Everything You Need To Know About Recliners 

 January 20, 2020

By  Margaret Gulley

It’s normal to come back from a hard day at work to put up your feet. While a sofa is great, a recliner gives you your own personal space to sit back and relax.

Recliners are known for becoming an owner’s best friend. They’re comfortable, easy to operate, come in a huge variety of different shapes and sizes, and are now available with a variety of features to choose from.


In this article, we’re going to take you through everything you need to know about recliners. We’ll start by giving you the basics as well as a brief history on recliners. We’ll also tell you how these relaxing devices work as well as run you through the various types available.

We will highlight the difference between a recliner and a lifting chair while sharing the many benefits of using a recliner in your home. Lastly, we’ll share some tips and tricks on how to clean and maintain your recliner properly so that it sticks with you through thick and thin.

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

What Is A Recliner Chair?

A recliner chair, also known as a lounger, is an armchair that reclines for additional comfort. The armchair reclines by lowering the backrest and lifting the footrest. A lounger can be reclined manually, electronically, or with the use of your bodyweight.

While older recliner chairs only have a limited recline mode, other, new models come packed with features. From adjustable headrests to independent footstools, and even additional back support, you can basically choose a recliner chair based on your individual needs.


Today, recliner chairs can be found in airports, homes, and offices. They can be used for relaxing, sleeping, and much more.

A Brief History

Recliner chairs first became available in 1859. The French invented a camp bed that could act as a bed, a chair, and a chaise longue.

While the first recliner chair is reported to have been owned by Napoleon III, new designs quickly came to market in both France and the United States.

In 1928, American cousins, Shoemaker and Knabush gained the first patent on wooden recliners which led them to create their owned furniture manufacturing company, La-Z-Boy.1

Later, in the late 50’s, Daniel F. Caldemeyer created a recliner using the science of kinetics - a product used by NASA.

Since then, the recliner chair has continued to grow in popularity and is available from a variety of manufacturers across the world that offer armchairs based on peoples’ individual needs.

How A Recliner Works

The way a recliner works completely depends on the type of chair you choose. Simple bodyweight recliners can be pushed back by simply leaning back into the chair itself.

On the other hand, some recliners come with a lever that can be pulled to offer you a choice of up to three positions, a slight, moderate or full recline.

With a lever-pulled recliner, the lever pulls a cord which is connected to the sliding frame of the chair. The frame tilts the back of the chair backward and elevates the footrest. Once the chair is locked into position, you can pull the lever to the next position.

Alternatively, there are now electronic recliners that come with a set of buttons or a remote control. The position of these chairs vary completely based on the settings that your recliner has and the ones that you choose when using it.

The Different Parts Of A Recliner Chair

There are thousands of different parts to a recliner and these depend heavily on the type of chair you choose. Here are some of the various parts you should know about in order to get to know how your armchair works:


The springs allow the recliner to go back to its upright position. These springs are stretched when the recliner is pushed back. When the recliner is put back to its upright position, the springs coil back up to keep the main frame of the armchair into its original state.



Electric recliners come with a motor that helps the armchair go from upright to folded down. These motors can be quiet, although some can be noisier than others depending on the model. The type of motor your armchair comes with will depend on the manufacturer.


If you choose a model that functions with the help of a lever, the lever simply needs to be pulled up to allow the chair to recline and come back up to its upright position. Some levers have three or more settings allowing you to choose how far down you want to recline.


Recliners with thicker cushioning offer more comfort as they stop the springs from poking through. Synthetic foam is a popular and sturdy form of cushioning that offers the most comfort. That said, comfort will also depend on the material of your overall recliner.

The Various Types Of Recliner Chairs

Aside from coming with a huge variety of parts, there are various different types of recliners. Here are some of the most common ones:

Regular Recliners

Regular recliners, also known as lever pulled recliners, come with a simple lever that you can pull to push your armchair into a reclined position. These are the most basic type of recliners and often come with three varieties of reclinable positions.

From a slight recline to a full lying position, lever pulled recliners do require some level of strength to push back and pull back up.

They’re often the cheapest type of recliner available and come in a variety of different materials so that you can match your armchair to your interior design.

Wall Hugger Recliners

Regular and other types of recliners require a bit of space. They normally take up space both in front and behind you and therefore cannot be placed next to a wall or in front of a separate footrest or coffee table.

Wall hugger recliners on the other hand are perfect for smaller households. These types of reclining armchairs move forward before they recline back meaning that they can be placed directly by a wall.


The gliding mechanism is what allows a wall hugger armchair to recline without ever getting closer to the wall behind it.

