27 Dec 2020

The best material choice for an office chair 

When investing in a quality ergonomic office chair, one of the most important factors you should never neglect is the type of material your upholstery is made of. Then again, there are so many different types of materials to choose from, whether is it leather, faux leather, vinyl, mesh, fabric, plastic or even wood, which can be very perplexing especially for the first-time buyer. How do you choose which one is the best for you then?

Fret not! In order to answer this question, we would be providing you with 3 very simple guidelines for you to determine what your priorities are when choosing your chair material, followed by a detailed rundown on each and every material, weighing its pros and cons objectively for you to make an informed and objective decision at the end of the day. 

How do I go about choosing which material to use?


1) How Will It Feel on My Skin?

Naturally, different materials will feel differently on your skin, and if you want to choose an office chair that you can sit on for a lifetime, how comfortable this material is to you is of utmost importance.

Some materials, such as leather and faux leather, tend to feel stickier especially in hot and humid climates like Singapore’s. This can be quite annoying for most people due to the feeling of your skin sticking and peeling away from your seat every time you stand up or sit down.

In contrast, other materials like mesh or fabric can feel scratchy at times, which occurs due to wear and tear, resulting in the tiny fibers of the material breaking free and poking at your skin. However, this can be easily avoided when purchasing chairs with good quality mesh/fabric, which have a high durability and tend to still feel smooth even after years of usage. 

2) How Easy Will It Be to Maintain?  
The next most important factor to consider would be how easy it is to maintain the upholstery of your ergonomic office chair, so that you can continue using the chair for years to come.

For example, while most chairs made out of wood might appear elegant on first sight, but the amount of maintenance required to polish it and how easily its appearance can be ruined when in touch with liquids might be an extra time commitment that can be hard to handle.

On the contrary, a mesh chair might not look as impressive, but the procedures to clean it are quite simple, which involve just a damp cloth and a vacuum cleaner, at most.  

3) How Long Will It Last?   
Last but not least, you will also want to look for upholstery that can last, which saves you the trouble, time and money to reupholster your chair. Without finding the proper material for your chair that is sustainable enough for your own personal usage, your chair could end up in an unsightly state that will leave you regretting that you did not opt for something better when you had the chance to.

For example, materials such as leather tend to wear, crack or even peel after extended periods of time under more hot and humid climates, whereas low-quality mesh is also more likely to lose its elasticity as it stretches itself out over time. Vinyl, especially low-end vinyl is known to give off an extremely distinct odor after years of usage and has a very high chance to peel as well.

Hence, getting a chair that lasts you for a significant amount of time is one which will leave you a satisfied and happy customer.   

Need a chair that gives you that all-day comfort? Get the top rated ergonomic chair today!


Types of upholstery for office chairs

Moving on to the types of upholstery for office chairs, we have the 7 most common types which we are looking at today: Leather, Faux Leather, Vinyl, Mesh, Fabric, Plastic and Wood. 

Leather

The most traditional upholstery for ergonomic office chairs, leather is typically used for high-end chairs and is tied to an image of prestige when it comes to office furniture.  


Pros:


1) Hypoallergenic
Leather is considered to be a hypoallergenic material, which means that it produces fewer allergic reactions compared to other types of upholstery. This is because of its microbiological structure, which makes it much less likely to harbor pet dander, dust mites or other allergens. Likewise, it does not trap odors as easily, which is an added bonus.

2) Easy to clean
Leather is relatively easy to clean, which makes it rather low maintenance. Not only do you only have to clean it a few times a year, all you need to clean a leather chair is a damp cloth with distilled water, or an approved leather cleaner if you want to go the extra mile.  

3) Durability
In terms of durability, the upholstery of quality leather chairs can last you up to 25 years or even 40 years if you are extremely careful.  

