02 Mar 2016

In the interior fabric industry, there are typically two types of tests used to determine how durable a piece of fabric is. The Martindale and Wyzenbeek abrasion, or rub, tests tell consumers how much wear they can expect out of the fabric they choose for an upholstery job. Here’s how the tests work.

The Martindale test is the test of choice in Europe and Asia, but it’s also gaining recognition here as a very reliable test. It was developed specifically to test woven and knit fabrics. It’s seen as an accurate representation of “real life” use of fabric. The test works by mounting a piece of fabric flat and rubbing it in a figure-eight motion with a piece of worsted wool. The number of cycles the fabric can withstand without showing noticeable change is counted.

The Wyzenbeek test is the primary test used in the United States. Originally used for car tires, it was modified for all types of materials, including upholstery fabric and leather. The fabric is stretched tight on a frame and rubbed in two distinct directions with a piece of cotton duck fabric. The number of cycles before two yarns break or noticeable wear appears is measured.

What does this mean for the fabric you choose for your upholstery? Depending on the method used, you can use the test number to know how durable the fabric is. For the Martindale test, 20,000 cycles are considered sufficient for general commercial use. Anything 40,000 cycles and up is good for heavy-duty commercial use. The Wyzenbeek test numbers are a little lower; 15,000 cycles are appropriate for general commercial use, and 30,000 cycles denote fabric suitable for heavy-duty commercial use.

Depending on where in your home the fabric will be used, you can decide if you need something more heavy-duty. Fabric with higher durability is good for dining rooms and family room furniture. You can use a lower-durability fabric in areas that get lighter usage like on decorative accent pieces in a formal living room.

There are other things to consider when it comes to fabric durability like fiber content, weaves, and finishes. Other tests besides abrasion tests are used as well, like tensile strength and seam slippage. The team at Burchell Upholstery can help you choose the fabric that best suits the application you need, and they’ll ensure that you get a long life out of your new upholstery.