Love Seat Recliners

The whole point of a loveseat recliner is that it can fit more than one person on it. If you love cuddling up with your partner in the evenings but want the added benefit of a reclining position, a loveseat recliner is what you need.

Reclining loveseats are affordable and perfect for smaller apartments with more than one tenant. They can come with a center console as well as cup holders, and flip-top storage.

They can also come with a motor meaning that all you’ll ever need to do is press a button to reach maximum comfort. These types of recliners can come with power tilt headrests, power lumbar, and hand-held remote controls.

Loveseat recliners can come equipped with innerspring mattresses in order for you to host guests for a night or two in your living room without taking up too much space in your home.

Oversized Recliners

Oversized armchairs are not normally big enough to seat two fully grown adults, however, they are a comfortable and stylish alternative in larger homes where an armchair is required.

Because of their weight and size, they often operate mechanically or with a motor as they are quite heavy to push back and put upright. They make for a great centerpiece in a home and come in a variety of materials and colors.

The Difference Between A Recliner Chair And A Lift Chair

While similar, regular reclining armchairs and reclining lift chairs are slightly different. As the name suggests, lift or “riser” chairs can push the armchair up from its base in order for you to get up from your seat more easily.


For most able-bodied people, who have no trouble standing up on their own, a standard reclining chair is generally preferred. A reclining lift chair, however, can be a great choice for seniors or anyone who has some difficulty getting out of a chair. They’re also perfect for people with stiff or weak knees.

The Benefits Of Using A Recliner Chair

Whether you're pregnant, elderly, have an injury, or just want to relax, using a recliner can offer you a huge variety of benefits. Here are some of them:


Relieves Stress

Stress is a problem for many people across the world. Unfortunately, today, research has proven that stress can cause a variety of debilitating physical and mental conditions, some of which include increased blood pressure2, headaches3, irritable bowel syndrome4, among others.

Because stress triggers the body and mind in a negative way, it is important that you find some time on a daily basis to sit back and relax. Aside from your usual night’s sleep, you should put aside a minimum of one hour a day to relax, and what better way than on your own recliner?

A reclining armchair is a perfect way to get some rest without actually falling asleep. With the help of a recliner, you can alleviate stress, thus improving your overall mental and physical health.

Improves Circulation

Poor circulation can cause swollen joints as well as aches and pain across the body. For those of you who work on your feet for over 8 hours a day, your circulation is at risk.

By standing for long periods of time on a regular basis, the blood can settle in your lower legs thus causing swelling and even clogged veins. With that in mind, it is important that you put your feet up when you get home.

A recliner can help you get the circulation back in your legs which will help you avoid poor circulation, swelling, and potentially life-changing surgery.

Relieves Achy Joints

Another common joint problem, especially in older people, is arthritis. Arthritis can lead to uncomfortable and stiff joints, and the only way to subside the pain is to put your feet up.

As mentioned above, recliners can help with circulation, a critical factor in reducing pain caused by arthritis and other joint-related problems. Some health practitioners also recommend some people with arthritis sleep in a reclining chair in order to keep the muscles stretched.

Relieves Pregnancy Aches

Different women suffer from different symptoms when pregnant. While some are lucky and have a remarkably simple and seamless experience, others are faced with swollen and achy joints, back pain, heaviness, bloating, awkward rib pains, and various other problems.

Despite many choosing to lie down, those living in a multi-story home may find it difficult to get up and down the stairs during the later stages of pregnancy. With this in mind, a recliner could be exactly what you need if you’re pregnant.


A recliner will help line up your center of gravity by taking some of the weight off the upper part of your body. In fact, sleeping in a recliner could be exactly what you need in your third trimester to get a good night’s sleep.

Recliner Upholstery

Recliners come in all shapes and sizes, but a feature that makes one unique from the other is the material it is made of. Reclining armchairs come with all sorts of upholstery options. Here are some of the most common as well as their advantages and disadvantages:


Leather is a very common type of upholstery. Many choose it because it is extremely stylish and less likely to rip over time. Leather is also fire resistant and looks good in virtually any living room.

While the above is true, it is worth noting that leather is usually more expensive than other materials and is quite difficult to clean. Some people find leather sofas, armchairs, and recliners less comfortable than other materials, especially on hotter days.

Cotton Or Microfiber Materials

Cotton and microfiber recliners are particularly popular with consumers. This is because these materials are extremely easy to clean and therefore perfect for households with young children or pets.

Not only this, cotton and microfiber materials come in a huge variety of colors and textures meaning that you can choose the exact style you want for your home. The only potential downfall to choosing this style of recliner is that it can wrinkle.


Some find polyester recliners uncomfortable, but that’s a matter of opinion. Polyester is one of the most durable materials you could choose from. Not only this, these models normally come in at a fraction of the price and are some of the most stain resistant on the market.

