[Office Chair Guide] Should You Choose Fabric or Leather Upholstery Material?

Mesh chair

Mesh chairs may be a popular option now that the temperatures are higher than usual. But as cool and airy as the mesh is, there are still some people who do not like how it feels. They find it too firm or hard. And there are a lot of cheap mesh chairs that have poor quality. So one way to get a mesh that feels great is by buying more expensive ones.   

That’s why fabric and leather are still a considerable choice for many. But are you torn between what to get? Let’s compare these two materials and we’ll be answering some questions like which is more comfortable. Which material is better for heavy people? Which is easy to clean and a lot more.

Leather is a superior material… but there is  a big but here

Leather is a famous choice in gaming chairs and executive chairs. It can give off a regal and more expensive look. But before we head on and dabble on leather vs fabric, we have to talk about this first.

There is real leather and there is synthetic leather. The difference between the two is a lot.

Real leather can last a long, long time. The genuine one is very durable and will not peel off easily. But this entails a very hefty price tag. PU leather and other synthetic ones are very affordable. But it has a lot of cons vs the real deal.

The fake ones have a strong plastic smell. That’s also one of the telltale signs that can help you distinguish a real one from a synthetic one. The smell of real leather is very distinct. it has this addicting and satisfying oaky smell. Artificial leather also can be a cause of allergies since it has chemicals. The real one is hypoallergenic.


Synthetic leather will also feel hotter and more sticky compared to genuine leather.

So if longevity is the name of the game, real leather it is.  It can last for 10 years even with little maintenance. 

With this in mind, let’s see which is a better upholstery for your office chair, fabric or leather.

Fabric is still a more breathable material 

Though real leather is airier since it’s true skin vs synthetic leather, it can still make you sweat once the temperature rises. 

Especially if you’re sitting on a chair for the whole day during the summer, you will feel sweaty and crampy. Even if real leather is hypoallergenic, the accumulation of all the sweat can cause skin irritation. Ano oh, don’t forget the smell, it can also harbor an unpleasant reek of a smell since there is a lesser exchange of air between the material and your skin.


The fabric then is a better choice if you are a sweaty user. Heavy people will also find they sweat less in fabric vs leather.  Well, unless you have the AC full on the whole day, then there will be no issue. 

But fabric is harder to clean 

And here is where you also have to weigh the disadvantages. Even if fabric is a more breathable material, it can be tricky to clean once it gets wet. Say you accidentally spill your cold glass of beer or soda on the seat of cold beer or soda on the seat, the fabric will easily absorb all the liquid. Unless the seat has a covering that makes it water-resistant, then you can easily wipe it off.

Once the seat gets all soaked up, it can be hard to clean. And if you wash the entire cushion in water, then it will be harder to dry off. That’s why you have to clean the spill so that it will less likely to leave a stain.  

And spot cleaning is more advisable for fabric. But the type of cleaner would also depend on what type of fabric it is.

Leather, whether it’s fake or real, is easier to clean. The liquid will just settle on top of the material, it will not be absorbed.  

So all you have to do is wipe it off with a clean cloth. It’s also less likely to leave a stain or residue. So even if it can harbor a sweaty smell, it will be easier to clean. This is where you have to make that ultimate decision.

Leather is a cat’s favorite thing to scratch

If you have pets with claws aka cats, a leather chair is not a great idea. No matter how many scratch posts you have placed near the chair, accidents can happen. And we don’t really know why cats love to dig ’em claws into the leather, be it real or fake. Maybe it’s because of the sensation they feel between the material and their claws.  Or maybe they think it’s prey because of the skin. But then again, fake leather has a plastic smell, not an earthly one. 

Though cats can also be scratching a fabric chair, it is less likely to be obvious. Whereas with a leather chair, even a small poke of the claw is very evident already. Overall, cats dig leather more than any type of upholstery. Sit these two chairs beside one another you can witness how cats will go gaga over the leather one.

You have more variety with fabric upholstery

Leather can make your office chair look spicy and regal. Though it may come in a handful of colors other than black, you are pretty limited. Printed leather material is not a popular thing and is not even used for chairs. So you are pretty much confined to a plain color.   But for fabric, you have a smorgasbord of colors and woven patterns.  Yes, fabric office chairs are not popular. But the weaves or patterns of the fabrics can be distinct in some models. And this can be similar to a subtly printed fabric. 

And there are more types of fabric to choose from. The most popular ones used in chair upholstery are cotton, velvet, polyester, and jacquard among others. And each type of fabric may offer a different type of comfort. One can be more breathable than the other. A specific type of fabric may feel softer on the skin and can wick sweat better.

So you can have more options to customize your comfort when it comes to fabric.

Though not a lot is nitty gritty about what type of fabric goes in their chairs, it can be a great option to have for those who are very keen on this department.

Though you can also choose from 3 types of real leather, full, top grain, or genuine. They also have different characteristics and comfort levels. But yeah, real leather can be very expensive. That’s why people opt for the fake one should they fancy leather in their chairs.  

Which is the most durable then?

Well, bless you can get your hands on real leather, we’d say you’re better off with fabric if this is your priority.  Fake leather, PU or bonded ones, can easily peel and chip off. That’s the price you have to pay for a more affordable leather or pleather as they call it.

Which is the most comfortable?

For hot weather, no doubt you have to go for the fabric ones.  Leather, whether it’s real or fake, can trap heat more, and this can be worse with synthetic ones. Fabric is a cooler option for long hours of work or play, especially if you are heavier and sweat easily. 

Which is the more aesthetic?

Real leather has this distinct appeal that no other fabric may be able to give off. If you like regalness, then prepare to save more to get a real leather chair. We don’t like to settle for synthetic ones since most can look very tacky and cheap. You’d be better off with fabric if that is the case. 

Fabric, even some of the affordable ones will not outright make a chair look cheap. So you might be able to hide the real price. Thus even if you’re on a budget, you can still get a posh-looking chair with fabric. You will not be able to achieve that with faux leather, people will be able to tell the difference. And you will feel and smell it too.  

But say you can afford real leather,  there are also debates on how ethical it is to use animal skin for human commodities. So some may find themselves being more conscious in this regard.  

Which is the more popular option?

Well, we all know that mesh has been the crowd pick for some years already. And fabric and faux leather, even with the cons, comes in next. Though real leather is highly coveted, it is elusive for most.  

The choice between fabric and synthetic/ real leather often boils down to how hot the seat can get and how easy it is to clean. 

Fabric is breathable but even small and light soil can leave a mark especially if you will not be able to do spot treatment right away

Leather may be hotter but it is undoubtedly easier to clean. These will be your determining factors.

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