The Truth About Performance Fabrics

What is "Performance Fabric?"

The term “performance fabric” is often thought to describe one certain type of fabric or, at most, a narrow group of fabrics. In fact, the types of fabrics that fall into this category are many and varied. Performance fabric is a very broad term that encompasses fabrics that offer some degree of increased resistance to any or all of the following: staining, fading, microbial growth, abrasion/wear. Fabrics with these characteristics have been around for many years, such as Sunbrella, which was created in the 1960s. Performance fabrics can be made using a wide variety of different fibers, but acrylic, olefin, nylon, and polyester are most common. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of these fibers. 


Acrylic fabrics are relatively easy to clean. You will see acrylic fabric makeups both in pile and flat woven construction. Acrylic fibers used in performance fabrics are typically solution-dyed, which gives them excellent resistance to fading. Acrylic fabrics are not damaged by mildew or insects and have great resistance to water-based stains.


Olefin has inherent performance qualities, being naturally resistant to chemicals, water-based stains, and mildew. Olefin, always solution dyed, has great resistance to sunlight fading. However, its biggest drawback is its oleophilic properties (absorbs and holds oily soils and stains).


Polyester has several great performance characteristics in both floor coverings and upholstery. Polyester is durable and resists mildew, stretching and shrinkage. When solution dyed, polyester fabrics are effectively fade resistant. Polyester, however, is very oil loving and is known to pill (leaves tiny little balls on the fabric).


Nylon is one of the least common performance fabric fibers, but is durable and effectively resists mold and mildew. Nylon, when solution dyed, is also very resistant to fading. 

Other Fibers: Believe it or not, there are “performance fabrics” made with blends of synthetic and natural fibers. Even rayon has been used in some of these fabrics. Though these fabrics might offer a few of the advantages, they will never be as fade resistant as some of the 100% synthetic types. 

Versatility of Performance Fabrics

Along with the plethora of different fabrics and combinations of fibers that make up different performance fabrics, another common misconception is that these fabrics belong only to outdoor furniture. As the performance textile industry grows and evolves, so does the versatility of its products’ utilization. Today, we see brands such as Ultrasuede and Sunbrella displayed in both indoor and outdoor furnishings; and in Ultrasuede’s case, even footwear and apparel.

Solution Dyeing

Most fibers, yarns and fabrics are conventionally dyed, but for synthetic fibers there is another method available: Solution dyeing. As opposed to piece dyeing, solution is more eco-responsible, as it uses far less dye in the process which can contaminate rivers. Synthetic fibers are formed by forcing a syrup-like polymer through tiny holes in a showerhead-like device called a spinneret. When colored pigments are added before these polymers are forced through the spinneret, the resulting fibers will have color locked within the fiber itself. This is what gives these fabrics the ultimate fade resistance.

The Verdict

Performance fabrics come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, and it is important to do your due diligence before investing in one over another. These fabrics provide resistance to wear and tear that other fabrics cannot, making them a great choice for many furnishings. 

At Fiber-Seal, we understand that no fabric is perfect. Performance fabrics have their strengths, but none are bulletproof. For example, stains such as lipstick, crayon, ballpoint pen and oily foods do not just wipe up. They need to be removed with professional care. Additionally, though many performance fabric brands promise lifetime stain and moisture protection, many of them offer just a one-to-two-year warranty; some of which only cover some issues (pilling or fading) and not others (abrasion and stains). 

An extra layer of Fiber-Seal protection will keep these performance fabrics performing better for longer. The application includes a Fabric Care Kit to provide clients with safe cleaning agents and tools to help them tackle spots and spills. For spots and spills that cannot be corrected with the Fabric Care Kit, a trained fabric care expert will do their best to address those spots and spills on protected items free of charge! 

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