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Durable Fabrics Easy How To: 3 Main Factors to Consider When Looking for a Fabric

In this article:

The Martindale Rub Test and Durable Fabrics

This is the scale which we, and other industry experts, use to gauge how resistant to wear and tear durable fabrics are. If durability is a key factor in your fabric hunt, take a look at the rub count on each of your selections.

What is the Martindale Rub Test?

It is an internationally recognised abrasion test which is used as a measurement of fabric durability.

How does the Martindale Rub Test work?

A Martindale machine is used to hold a piece of fabric taut. Then small oscillating discs apply either a woolen or a wire mesh with pressure against the fabric. The rub test result is the number of times the discs oscillate before the fabric begins to show signs of wear and/or tear.

This numerical value is used to scale the fabric’s abrasion resistance in order to provide an indication of the fabric’s durability. The higher the number the more durable the fabric. Those which score higher in the Martindale rub test are the more durable fabrics. Number ranges are used to recommend types of usage based on the results. For example a low scoring fabric would be recommended for decorative use only and a high scoring fabric would be recommended as suitable for commercial use.

What do the Martindale Rub Test numbers mean?

10,000 or less: Decorative use only

A fabric with this score would be recommended for decorative use only. It is not suitable for domestic upholstery (blinds, curtains etc.). It is not suitable for furniture upholstery but could be used for cushions or accents.

10,000 to 15,000: Light domestic use

This score suggests the fabric is suitable for light domestic use, for example a chair which is used infrequently. Typically the fabric would be dry clean only and made from delicate yarns.

15,000 – 25,000: General domestic use

Fabrics scoring this are suitable for everyday use. It’s perfectly fine for main furniture such as living room sofas and chairs. However, it is not suitable for items of furniture such as a recliner, or any other items which put a high level of stress on the fabric.

25,000 – 30,000: Heavy domestic use

This is a heavy-duty fabric which is suitable for high levels of everyday use and light commercial use. It can also be used for recliners or other furniture items which may put some stress on a fabric.

30,000 or more: Commercial use

A fabric with this score is extremely hard wearing and would be suitable for commercial use and heavy duty furniture.

Are there any other ways to test how durable a fabric is?

We don’t use it, but there is another score commonly used in North America. In case you come across it, it is known as the Wyzenbeck score. It is performed in a very similar way, often referred to as ‘double rubs’, but the scores are not comparable.

Other factors to consider when looking at fabric durability

The Martindale Rub Test is a good indicator of how hard wearing a fabric is in terms of abrasive durability. However, it doesn’t test for the fabric’s ability to withstand UV light, it’s resistance to various chemicals, water and stain resistance or how well it could hold up against pet claws. Some fabrics are supplied with a water or stain treatment but it is not standard. Most fabrics can have this as an additional treatment. Unfortunately it’s rather difficult to test how strong a fabric is against pet claws but the weave and pile are certainly factors to consider.  The tighter the weave and the flatter the pile the better.

Should I choose a Natural or Manmade Fabric?

Manufactured fabrics such as polyester, chenille, microfibre, acrylic, viscose tend to be less costly and more durable. However they are typically not as nice to touch or as breathable as natural fabrics. Natural fabrics including wool, cotton, linen and silk are beautiful, often luxurious and generally better for the environment (read some more reasons on why getting replacement covers is better for the environment here). A good way to get the best of both worlds is to consider a blend for example wool/acrylic or cotton/viscose. This is a great way to improve the durability of a natural fabric while still retaining some of the natural qualities.