Leather vs Fabric Sofa: Which Is Right for You?

By Adam Scot Fri 14 Apr 2023
Leather vs Fabric Sofa: Which Is Right for You?

When it comes to choosing a sofa for your living space, choosing between fabric and leather is one of the more important decisions that you will make. Not only does each material have its own unique qualities, but there are many different types of fabrics and leathers each affecting comfort, durability and style.

In this guide, we'll explore the main differences between the main types of leather and fabrics that are commonly used to make sofas, and the factors to consider when making your purchasing decision.

Aniline Leather

Appearance and texture
  • It features a soft and supple texture, with a smooth and natural grain that enhances its overall tactile appeal.
  • Aniline leather retains the unique markings and variations of the animal's skin, giving it a distinct and authentic look.
  • It develops a rich patina over time, adding to its character and creating a sense of elegance and sophistication.
  • Refined yet rustic look and feel.
Comfort and feel
  • Silky soft and buttery smooth.
  • Aniline leather offers a comfortable seating experience, as it quickly adapts to body temperature, providing a cozy feel.
  • The natural breathability of aniline leather allows air to circulate, preventing it from becoming too hot or sticky.
  • Aniline leather has a slight natural give, offering a gentle, supportive feel that conforms to the body's contours.
Maintenance and care
  • Regularly dust or vacuum your aniline leather sofa using a soft brush attachment to remove any loose dirt or debris.
  • Wipe away spills or stains immediately with a clean, absorbent cloth, as aniline leather is susceptible to liquid penetration.
  • Keep your aniline leather sofa away from direct sunlight and heat sources to prevent fading and drying out of the leather.
  • Periodically condition the leather using a recommended leather conditioner to maintain its softness, moisture, and suppleness.
Durability and longevity
  • Aniline leather isn't buffed. This means that all the fibres remain intact, making it the strongest type of leather.
  • Although aniline leather may develop natural marks and patina, these characteristics contribute to its uniqueness and do not compromise its durability.

Antique Leather

Appearance and texture
  • Two tone finish with a darker layer that's rubbed away to reveal a lighter layer underneath.
  • Less marks and scars throughout with a more consistent texture than aniline leather.
  • The traditional leather used for Chesterfield sofas.
  • Available in shades of red, green, blue and brown
Comfort and feel
  • Not quite as comfortable as aniline leather, but still a great choice.
  • Consistent texture throughout.
  • Due to the sealing coat, sofas finished in antique leather can be initially a little slippery. In 4-6 weeks the finishing coat will be fully absorbed into the leather and the slipperiness will go away.
  • Should be conditioned every two to three years with a specialist aniline conditioner
Maintenance and care
  • The leather has a protective coat, but it's always good practice to avoid hot areas such as radiators and sources of bright light such as large windows..
  • Due to its protective coating, stains can be easily wiped away.
  • Requires conditioning every 2-3 years.
Durability and longevity
  • As the leather is buffed to give it a consistent texture and remove most marks and scars, it's a little weaker than aniline leather.

Protected leather

Appearance and texture
  • Consistent smooth texture throughout, sometimes with a slight hint of shine.
  • Less marks and scars throughout.
  • Protected leather looks pristine, clean and modern. It's often used in Italian style sofas.
  • Available in hundreds of different shades and colours
Comfort and feel
  • It has a slight natural give, offering a supportive feel that contours to the body's shape and provides a comfortable seating experience.
  • Protected leather offers a breathable seating surface, allowing air circulation and preventing the sofa from becoming too hot or sticky.
Maintenance and care
  • Regularly dust or vacuum your top grain leather sofa using a soft brush attachment to remove any loose dirt or debris.
  • Protected leather is more resistant to heat and light, but in general you should try and avoid this.
  • It is resistant to punctures, tears, and stains, making it a practical choice for households with children or pets.
  • Condition every two to three years with a protected leather conditioner
Durability and longevity
  • Protected leather is buffed to give it a consistent texture throughout. This disturbs some of the fibres, making it less durable than aniline leather.