Recliner Covers

Aside from choosing between a variety of materials, you can also buy a cover for your recliner that allows you to add a level of comfort to your armchair. These covers are great because they can be removed and put in the washing machine.

Not only this, you can choose from a multitude of colors and materials, allowing you to change the interior design in your home without buying new furniture.


Many recliner covers come with thin, simple, yet sturdy, unobtrusive materials. These range from jersey fabric to suede, elasticated materials, velvet, and many more. Lastly, you can buy models that are reversible, giving you two covers for the price of one.

Can You Sleep In A Recliner?

Unlike popular belief, sleeping in a recliner offers a huge variety of benefits for a variety of people with different conditions. Here are some reasons you may want to consider sleeping in a reclining armchair:

Acid Reflux

Chronic heartburn, also known as acid reflux, is a condition whereby the stomach acid goes into the esophagus and causes a burning pain in the throat and stomach.5

When a person is standing or sitting at a slight angle, the stomach acid is less likely to go up the esophagus, thus relieving heartburn. If you want to use a reclining armchair to ease your acid reflux, consult your doctor.

Heart Problems

People with heart problems can find it difficult to breathe when lying flat on a bed. While lying on your side can help, you can’t always control the position you sleep in.

If you find yourself gasping for breath during the night because of a heart condition, you may want to try sleeping in a recliner. While sleep issues relating to the heart are a serious problem and should be treated by a physician, research does show that you should avoid lying flat.6

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes pauses in breathing during your sleep. Sleep apnea is normally caused by excess body weight which leads to the airway closing up when lying down.

Lying in a recliner stops the tissue from pressing down on the breathing passage thus improving sleep quality.

How To Clean And Maintain Your Recliner

The way you clean your recliner will completely depend on the model and type you have as well as the material it is made of. Here are some basic tips based on different types of reclining armchairs:

Cleaning A Recliner Cover

If you have a slipcover on your recliner, cleaning it will be a piece of cake. The likelihood is your cover has stopped the actual recliner from getting dirty, or worse, stained. While you should check with the manufacturer, most recliner covers are washing machine friendly.


Cleaning A Microfiber, Cotton, Or Polyester Recliner

When it comes to microfiber and cotton recliners, cleaning them can be difficult. Before scrubbing away stains and dirt, you should vacuum your entire recliner.

Make sure you vacuum in all the nooks and crannies in order to not run more dirt into your armchair during the cleaning process. Then, use a soft bristle brush to bring up any dirt from the surface.

Once all the dirt is gone, use a non-chemical detergent that does not contain bleach or any other whitening agents and scrub your recliner with a damp sponge. Do not make your sponge too wet otherwise your recliner will not dry and will go moldy.

Cleaning A Leather Recliner

While many believe that cleaning a leather recliner requires a simple wet cloth, water can actually discolor your recliner. With this in mind, it is important to use lukewarm, distilled water sparingly across your leather recliner.

Make sure you pay extra attention to the arm and headrests as leather is known for absorbing body oils. Once you have cleaned your recliner, be sure to use a white towel to tap it dry. If your towel remains white, it means you have sufficiently cleaned your recliner.

Recliner Cleaning Solution

There are a variety of cleaning solutions manufacturers have created to clean a recliner, however, we recommend good old fashion water and homemade, non-chemical cleaning solutions.

Bleach and other detergents can stain your recliner, or worse, whiten it which will mean you’ll have to replace your armchair over time.

There are a number of natural ingredients you can use for an extra hand when cleaning your recliner, some of which include baking soda, white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and essential oils.

How To Prevent Your Recliner From Squeaking?

With time, recliners start to squeak. It is completely natural as the mechanisms inside the main frame start wearing and rubbing against each other. Not only this, various nuts and bolts start to get looser, meaning that you need to give your recliner some regular maintenance.

Luckily, tightening up nuts and bolts to stop your reclining armchair from squeaking is something that you can do yourself at home without the help of a professional. That said, you should get the help of a friend or family member as you will need to flip your armchair over.

Once your recliner is flipped, remove all detachable covering. You may find that some parts need to be removed with a screwdriver. If you’re not sure, ask the manufacturer.


Once you’ve got access to the main body of the frame, you then need to tighten all visible nuts and bolts using a wrench. Lastly, choose a spray lubricant that can be used for metal parts and apply it to all the nuts, bolts, springs, and hinges.

You can then put all the detachable covers back on and flip your chair to its upright position. Remember to check your chair for any leftover squeaks by moving it from its closed to reclined positions multiple times.

If the squeaking continues, flip your chair back over and repeat the process until the noise ceases.

