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What’s the Best Office Chair? How to Choose the Right Material for Your Office Chairs?
Jul 02, 2021
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An ergonomic office chair is a vital aspect of any office setup. Office chairs are designed to offer you sufficient cushioning and back support, ensuring you maintain the correct posture to alleviate the effects of poor posture, including constant back pains, muscle strain, carpal tunnel, and leg problems, among others. The best office chair also maximizes an individual's efficiency while increasing productivity.

When it comes to picking an ideal office chair, there are lots of factors to consider, including type, adjustability, level of support, style, and material, among other factors. You'll obviously want an office chair that is durable, ergonomic, comfortable, attractive, and easy to clean.

An essential aspect of picking the right office chair is selecting one with the right material for you. Office chairs are available in a wide range of materials, including leather, mesh, faux leather, vinyl, wood, plastic, and fabric. But how do you choose the right material for your office chair? The right office chair material depends on your office climate and your personal preferences. 

You'll definitely want a material that offers excellent support, feels comfortable on your skin, is durable, and easy to clean. Read on to learn more on how you can choose the right material for your office chair and find some recommended products if you're spoilt for choice. 

Common Materials on Office Chairs 

To pick a suitable material for your office chair, you need to have at least some rough idea of the different types of materials commonly used to construct office chairs. Below is an overview of the standard office chair materials as well as their benefits and downsides. 

Leather 

Timeless, elegant, and prestigious are some of the words frequently associated with leather. Leather office chairs have long been associated with an image of professionalism, power, prestige, and authority. They exude a classy, old-school charm and are a crowd favorite in high-end offices. In addition to providing impressive comfort attributed to their characteristic thick cushioning, leather office chairs are not primarily known to cause skin reactions. Your skin is less likely to be irritated by a leather office chair when compared to fabric or mesh coverings. 

Besides, leather office chairs are easy to clean and are durable when adequately taken care of and maintained. However, despite their many benefits, leather office chairs are pretty expensive and require a high level of care and maintenance to prevent cracking and preserve their natural beauty. Alternatively, you can also consider faux leather office chairs to save on cost. However, note that they are less durable and don't breathe as well. 

Pros

  • Status symbol 
  • Easy to clean 
  • Suitable for sensitive skin 
  • High comfort level 

Cons 

  • Expensive 
  • Requires a significant level of care and maintenance 
  • Prone to cracking, starches, and bleaching out 
  • Bulky 

Mesh 

Mesh material has become quite popular on office chairs. Mesh is a breathable material, available in a broad range of colors, from bright and bold to muted colors. Mesh is notably pretty challenging to clean, especially if weaved to a cushion; it is not as easy to access and clean the interior or hit every nook and cranny. 

Mesh office chairs are an excellent choice for offices lacking air conditioning or those that tend to get exceedingly warm, especially on hot summer days. They are an excellent choice as they allow airflow to reach the body keeping users cool. However, this feature is impaired in mesh chairs with back cushioning. The cushion may be comfortable, but it also acts as insulation, preventing airflow. 

Additionally, while they are breathable, mesh office chairs are not ideal for employees with sensitive skin. Mesh is constructed from plastic fibers, which can poke the skin, causing inflammation. Mesh also comes in different qualities, which determines its durability and functionality. Some mesh may sag over time, becoming less comfortable. 

Pros 

  • Impressive breathability 
  • Cheaper compared to other options 
  • Lightweight 
  • Available in a wide range of colors and designs 

Cons 

  • Limited comfort-the upholstery isn't cushioned. 
  • It doesn't distribute an individual's weight equally when seated 
  • Mesh is less durable compared to other options such as fabric or leather 
  • Not suitable for sensitive skin
  • Challenging to clean 

Fabric 

Fabric is another common material used on office chairs. It's preferred for its softness and comes in a wide variety of colors and stitching patterns. Fabric on office chairs is gotten from several different sources, including hemp, cotton, and spandex, each conferring varied qualities. Fabric offers you endless possibilities when it comes to design. You can have it customized to any pattern, color, or design of your preference. Besides, the fabric is breathable, thus comfortable and ideal for different weather conditions. 

Like mesh, the fabric can be challenging to clean. The material easily stains from spills; you may be forced to purchase a stain remover or commit to never eating or drinking around your office setup. Also, some fabric may irritate the skin, thus is not ideal for individuals with sensitive skins. 

Pros 

  • Soft and gentle material 
  • Cost-effective 
  • Pretty durable 
  • Somewhat breathable depending on the cushioning 
  • Attractive and comes in different colors, patterns, and print designs 

Cons 

  • Tough to clean and stains easily 
  • Some fabric may poke/ irritate the skin 

Vinyl 

Vinyl comes in a variety of texture and softness levels. It's mainly used to cover the seat and armrests, but never the backrest. It appears and feels more like a plastic or rubber material, and it's often confused with faux leather. Vinyl office chairs come in a wide range of colors and are pretty easy to clean. High-end vinyl office chairs appear luxurious, just like leather office chairs but at a fraction of the cost. 

The primary issue with vinyl office chairs is that they are less durable and are not good with temperature regulation. They are not really breathable and don't hold heat, as is the case with office leather chairs. 

Pros 

  • Available in a large variety of softness levels, textures, and colors to match your taste and office décor 
  • Luxurious appearance 
  • Easy to clean
  • Less costly compared to leather 

Cons

  • Not ideally durable-prone to cracks 
  • Poor temperature control 

Wood 

Wooden office chairs carry a vintage vibe and bring a traditional antique charm to your office space. Considering wood is naturally hard, you may want to use a seat cushion to enhance comfort. When properly shaped to match your back and bottom, wooden office chairs offer excellent comfort levels. They are pretty durable and easy to clean and maintain. 

