Homeowner’s Guide to Furniture Stuffing: Upholstery Foam, Batting, and Animal Hair

Upholstery projects have the ability to transform tired, worn-looking spaces, especially when care is given to the selection of colors, fabric patterns, and the style you’re trying to achieve. However, the most important part of any upholstered item is what you don’t see.

Hidden beneath the fabric exterior are the “guts” of your furniture, including:

  • Webbing
  • Batting
  • Adhesives
  • Springs
  • Stuffing

The type of stuffing material will depend on how the upholstered furniture is to be used and the comfort level you are seeking.


In cushions and other upholstery, batting is applied over the foam to prevent slippage and provide a smooth appearance. The thickness (loft) of batting can range from very thin up to 1/4″ thick. Batting is available in cotton, wool, polyester or a blend.

Cotton Batting

Cotton batting is made from 100% cotton that has been layered. There are two weights available:

  • 26.5 oz. (thin)
  • 42.3 oz. (thick)

The weight is determined by the type of project you are working on, but both weights are suitable for upholstery.

Cotton is a natural fiber that can poke through the fabric covering, making the furniture uncomfortable to sit on. If you are upholstering a headboard, this may not be a concern; but it may cause problems on seating for sofas and chairs. If so, a combination poly/cotton batting may be the answer. It’s durable and will give your
furniture a smooth look and feel.

Wool Batting

Wool batting is made from wool waste that has been woven together and is available as:

  • Needled Wool Batting: Strong and durable and most commonly used to cover springs in upholstery, though it can be used for stuffing as well.
  • Layered Wool Batting: Not recommended for upholstery, as it falls apart easily, which can affect the appearance of the furniture over time.

Animal Hair and Feathers

The use of animal hair is one of the oldest types of upholstery stuffing. The hair used is most often from the manes and tails of horses and is often found in antique furniture. When re-upholstering antiques, the existing horse hair can be combined with wool or cotton to add additional loft to the piece.
While not actually “hair”, feather and down is often used in upscale furniture to provide the ultimate in comfort.

Upholstery Foam

Upholstery foam is the most common stuffing material used today. It’s available in several densities which determine the grade and quality of the foam. The higher the number, the better the quality.

Foam Quality

A quality, high density foam will not break apart or cause clumps. Choosing the highest density foam you can afford will improve the comfort level, appearance, and life of upholstered furniture.

Foam Durability

The resiliency or durability of your upholstery foam is important as it will determine how much wear and tear your furniture can withstand. Using foam labeled high resilient, or HR, will make cushions more comfortable and reduce sagging over time.

Foam Fire Resistance

All upholstery foam sold in the United States must be fire resistant. If the furniture you are purchasing does not indicate that the foam used is fire resistant you may want to reconsider. A label with the letters FR on it will confirm that the proper foam has been used.

Foam Firmness

The level of firmness of upholstered furniture is determined by the Indentation Force Deflection (ILD) number of the upholstery foam. This scale ranges between 6 and 45 with the lowest number representing the softest foam and the highest the firmest foam. How soft or firm you would like your upholstered piece to be is a personal decision, and knowing the ILD number of the foam you purchase allows you to determining it.

Pillow Forms

While not durable enough for padding the frames of furniture, pillow forms are used to stuff or restuff pillows that comprise part of many upholstery projects. Pillow forms are available in polyester, down, and feather/down fillings, with natural fillings generally considered best for serious upholstery projects.

Choosing Upholstery Stuffing

The particular upholstery project you are working on will often determine the type of stuffing material used. A lesser quality cushion foam or batting may be perfect for stuffing small accent pillows, headboards, footstools and furniture pieces that do not receive heavy use. Conversely, mattresses, seating, and furniture that are used frequently will benefit more from high quality stuffing to provide the ultimate in comfort and prolong the life of the furniture.

While quality stuffing materials cost more initially, they can save in the long run by making furniture last longer.

Indra Desigri thinks that even the most challenging home improvement projects can be made easy with the right materials, good information and a well-planned approach. For more from Indra, visit OnlineFabricStore.net

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