Cons:

1) Expensive  
Leather is the most expensive on this list. Often seen on high-end chairs, some of the finest leather chairs can cost over $5,000. In some cases, the cost of the upholstery is so expensive that it usually costs as much, if not more, than the cost of the other parts of the chair itself. Leather is expensive due to the tedious process required to produce it, particularly tanning. On top of the level of difficulty when it comes to the tanning process, leading to high labor intensity, there is also a high amount of time spent when it comes to finding eligible, higher qualities hides which can be dyed. For example, vegetable tanning, which harnesses natural methods of coloring such as tree bark and tannin, takes approximately 20-30 months. Out of all colors of leather, white leather is the most expensive as it is the most difficult to produce, hence a white leather ergonomic chair would command a substantial price point.

2) Hot and Sticky
Leather is an excellent conductor of heat, which might be fairly problematic if your working space is naturally hot. Sometimes, it can trap so much heat that it feels scorching to the skin. On top of that, hot leather feels sticky to the touch, which could make you literally peel yourself as you get out of your chair.  

3) Tends to Peel
As leather is made of real animal skin, it has to be moisturized and maintained in order to prevent it from drying out. Leaving it to dry could result in the leather cracking and peeling, which can be rather unsightly.  

Faux Leather

Also known as “leatherette” or “vegan leather”, faux leather is a form of synthetic leather that is considered as a lower cost alternative to regular leather. Faux leather is made from a plastic base, and is then treated with wax, dye or polyurethane to create a similar color and texture to the real deal.  


Pros:


 1) Affordability
Compared to leather, faux leather is at a much more competitive pricing, and does not cost an arm and a leg to purchase an office chair made of it. An average faux leather office chair on Amazon, for example, can cost about $76 to just over $100, compared to leather chairs which are usually in the thousands range when it comes to pricing.

2) Durability
Just like leather, faux leather is relatively sturdy and lasts a long time. Sometimes, it can even withstand scratches or scrapes that may cause damages to genuine leather. On top of that, faux leather is also resistant to stains.

3) Easy to maintain
Similar to leather, faux leather can be simply wiped clean using a cloth or rag with warm water.  

Cons:

1) Tends to Peel (Cannot be prevented)
Faux leather has a laminated surface, which can crack and peel over time. Furthermore, as faux leather is synthetic, attempting to keep it moist through the usage of oils will not prevent or slow down this process. This is especially with hard faux leather, which tends to dry and crack much more easily.

2) Not resistant to puncture and tear
Unlike genuine leather, faux leather is not resistant to puncture and tear. This could be problematic in households with pets or children, where these chairs can be easily damaged.

3) Does not age well
When it comes to real leather, it ages quite well as it is not only able to retain its lustre, but also forms a patina, which is a gloss or sheen as a result of ageing. However, faux leather does not possess these qualities, which results in faux leather wearing out unattractively.  

Vinyl

Vinyl, also known to be a common substitute to leather, is made from two separate synthetic materials, namely polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and plasticizers (phthalic acid). This vinyl is then melted onto polyester fibers that form the skeleton of the upholstery, thus forming the vinyl upholstery. 


Pros:

1) Easy to clean
Vinyl upholstery can be cleaned easily as they are not as absorbent as other fabrics, resulting in most stains being able to be removed with just a damp cloth. Most cleaning agents which are not abrasive, and which will not cause the vinyl to dry up can be used as well if you wish to perform a more thorough cleaning.

2) Durability
Inherently flame-resistant, invulnerable to abrasions and damage by chemicals, vinyl upholstery boasts a long life. In fact, some upholstery made of other materials may also have vinyl protective finishes which not only mitigate fading from exposure to the sun, but also help to prevent staining.

3) Variety
Vinyl upholstery also often comes in a wide variety of colours and textures, which makes vinyl office chairs a very flexible choice when it comes to design. No matter the décor of your room, you would be able to find a color which complements it. 

Cons:

1) Repairs
Compared to other materials, vinyl tends to rip or tear with greater ease. When vinyl gets damaged, the repair process is not only extremely tedious, but also affects the appearance of the chair as it cannot be 100% restored to its original state. Just like leather, vinyl can also crack.

2) Feel of vinyl
Even though vinyl is meant to be a synthetic replacement to leather, the feel of vinyl is very different compared to it. On the contrary, sitting on vinyl gives off the impression of sitting on a hard piece of plastic, rather than a more supple leather. Because of this, seating comfort is compromised as the upholstery would not be able to conform to body contours.

