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Upholstery Fabric in South Africa - False and misleading claims

Updated: Jan 17, 2023


Have you ever heard of “PU Leather”, “Nappa Leather” or “Bonded Leather” etc..? None of these products are actually genuine leather and or anywhere close. They are all PU (Polyurethane) fabric for most or vinyl.

PU is widely used in the upholstery and clothing industry as a cheap substitute to leather.

You can get different grade of PU fabric. The quality of PU is determined by its thickness and the quality of the resign used. The thicker and more flexible, the more resilient and durable it will be.

A lot of PU available in South Africa has a thickness of 0.6mm which is way too low to be used on a couch. The types of PU will start pealing of the backing very rapidly. The correct thickness for PU used in upholstery should at least be 1.0mm.

Due to its non-woven structure, dust or liquid do not penetrate. However, it is a product sensitive to the acidity of sweat, humidity in general and to heat exposure (direct sunlight and heaters).

Fabric Resilience & Rub Count (Martindale)

These are unverifiable and often invented claims. In principle the higher the count, the more resilient the fabric is.

A more common grading for knit or woven fabric is the GSM (gram per square meter); this is also verifiable provided you have a sample of the fabric. Again, the higher the GSM the stronger the fabric.

Woven fabric should have a backing either made of latex or of a non-woven material.

If the backing is weak, the yarn will move apart, and the fabric will eventually tear. A naked eye can quickly see a low-density fabric; you can actually see gaps between the yarn when looking closely.

"Buffalo Suede"

It certainly has nothing to do with the buffalo or genuine leather. It is a synthetic product commonly called “microsuede”; some are plain and other are embossed. Once again, the thickness of the fabric will define its durability.

Over the past 5 years we've witnessed the quality of fabric supplied in the market dropping substantially, driven by unscrupulous importers and manufacturers looking to lower their price at any cost.

Seeing and feeling the actual fabric makes a huge difference at the end day.

For more info on fabric, check out our post on the 5 most common type of fabric used in South Africa.

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