Body Measurements

If you're going to buy a recliner online, you have to measure your body. Doing so saves time and prevents you from testing each chair and shopping at local stores to find the best one. First, get a measuring tape -- use the tape to measure the distance from your kneel to the heel. Then have a different measurement of your tailbone to your knees.

Next, you want to measure the width of your body by placing the tape across your left hip to your right hip. Lastly, you want to measure the arm from your elbow to your palm of the hand. Measuring your body helps ensure that the recliner will fit you and you won’t have to worry about it being too small or too large for your body. And, you’ll save money and buy the right chair without having to

How To Measure A Recliner Chair

  • Place the recliner in an upright position.
  • Measure the back of the recliner’s height. Allow the tap to go from the top edge to the bottom edge of the chair. Write the number down.
  • Next, you want to measure the width of the recliner. Measure it from the outer edge of one side to the other edge of the chair.
  • Measure across the front of the chair. When doing so, you want to measure the fullest part so that the measurement is accurate.
  • Measure the depth of the cushion. It starts from the front end of the cushion’s center to the back.
  • If your recliner is has a footrest attached to it, you’ll also have to measure the height while in a reclined position. The height from the top section to the bottom part of the footrest.
  • Measure the height, depth, and width of an ottoman if they come with the chair and write them according to your preferred units (inches, cm, etc.).

Room Measurements

The average dimensions of a medium-size living room are 12 x 18 ft (about 3.7 x 5.5m). While this size can vary based on the home and the architect designing it, your room must be able to fit the chair while giving you enough comfortable space to perform daily activity.


First, measure the dimensions of your room. Then, you want to measure the dimensions of the recliner chair you're planning to place in your room.  If the recliner chair is going to be in the center of the room, give it at least four feet of room from all sides so that it doesn't collide with the other furniture in your room.

Important Measurements To Remember

Most recliner chair sizes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The supplier of the chair must give your accurate dimensions of the chair. Here are the five main measurements that you need to know

  • Seat Depth
  • Seat Width
  • Backrest Height
  • Armchair Height
  • Seat Height

These measurements will give you the standard recliner dimensions for the chair you’re planning to purchase. Use this section to learn how to measure your chair so that it fits you perfectly.

Seat Depth

The depth of the recliner chair must be able to support your thigh when sitting on it. If its too short, then the seat will increase the amount of pressure on a user. But, a chair that’s too long will cause the user to slide forward and will destroy their posture.

When sitting on the chair, make sure that the back of your legs has at least 1" (25mm) to 2" (50mm) room so you can sit there comfortably. Compare the depth of the seat by measuring from the hips to your thighs and make sure its 1"(25mm) to the back of your knees.

Seat Height

The seat height is measured from the top section of the seat to the floor. Having a higher seat makes it easier for people to get in and out of the chair. However, your feet must remain flat and on the ground in order to maintain correct posture.

Measure the distance from the back of your knees to the floor in order to find the seat height of the chair.

Seat Width

Your seat width needs to keep you supported while giving you enough room for you to move around slightly when lounging on the chair. We suggest that you have at least 15-25mm (¾") of room on both sides of the user's hips. Your arms will sit on the armrests without feeling too constrained. Measure from the right hip to the left hip and compare this to the chair's seat width.

Backrest Height

Your recliner's backrest should support your entire back. When you're reclined in the chair, it should support your head as well. A short backrest can cause the user's head to hang over the backrest which can damage your posture.


You want to measure the lowest point of your back to the midsection of your head. The backrest should have the same height so that you can rest on the chair. 

Armrest Height

The armrest height is measured from the top section of the armrests to the top part of the seat. The higher the height, the more support your chair will have. But, you don't want the height to be too high as it can cause neck and shoulder pain.

Low height armrests are recommended for people using laptop computers and are easting because they aren't obtrusive. You'll want to measure the distance of your armrest height on a chair that you already find comfortable. Then, look for a recliner chair that has similar measurements to that chair.

Remember, these measurements are for people that want to purchase either a standard or a riser recliner chair. For users that are overweight, we suggest that you have your seat measurements taken by a physiotherapist or an occupational therapist.

Ideally, you should also try out a variety of chairs before buying your first one as small differences in the angle, and the slope of your seat's backrest or the style and position of the armrests can make a huge difference to your individual comfort.


As you can see above, a recliner can help you relieve stress and tension while also improving your overall health. Unfortunately, choosing the right one can be challenging.

If you’ve decided that a reclining armchair is what you need for your home and to improve your overall health, we suggest you head over to our buying guide.

In it, we’ve shared some of the best recliners on the market as well as highlighted some key features to look out for when making your final decision.

Margaret Gulley

Your Signature

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our newsletter now!