Performance fabrics have exploded in popularity lately, becoming the go-to choice for everyone wanting a sofa that can withstand messy kids, muddy pets, and the occasional wine spill. Just a few years ago, we never would have guessed how readily available—and advanced—performance fabrics would become. But with choice comes confusion, and it’s not always easy to know which kind you should go with.
While there are several great options when it comes to performance fabrics, all tackle the problem with a different approach (visit our blog post here to read more). In this piece, we’re going to do a deep dive here on one of our favorites: Inside Out.
Inside Out fabrics are more than your typical indoor/outdoor fabrics—they give you the benefits of outdoor fabrics (they’re stain, moisture, and fade resistant), but feel and look like indoor fabrics (super soft and cozy). But that’s not the entire reason we love them so much.
Inside Out fabrics:
- Are made in America
- Exceed an abrasion rating of 50,000 double-rubs (this means they’re heavy-duty)
- Resist fading for up to 1200 hours (making them a good option for sunny spots)
- Resist pilling
- Are environmentally friendly
- Can be cleaned with bleach
Here’s what’s so different: Inside Out uses fibers that are stain and moisture resistant instead of relying on a treatment. These fibers are a blend of Olefin and polyester, rather than an acrylic yarn (which other indoor/outdoor fabrics are made with). The result: a softer feel and wider variety of textures. All of this makes them a great option for upholstered indoor pieces that need to be comfortable and stylish, as well as stain resistant.
Here is a little more about Inside Out performance fabrics:
Performance Without the Chemicals
Inside Out performance fabrics are Greenguard Gold Certified, offering the highest level of indoor air quality assurance (find out more about that here). By using a plant-based product to repel liquids, Inside Out avoids the use of PFCs (perfluorinated compounds). In addition, their fabrics are free of potentially harmful chemicals and flame retardants such as formaldehyde, heavy metals, phenols and phthalates.
Stain & Liquid Resistant
So how do they work? Inside Out performance fabrics resist typical household stains by permanently preventing them from penetrating the fabric. They achieve this through two steps. First, during the dying process, they embed the individual dye molecules into the fiber itself, as opposed to simply coloring the surface of the fiber. Not only does this work to prevent stains from entering the fiber, but it also protects the fiber from sun damage. Second, they put the fabric into an all-natural chemical bath that prevents liquids from penetrating or damaging the fabrics. Water or any other spilled liquid beads up (or passes though) without soaking into the fibers, helping to prevent stains from becoming permanent and making the fabric easier to clean. The fabric is still breathable and the treatment is not noticeable, other than when you notice your red wine beading right up on the surface.
The fabrics are also quick drying and mildew resistant, making them great for using on outdoor furniture. Just note that while Indoor Out fabrics resist liquid, they aren’t waterproof. So although it dries quickly, the manufacturer recommends bringing in any outdoor cushions during heavy rainstorms.
To keep Inside Out fabric looking its best, the manufacturer recommends regular vacuuming with a soft bristled brush or standard vacuum hose, as well as an annual steam cleaning.
If you do happen to get a stain, simply blot with soap and water (do not scrub, this can push the stain deeper into the fabric and make removing it more difficult). For more stubborn stains, such as red wine, a bleach solution can be used without discoloring or harming the fabric. Moderation is the key, as a lot of soap or bleach is not necessary. If you use too much soap or fail to thoroughly rinse, you may end up with a water ring on the fabric. (Soap residue can also act as a dirt “magnet,” so make sure there is none left). Then just allow the fabric to air dry. Whatever you do, do not use a hair dryer, as the heat could damage the fabric. It’s not recommended to machine wash, iron, or dry clean Inside Out fabrics.
Watch this video to learn more about cleaning Inside Out fabrics:
Inside Out vs. Crypton vs. Sunbrella
You have a lot of choices when it comes to performance fabrics and there are pros and cons to each type. Here are two two other popular choices, Crypton and Sunbrella, stack up to Inside Out:
- Fabrics are treated with a chemical (one that’s Greenguard Gold Certified).
- Crypton repels stains and cleans easily, but most cannot be bleached.
- Since Crypton is a treatment, it can be applied to any type of fabric. As a result, there is a wider variety of materials available and durability can vary widely. Inside Out is only made with one type of fiber. They all have similar heavy-duty durability ratings, but this does mean you have fewer material options.
- Some Crypton fabrics are machine washable.
- Crypton fabrics are generally durable but cannot be used outdoors. (Crypton has developed a separate specific line of fabrics for outdoor use.) Inside Out can be used both indoors and out.
- Like Inside Out, Sunbrella fabrics are made with an inherently stain-resistant fiber: acrylic. Inside Out is made with a blend of Olefin and polyester, which is typically softer than acrylic fabrics.
- Both Sunbrella and Inside out are easily cleanable (even with bleach).
- Sunbrella fabrics handle the rain well while Inside Out recommends taking your pillows inside if rain is heavy.
- Sunbrella fabrics are machine washable (air-dry only), so they are good for slipcovers.
- After cleaning, you have to re-apply a waterproofing product to Sunbrella fabrics in order for them to repel water again. No re-treatment is necessary to maintain Inside Out’s water resistance after cleaning.
- Sunbrella’s acrylic fibers could be prone to developing a very light “fuzz” on the surface.
- Sunbrella fabrics are generally less durable than Inside Out.
- Sunbrella fabrics are also Greenguard Gold Certified.
- Sunbrella is more like an outdoor fabric that can be used inside, while Inside Out is an indoor fabric that can be used outside.
We think that Inside Out, Crypton, and Sunbrella are all great performance fabric options (as demonstrated by the fact we offer all three among our fabric options). Here are some guidelines to help you choose:
- You are interested in a performance fabric, but have no special requirements: Go with whatever fabric you like best
- You want a slipcovered piece: Choose Sunbrella or a washable Crypton option, as those can go in the washing machine
- You want to put the furniture in a sunny indoor room: Choose Inside Out or Sunbrella (but we think Inside Out has the edge because the fabrics are softer)
- You want outdoor furniture that is covered: Go with Inside Out or Sunbrella
- You want outdoor furniture that is uncovered: Go with Sunbrella
- You want a performance fabric made of cotton or linen: Find a Crypton fabric made of those fibers
Because Inside Out fabrics are so easy to clean while also looking and feeling so good, we think they’re ideal for many uses. But don’t take our word for it. You can order up to 10 free swatches from our fabric collection, so you can see in person. Visit our fabric page and explore our Inside Out options for yourself.