Appearance and texture
  • Velvet has a luxurious and opulent appearance, adding a touch of elegance and sophistication to any interior.
  • It has a smooth and silky texture with a dense pile, creating a visually rich and tactilely pleasing surface.
  • Velvet fabric often exhibits a subtle shimmer or sheen, enhancing its overall allure and creating a sense of depth.
  • It comes in a wide variety of colours and patterns, allowing for versatile design options to suit different decor styles.
Comfort and feel
  • Velvet is known for its exceptional softness and plushness, providing a sumptuous and cozy seating experience.
  • It has a velvety smooth touch that feels luxurious against the skin, offering a sense of comfort and indulgence.
  • Velvet fabric provides a gentle warmth, making it comfortable to the touch and ideal for colder seasons.
  • Its dense pile offers a cushioning effect, cradling the body and providing a comfortable and supportive seating surface.
Maintenance and care
  • If the pile is disturbed, the area will look lighter or darker. This is known as pressure marking. Pressure markings can normally be removed by light brushing or steaming.
  • Consider using a fabric protector specifically designed for velvet upholstery to help repel stains and prolong its lifespan.
  • Be cautious with spills and stains, as velvet is prone to absorbing liquids. Quickly blot any spills with a clean, absorbent cloth.
  • velvet sofas should be lightly vacuumed and brushed once every week week.
Durability and longevity
  • Velvet is a durable upholstery material, thanks to its tightly woven construction and inherent strength.
  • Properly cared for, velvet can withstand regular use without showing significant signs of wear or losing its plushness.
  • The dense pile of velvet helps conceal minor wearing, contributing to its long-lasting aesthetic appeal.
  • To ensure the longevity of your velvet sofa, avoid excessive exposure to direct sunlight, which can cause fading over time.


Appearance and texture
  • Wool is a classic choice for a sofa.
  • It's texture is naturally soft and plush.
  • Wool fibres can vary in thickness, resulting in a slightly textured feel.
  • It comes in a wide range of colours and patterns, allowing for versatile design options to match different decor styles.
Comfort and feel
  • Wool is known for its exceptional warmth and insulation, making it cozy and snug during colder seasons.
  • It has excellent moisture-wicking properties, helping to regulate body temperature and keep you comfortable in different weather conditions.
  • Wool fibres have a natural elasticity, providing a gentle bounce and cushioning effect for enhanced comfort.
  • It has a breathable nature, allowing air circulation and preventing the buildup of humidity for a fresh and breathable seating surface.
  • Wool is naturally fire-retardant meaning that no extra chemicals have to be used to make it safe.
Maintenance and care
  • Regularly vacuum your wool sofa using a soft brush attachment to remove dust and prevent it from settling into the fibers.
  • Blot any spills or stains immediately with a clean cloth or paper towel to prevent them from seeping into the fabric.
  • For deeper cleaning, consult the manufacturer's instructions or seek professional cleaning services to ensure proper care of your wool sofa.
  • Avoid exposing your wool sofa to direct sunlight for prolonged periods to prevent colour fading or damage to the fabric.
Durability and longevity
  • Wool is a highly durable and resilient material, capable of withstanding everyday use without showing significant signs of wear.
  • It has natural stain and wrinkle resistance, making it easier to maintain and keeping your sofa looking fresh and neat.
  • Wool fibres have a high tensile strength, meaning they can withstand stretching and pressure without losing their shape or integrity.
  • With proper care and maintenance, a wool sofa can have a long lifespan, making it a worthwhile investment for your home.


Appearance and texture
  • Linen has a visible weave which brings texture to a sofa.
  • A good linen is elegant and refined with a hint of laid-back.
  • In neutral colours, it's well suited to traditional and modern homes alike.
  • It has a natural ability to regulate temperature, keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter.
  • A minimal and functional fabric, often used in Scandinavian design
Comfort and feel
  • Linen is renowned for its exceptional comfort and softness, making for a cozy and inviting sofa.
  • It has a breathable and moisture-wicking property, allowing air circulation which helps regulate your body temperature.
  • Linen has hypoallergenic qualities, making it suitable for individuals with sensitive skin or allergies.
Maintenance and care
  • Delicately vacuum weekly to remove any dust and debris that's accumulated.
  • Spot clean any spills or stains immediately using a baby shampoo and a damp cloth..
  • Larger stains should be dry cleaned.
Durability and longevity
  • Linen is a highly durable fabric that can withstand regular use and maintain its structural integrity over time.
  • It has natural anti-static properties, reducing the attraction of lint and dust, which contributes to its longevity.
  • Linen fibres are inherently strong and resistant to wear and tear, making it suitable for high-traffic areas in the home.
  • With proper care and maintenance, a linen sofa can last for many years, providing a long-term investment in your interior design.

