DEAR GAIL: We are getting ready to purchase a new sofa and have just rescued a puppy. This is our first time having a dog and wanted to know if there are any particular fabrics that are best with pets. Thanks. - Marty and Al
DEAR MARTY AND AL: Good question to ask before buying a new sofa. Of course, first you have to decide if you are going to let your pet up on the furniture. If you're not, you can consider most fabrics. But you still have to keep in mind if it is going to lay by your feet, the oil from its coat will stain many fabrics.
I actually have very good experience with this because, at first, we did not let Maddy, our Sheltie, up on the sofa. But then I had surgery and was home for a couple of months and wanted company with me during the day while recuperating on the sofa.
So, to help keep your sanity, here are seven fabrics and tips to consider for an easy-to-keep, good-looking and longer-lasting sofa.
Leather: Leather can stand up to most pets. It is easy to clean and hair does not cling to it. But, on the down side, their nails can scratch and leave holes. If you want leather, two choices are distressed bomber-style leather or a full-aniline-dyed. Full-aniline-dyed leather is dyed all the way through versus a surface-applied finish.
Microfiber: This is my personal favorite and is also known as ultrasuede. It is easy to maintain as you can clean it with soap and water, the hair comes off with a lint brush and their nails don't catch in the fabric. It is also a great, long-lasting wear fabric.
Crypton: Crypton is a super stain-, water- and bacteria-resistant fabric. It's a solution that is engineered right into the fabric, encapsulating every fiber. This fabric is highly used on commercial seating, so you won't find it in any furniture stores just yet.
But if you're reupholstering, I would call a designer and search it out. It can be stiffer than normal fabrics, but more choices are being made that are softer to the touch, especially in ultrasuede. Water actually runs right off the fabric, so cleaning is a breeze.
Double rub: What the heck is double rub? A double-rub test is a durability test meant to simulate a person getting into and out of a chair and assessing how the upholstered fabric holds up to wearing against another fabric. The higher the number, the better it wears. This is extremely important in commercial fabric, but every fabric on the market has gone through this testing.
Now understand most furniture store salespeople will not know about this. For those pieces that come in one fabric, they'll have no way of knowing since it is shipped that way from the manufacturer. But some of the higher-end furniture stores can find out. If you're reupholstering, make sure to ask your designer what this number is.
Here are some guidelines: 15,000-20,000 is light-to-general residential use, 25,000 is heavy-duty residential use and 30,000-plus is commercial use.
Don't be afraid to use a commercial fabric in your home; I do it all the time. It may cost a little more but I find it lasts longer.
Open and nubby weaves: These fabrics can be nightmares for pet owners. Hair weaves its way into the fabric and sometimes is impossible to get out without tweezers. Lint rollers and vacuuming get most, but not all. Even fabrics with a tight weave can be exhausting to keep clean. You also have to consider your pet's nails, which can easily get caught, causing possible injury to them and snags for you.
Patterned fabric: Patterns are definitely more forgiving than solids when hiding dirt, stains and hair but you still have to consider the type of fabric it is. A big downside to patterns is that they do go in and out of style.
Cotton slip covers: If slip covers work with your style, they are great since they can be changed and laundered.
One last thing to consider is color. If your pet is white, obviously a dark color will show every hair between cleaning as will dark hair on a light fabric. I hate to suggest choosing a color to match your pet's hairs, as you might add to the family, but do think about it.
I personally don't believe in keeping your furniture covered until company comes over as you should enjoy and live in your home. I feel the same way about keeping the walls white because you're going to sell your home one day.
The best suggestion I can give you is to purchase a couple of yards of the type of fabric you are considering at a discount fabric store. Place it on the seat and see how it works for you.
Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, mail to: 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her Web address is: www.GMJinteriors.com.