However, wooden office chairs have poor temperature control; you may feel sweaty and sticky in the summer months. Notably, you need to find one properly contoured to match your back to ensure comfort after long hours of sitting.

Pros 

  • Curates a vintage vibe
  • Durable 
  • Easy to clean 
  • Offer good back support 

Cons 

  • Not comfortable to sit on for prolonged periods 
  • Not really breathable; it doesn't absorb sweat as well 
  • Great for sensitive skins

Which Material Do I Choose? 

Your precise needs and office environment should guide your choice of office chair material. There's no perfect material, and you'll have to compromise on one quality for another. For instance, mesh office chairs offer great breathability but are not easy to clean and may cause sensitivity on your skin. On the flip side, leather office chairs provide outstanding comfort levels and are easy to clean but require a significant level of care and maintenance. 

To pick an ideal material, focus on your exact needs in an office chair. Are you looking for an easy-to-clean material but willing to compromise on comfort? Or are you so invested in high comfort levels that the other qualities don’t really matter? Or do you want to make a statement using your office chair? Is durability your primary concern, or is your skin sensitive, and you’re prioritizing materials that cause little to no irritation? These questions are crucial and enable you to choose an ideal office chair material that sufficiently covers your needs. 

Below are some aspects to consider when choosing an office chair based on the material. 

Type of Support 

What type of support are you looking for in an office chair? The support level is often dependent on the type of foam or fluff used underneath the material. Mesh, vinyl, fabric, leather, and faux leather are used to cover the cushion on office chairs. To put this into context, these materials do little to determine the type of support. However, in most mesh office chairs, back support is provided by mesh stretched around metal or plastic frames. Mesh backrests are often flexible and contour to your back, providing excellent support. Note that this is only possible with high-quality mesh, as poor quality mesh usually sags with time. 

Wooden or plastic office chairs curved or molded to match your back and bottom curves offer incredible support and don't lose shape with time, like low-quality mesh. As such, they ensure a properly aligned spine alleviating the effects of poor posture. 

In summary, if you're looking for top-notch support without paying attention to any other qualities, wooden and high-quality mesh office chairs are great options. 

Ease of Cleaning 

Leather, wooden and plastic office chairs are the easiest to clean. You can easily wipe them down with a wet cloth to remove dust, markings, or spills. Vinyl and faux leather are also easy to clean but be careful not to use a rough cloth or scrub the materials as they can easily crack or wear down with time. 

While you can seamlessly wipe away spills on leather, vinyl, and faux leather office chairs, attention should be paid to the miniature groves on the chair as they tend to collect dust and liquid spills that can be quite challenging to clean; let alone easily noticed.

Fabric and mesh can be tough to clean, especially when embedded onto a cushion. Avoid these chairs if you're not ready to spend some extra hours cleaning and the length of time it takes them to dry. 

Durability 

Durability is an important consideration factor of any product, including office chairs. You wouldn't want to make the trip to your office furniture supplier to get a new office chair each year as this is inconvenient and pretty costly in the long run. Wooden and plastic office chairs are the most durable, followed closely by leather chairs (if well maintained). If worn out, leather office chairs can be refurbished (treated and oiled) to regain their form. This quality makes it an appealing option in regards to durability. 

Faux leather and vinyl tend to crack easily, making them the least durable. The durability of mesh and fabric office chairs is dependent on the quality and source of the material. This is also true for vinyl and faux leather office chairs. High-quality materials would undoubtedly last longer, providing good value for your money. 

Skin Sensitivity 

Skin sensitivity is another factor you need to be mindful of when choosing an office chair material. If your skin is susceptible to reaction with chemicals or other compounds, consider leather, vinyl, faux leather, and plastic office chairs. Avoid mesh and fabric office chairs if you have sensitive skin, as the manufacturers often spray them with chemical compounds that may irritate your skin. 

To avoid skin issues, you may want to test each chair individually before purchase or consult your dermatologist on what materials to avoid. 

Breathability 

Breathable materials such as mesh and fabric allow you to stay dry and comfortable in the course of your workday. You'll not have sweaty and sticky skin while seated on a fabric or mesh office chair. Leather chairs also have great temperature control and absorb sweat keeping you dry and fresh. They are warm on cold days and cold on hot days, meaning you'll stay comfortable regardless of the weather conditions.

Wood, plastic, faux leather, and vinyl office chairs are less breathable. They are therefore not ideal on hot summer days, especially if your office lacks efficient air conditioning. You may have to take constant breaks to cool your body to avoid sweaty, sticky skin. 

Final Words 

An office chair is a vital part of your office setup that ensures you remain comfortable and productive behind your desk. As such, you have to make the right choice when it comes to picking an office chair. While there are numerous factors to consider when choosing an office chair, the type of material is a crucial aspect of the selection process. There's no perfect material; your precise needs and office environment should guide your choice. 

After reading this piece, you probably already have a clue on what material serves as the right office chair for you. If you’re considering a mesh chair, we highly recommend the Soutien Ergonomic Office Chair- an ergonomic mesh office chair whose design is centered towards ultimate comfort with a 3D lumbar support system, 135° lounge tilt, and 4D adjustable armrests. Alternatively, if you've settled on a leather office chair, the Adjustable Ergonomic Leather Office Chair OC8N/OC8B provides the ultimate comfort level as you go about your busy workday.