Benefits of Leather Sofas

Durability and Longevity

Leather sofas are renowned for their exceptional durability and longevity. When looked after properly, they will last a lifetime, making them an investment piece that can stay with you and your family for years to come.

Ease of Cleaning and Maintenance

Unlike semi and aniline leathers, one of the advantages of protected leather sofas is their ease of cleaning and maintenance. Unlike fabric sofas, leather is less prone to trapping dust, dirt, and allergens. A simple wipe-down with a damp cloth can easily remove spills and stains, making it an ideal choice for households with children or pets.

Timeless Style and Elegance

Beyond durability, the leather aesthetic is timeless and centuries old, lending itself equally well to modern and traditional living spaces alike. This kind of versatility is difficult to find in a fabric, where materials are generally woven to suit a particular interior style. This doesn't mean your leather sofa has to stay the same over the years too, there's plenty of opportunity to accessorise with throws and cushions to keep it current.


As a person who cares deeply about sustainability, I'm often fiercely questioned about selling products made of leather. I’ll concede that at first glance this may seem hypocritical. In reality though, farmers do not raise cows for leather. It is always for the meat. By buying a leather sofa, you're recycling something that would otherwise be wasted. By choosing a leather sofa, you are in fact making a sustainable choice.

Disadvantages of Leather Sofas

Higher Cost Compared to Fabric Sofas

One of the primary drawbacks of leather sofas is their higher cost compared to fabric alternatives. Good quality leather is expensive, but when considered in the context of its lifetime value, it offers excellent value for money and is a worthwhile investment in the long run.

Susceptibility to Scratches, Fading, and Stains

While protected leather sofas are generally resilient, aniline and semi-aniline leather sofas can be susceptible to scratches, fading, and stains over time. Sharp objects or pet claws can leave marks on the surface, and prolonged exposure to direct sunlight will cause the leather to fade. Especially in the case of aniline and semi-aniline leathers, oils and even water will stain if not promptly addressed.

Benefits of Fabric Sofas

Variety of Styles, Colours, and Patterns

Fabric sofas offer a vast array of styles, colours, and patterns to choose from. Whether you prefer a bold, vibrant statement piece or a subtle, neutral tone that blends seamlessly with your decor, fabric sofas provide endless possibilities for customisation.

Comfortable and Cosy Texture

Fabric sofas (especially when new) have a softer and more inviting texture compared to their leather counterparts. A luxurious velvet or an airy linen will create a cozy and comfortable experience and aesthetic, making it an excellent choice for something you can slink into after a long day.

Lower Cost and Availability

If budget is your primary concern, you’ll find fabric sofas to be much more budget friendly than their counterparts. Moreover, they are widely available at price points to suit all budgets. If you have a budget of around £1,000 you should be able to find a high quality fabric sofa that will suit your taste and last.

Hypoallergenic and Eco-Friendly Options

Similar to leather sofas, fabric sofas also offer hypoallergenic and eco-friendly options. Many manufacturers produce fabric sofas using materials that are resistant to allergens and have eco-friendly certifications, making them a great choice if you suffer from allergies.

Disadvantages of Fabric Sofas

Less Durable and Prone to Wear and Tear

One of the downsides of fabric sofas is their relatively lower durability compared to leather sofas. Fabrics are more prone to wear and tear over time, especially if subjected to heavy use or if not properly cared for. If you look for a fabric with a high Martindale count of above 40,000 you can be sure that you’re getting something durable.

More Difficult to Clean and Maintain than Leather Sofas

Fabric sofas generally require more effort to clean and maintain compared to leather sofas. Depending on the fabric type, spills and stains are more challenging to remove and most manufacturers recommend dry cleaning for any spillages.

Not as Hypoallergenic as Leather Sofas

While many fabric sofas offer hypoallergenic options, even hypoallergenic fabrics still retain allergens such as dust mites and pet hairs more readily. If you have a severe allergy, you should carefully consider the fabric type and choose options specifically designed to minimise allergen retention.

