What makes a good sling fabric? There are four key components: Weave, Color, Feel, and Durability.
Weave – Sling material in general works best when it has a tight weave. What makes sling fabric unique among woven fabric is that it is designed to hold weight. The weave’s weft threads need to be equal to or greater than the warp; more support is required side-to-side than front to back.
Color – Needs to be correlated with how much sun you receive. Sling materials that are bright or translucent, silver or gold, discolor sooner than beige, white, or even black. The sun strikes the fabric, and over time the individual yarn is compromised. When individual threads burn or lose their coating, the customer perceives this as “the color greying out over time”. Neutral colors keep furniture usable longer. If you do want colors that “pop”, Serge Ferrari offers more vibrant product lines that will last.
Feel – In sling fabric, the vinyl or PVC yarns are what hold the weight. An all-PVC or vinyl sling can feel sticky or plasticy to some people. There is the option for a softer touch. In between the vinyl yarns, acrylic yarns are woven. Acrylic yarns can be much smaller and be braided in a way to create a softer feel. Acrylic is not designed to hold your weight. A sling fabric with a ratio of less than 60% vinyl sacrifices long term durability and leads to premature tearing at high pressure points. A tightly woven acrylic/vinyl blend of 50/50 can be a reasonable compromise. Sunbrella is a reliable company offering this sort of fabric.
Durability – Vinyl yarns are actually coated polyester. The vinyl coat is added to braided polyester fibers. If you look closely, you can see which yarns held up by checking whether the polyester underneath is showing. Sometimes an individual yarn burns in the sun. As time goes by, the burn fades, but so does the color. If others near it did not burn, the color from the vinyl coat will still be visible but will appear faded. Once damaged, vinyl can easily be removed by sitting on or cleaning the chair. That is one reason stiff brushes are not recommended for cleaning outdoor fabrics.
Another material used in place of acrylic to make a plastic material feel softer is Olefin. Olefin is a terrible option for outdoor furniture. Olefin blends tend to shred in UV light. The vinyl will be intact and still functioning. However, because of the extensive sun damage, many customers have had to replace their slings before they expected to. Though Olefin is cheaper than acrylic, we do not use or offer sling fabrics with Olefin due to the issues just described.