3) Cheap appearance
Some brands of vinyl that are of lower quality actually cheapen the overall look of the office chair, which makes it appear much less elegant compared to real leather office chairs.

4) Hot and Sticky
Vinyl, which possesses non-absorbent attributes, does not allow the skin to ventilate easily. This, on top of vinyl’s ability to conduct heat, adds to a sweaty feeling that makes vinyl office chairs extremely uncomfortable to sit on during warm weather.  

Mesh

Mesh, which is made from polyester or nylon, is woven from fibres into a flexible, net-like fabric. It is known for its modern appearance and its thinner profile, making it a hit when it comes to office chairs in recent times.  


Pros:


1) Cost Effective
Compared to its other counterparts, mesh office chairs are much more affordable.

2) Ventilation
Due to the nature of mesh, which is that it has a net-like structure, it allows for better ventilation. Between the chair and the user, air can effectively circulate which provides a cooling effect especially when sitting on it for extended periods of time in warm climates. As a result, your neck and back feel way less sweaty and cramped as well.

3) Minimal Maintenance
Not only can mesh office chairs be easily cleaned with a damp cloth, the minimalistic design and overall construction of these chairs make it extremely easy to maintain as well.

4) Durability of High End Mesh
Weaved in with elastomeric materials that gives the mesh high elasticity, it provides you with optimal support, as well as durability, allowing you to use the same chair for many years to come. 
 

Cons:

1) Mesh might feel uncomfortable for some
The drawback of mesh is that due to its structure, mesh can also be abrasive and even damage clothes after prolonged use. As mesh is man-made, it might also be an irritant in very specific cases. However, this only occurs with low-end mesh which is not manufactured optimally.

2) Design
Also, due to the minimalistic design of such chairs, it might be difficult to find a design style which is aesthetically pleasing to you. In terms of design, the only thing that usually varies between mesh office chairs from the same brand is color, which leads to a lack of customizability when it comes to design choices.

3) Durability
Over time, mesh may start to lose its elasticity and begin to sag. This could potentially lead to a loss in support and durability, which could affect the ergonomics of your chair.   

Fabric

More commonly recognized as cloth, this material is produced by weaving together cotton, nylon, silk, wool or other threads. 


Pros:


1) High durability for high-end fabric
The highest tier of fabric chairs, which can last up to 10 years or more, have a double rub count of over a million. To put things into perspective, a double rub simulates someone sitting down and up. In other words, it takes 1 million sits or more on the chair during its lifetime for it to see any observable wear and tear, which is very impressive when it comes to durability.

2) Design Options
Compared to other upholstery, fabric is much more versatile when it comes to its design options. This is largely due to the ease of dying and designing fabric, which provides a very flexible canvas for chair designers.

3) Comfort
Compared to the likes of other materials such as leather or vinyl, which can feel sticky to the touch, fabric is generally a more comfortable material as it feels cool to the touch and does not have that sticky feel which many dread when sitting down.

4) Affordability
Unlike its counterparts such as leather, which can cost up to thousands of dollars, the average fabric office chair costs only a fraction of the cost and at most would cost you a couple hundred of dollars.  

Cons:

1) Design options could be expensive
The colors you are looking for in a fabric chair would also lead to a much higher cost- bright, multi-color designs or those that offer intricate patterns will cost much more than your average, basic colored chair. Basically, the more design that goes into a fabric, the higher the grade it is and the more it will cost you.

2) Maintenance
On the flip side, fabric office chairs can also be hard to clean. Being prone to stains, cleaning your fabric office chair would require much more work and resources to clean compared to other materials. Additionally, fabric office chairs also absorb odors easily, which might be problematic in the long run.

3) Breathability
Fabric does not allow air to flow as freely compared to other materials such as mesh, which compromises the breathability of a fabric office chair. Not only does this result in retaining odors, it also results in the chair being prone to absorbing moisture.  