How to Choose Between Leather and Fabric Sofas?

Choosing between a leather and fabric sofa ultimately comes down to your personal preference, your lifestyle and of course, you budget. Consider the following aspects when making your decision:

Personal Preference and Style: Look at the different types of leathers and fabrics available and identify what you like the look of.

Usage and Durability Needs: If you have pets or children that are prone to accidents, you should eliminate semi-aniline and aniline leathers. For any fabric, you should ensure that it has a Martindale count of 40,000 or higher.

Budget and Affordability: Whilst aniline and semi-aniline leathers are quite expensive, it’s generally possible to find a cheaper velvet or linen to meet your budget with more polyester. Although you’ll be getting a less natural material, the upside to this is that polyesters are generally stronger than 100% natural fabrics. To learn more about this topic, check out our article: How Much Should You Spend On A Sofa?

Customising Your Leather or Fabric Sofa

Once you've made your choice between a leather or fabric sofa, customising it to your specific needs can further enhance your comfort and satisfaction. Consider the following customisation options:

Choosing the Right Size and Shape: Ensure the sofa fits perfectly in your space by selecting the appropriate size and shape that works harmoniously with your room's dimensions and layout.

Selecting the Right Colour and Texture: Opt for colours and textures that resonate with your personal style and complement the overall aesthetics of your home.

Picking the Right Design and Style: From classic designs to modern or eclectic styles, choose a sofa design that matches your taste and complements your existing furniture.

Adding Additional Features: Enhance your sofa's functionality and comfort by considering additional features such as footstools, cushions, or built-in storage compartments.

How to Care for Your Leather or Fabric Sofa

Proper care and maintenance are crucial to prolonging the lifespan and appearance of your leather or fabric sofa. Here are some tips to keep your sofa looking its best:

Regular Cleaning and Conditioning: Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for regular cleaning and conditioning of your leather or fabric sofa. Vacuum fabric sofas regularly and use appropriate cleaning agents or leather conditioners as recommended.

Avoiding Direct Sunlight and Heat: Protect your sofa from direct sunlight and heat sources, as they can cause fading, drying, and potential damage to both leather and fabric upholstery.

Flipping and Rotating Cushions: Extend the lifespan of your sofa's cushions by periodically flipping and rotating them. This helps distribute the wear and tear more evenly, preventing uneven depressions.

Addressing Damages or Wear and Tear Promptly: If you notice any damages, stains, or signs of wear and tear, address them promptly. Consult a professional for repairs or cleaning if necessary to avoid further deterioration.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Are leather sofas more expensive than fabric sofas?

Yes, leather sofas are generally more expensive than fabric sofas due to the higher cost of the material and the craftsmanship involved in their production. However, leather sofas are also known for their durability and longevity, making them a worthwhile investment in the long run. You could consider buying second-hand if your budget is limited.

2. Can fabric sofas be as durable as leather sofas?

While fabric sofas may not have the same inherent durability as leather sofas, choosing high-quality fabrics and properly maintaining them can significantly increase their lifespan. It's important to consider the level of usage and care requirements when selecting a fabric sofa to ensure its longevity.

3. Are leather sofas eco-friendly?

Leather can be considered eco-friendly when sourced as a byproduct of the meat industry, making use of materials that would otherwise go to waste. However, the environmental impact of leather production can vary depending on factors such as the tanning process and the use of chemicals. Look for eco-friendly certifications and sustainable practices when considering leather sofas.

4. Can fabric sofas be cleaned easily?

The ease of cleaning fabric sofas depends on the specific fabric type and any additional treatments or coatings applied. Some fabrics may be more resistant to stains and spills, while others may require professional cleaning or specific cleaning agents. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines and consult with professionals if needed to ensure proper cleaning and maintenance.

5. How often should I clean and condition my leather or fabric sofa?

The frequency of cleaning and conditioning will depend on factors such as usage, environmental conditions, and the specific recommendations provided by the manufacturer. Generally, regular vacuuming and spot cleaning are recommended for fabric sofas, while leather sofas may require periodic conditioning to maintain their softness and prevent drying or cracking. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions for the best care routine for your specific sofa.