics as rigid and sturdy as we want.

With natural fibres unfortunately, we are subjected to their original tensile strength so even with tight weaves, synthetics are usually stronger.

There’s a typical trade-off between comfort and durability as well. In the case of the Cotton Canvas and Kino fabrics, this is how they compare:

Are Natural Fabrics Better Than Synthetic Fabrics? - Our Ultimate Review

Are Natural Fabrics Better Than Synthetic Fabrics? - Our Ultimate Review

Synthetics win again this round, owing to their inorganic composition of fibers to give you that super strong fabric that can withstand wear for quite a long time.

They would definitely be the best option for those with an active lifestyle, pets and children since their sofas would be exposed to more wear and tear.


Clean covers, happy people.

Here, the synthetics and naturals are tied. They each have their pros and cons which makes it hard to decide on who takes home the trophy.

Synthetics, albeit being the most easiest to care for, tend to not be able to withstand high temperatures due to their composition.

Natural fabrics tend to get wrinkly and can withstand a bit of heat, around 60°C-70°C (140°F-158°F), making it a plus point if you like your covers germ-free.

Do take note of what the suppliers recommend though as this isn’t the case for all covers. Sometimes if a natural fabric takes in more heat than it can handle, it could potentially end up shrinking (even if it was sanforised prior).


Now for the most important bit, aesthetics. We all want covers that make our sofas look like a million bucks. But, which fabrics help you get look that fits your style?

Birch Lane Clausen Sofa in Gaia Fog
100% cotton covers.
IKEA Karlstad in Kino Ash
100% polyester covers.

As you can see from the pictures, natural fabrics are great for the lived-in look.

Natural fabrics are great for shabby chic because their fibers are linked only weakly and these weak bonds are easily broken at body temperature.

So that’s what causes wrinkles and imprints of your behind on your sofa covers, essentially.

Natural fabrics give you a more relaxed look and gives off a homey vibe compared to synthetics.

As they have a more rigid structure, synthetics hold their shape very well and give you that clean, polished look, as with the IKEA Karlstad in Kino Ash (bottom photo).

If you’re like me and wrinkles drive you crazy, maybe you should stick to synthetics.

For this round, both are winners it seems. It all comes down to personal taste and style.

Your best bet: pick a fabric that would complement the overall style of the room in which the sofa is located.

The Verdict

The scores are pretty close but we’d have to declare the win to synthetics.

Given that most of us have an active lifestyle, juggling our careers and managing things at home, synthetic fabrics are made to give us a low-maintenance, durable and hassle-free option to cater to our daily needs.

Of course, it would be much better to have options that incorporate the best of both, which is why we also have our blended fabrics that give you the durability and easy maintenance of synthetics, coupled with the comfort and luxury of natural fabrics.

If you’re looking to do more for your part and not send another sofa into the landfill, consider getting a made-to-measure sofa cover and check out our fabric collections here!

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