Plastic

In the market, plastic chairs are often manufactured by a process known as “rotational molding”. A hollow mold, often made of metal, is first heated and filled with plastic polymer powder. After which, the mold is then rotated bi-axially until it cools down and the plastic chair takes its shape.  


Pros:


1) Lightweight
One of the main advantages of plastic office chairs is that it is lightweight, which enables it to be moved around easily without much hassle. Thus, cleaning your room becomes much easier and shifting your chair to redesign your workspace in the case of doing so is no longer difficult anymore.

2) Low maintenance
Compared to both leather and wood chairs, plastic furniture requires less maintenance as there is no need to varnish them or apply a coat of paint every once in a while to protect them.

3) Not susceptible to environmental conditions
Unlike leather which tends to peel in hot weather, plastic never cracks even when exposed to environmental changes like sunlight and the cold.
 

Cons:

1) Environmentally unfriendly
Plastic is not only non-biodegradable, it also liberates harmful fuels when processed. As a result, plastic office chairs, when disposed, are extremely dangerous in terms of affecting the ecosystem and air pollution.

2) Lacks in design options
As plastic office chairs are normally massively produced, manufacturers would normally only stick to a limited number of designs since there is no incentive to innovate new ones. As a result, this heavily limits your choices when it comes to finding the perfect chair that fits you, which is rather important when it comes to ergonomics.

3) Only lasts a few years
Compared to other materials, the lifespan of plastic office chairs is much less and thus has to be replaced only after a few years. 

Wood

Once a long-time popular choice in many professional settings, wood office chairs now face stiff competition compared to other upholstery due to the change in people’s tastes and preferences for more modern and sleek options.  


Pros:


1) Strength and Durability
Being a long-lasting material, wood is a material that can maintain its strength, even for decades! No matter the environment, wood is able to stand to the test of time and is the reason why wood furniture in general are normally passed on as heirlooms.

2) Versatile
Thanks to its grain and tones, which bring warmth and character to any room, a wooden office chair would always suit the style of your home. Whether your home is traditional, modern, or even minimalist, wood office chairs will always suit it.

3) Value For Money
Even though the upfront cost for wood office chairs are generally pricey, the longevity of the material more than compensates for that. Not only does hardwood deepen as it ages, giving it a rustic look that ages well, wood office chairs can usually last a lifetime and are a bang for your buck if they fit you well. 

Cons:

1) Susceptible to water
Wood, when exposed to water, can start to weaken, fall apart or even discolor! This causes your wood office chair to be quite unsightly.

2) Easily damaged by sharp objects
While wood is a sturdy material that can endure the test of time, it is very susceptible to scratches. A simple action such as accidentally dropping your fork on your chair while eating or tossing your keys onto your chair can easily leave marks behind.

3) Might not be the most comfortable
Unlike its counterparts, wood can be quite uncomfortable to sit on because of how hard it naturally is. If you are someone who likes to lay back and relax during periods of work, a wood office chair might not be the most suitable for you.  

Need a chair that gives you that all-day comfort? Get the top rated ergonomic chair today!

Conclusion

When it comes down to choosing which material you want for your office chair, you would have to decide which is a priority for you:

1) How does the material feel on my skin
2) How easy is it to maintain
3) How long does it last


Given that most of us would be WFH most of the time during the pandemic, taking the time to consider every tradeoff and make an informed decision about which chair to buy is paramount.

In Singapore, where it is summer all year round and the weather is usually sweltering hot, the material you choose should ideally address this.

Our chair, known as the ErgoTune, has a unique upholstery featuring a combination of both mesh and fabric built especially for Singapore’s weather. Also known as the Duraweave, it is a hybrid combination which aims to complement both materials while negating the downside of both materials. As identified earlier, mesh is a material that is extremely breathable but lacks in sheer durability, whereas fabric can be highly durable but has much room for improvement when it comes to its breathability.

A combination of both ensures that our upholstery is one which is not only breathable for Singapore’s climate, but is also extremely durable so that you can save the time required to re-upholster your chair or even replace your chair.

Need a chair that gives you that all-day comfort? Get the top rated ergonomic chair today!