When it comes to decorating for families and busy homes, the question of durability comes up quite often. Upholstered items like sofas and dining chairs must be able to stand up to use and abuse, and should ideally last for years without the need for recovering.
With that in mind, there are several ways to measure durability when selecting fabric, which we’ve addressed previously in this column and which seemed worth revisiting for this issue. There are two methods of testing that are very different but commonly used: the Wyzenbeek method and the Martindale method of abrasion testing.
Let’s begin with the actual definition of abrasion. “Abrasion resistance is the ability of a fabric to resist surface wear caused by flat rubbing contact with another fabric.”
The Wyzenbeek method is a standard test used in the United States. It is often referred to as the rub test and counts what are referred to as double rubs. The Wyzenbeek machine tests the fabric in both the warp direction (up and down) and the fill or weft direction (right to left). A sample of the fabric is cut into two pieces and each are pulled tight in a frame where it is held stationary. A piece of cotton duck fabric is used as the abradant and is rubbed back and forth over the fabric. The samples are checked after every 5,000 double rubs and if the fabric is still holding up, it goes through another cycle of 5,000 and so on. The end point is reached when wearing has become evident or two yarn breaks have occurred. In other words, if there isn’t any noticeable wear at the first check of 5,000 rubs but it shows noticeable wear at the next cycle it must be rated as only 5,000 double rubs. A rating of 15,000 double rubs is considered suitable for heavy duty use in residential application.
The Martindale test uses a different method when rubbing the fabric. The sample is mounted flat and a piece of worsted wool cloth is used as the abradant. It is rubbed in an elliptical shape. Again the method is checked in 5,000 cycles and when two breaks occur or there is a change in shade or appearance, the rater must go back to the previous checkpoint. A rating of 20,000 rubs is suitable for heavy duty residential use. This test method is usually performed on imported product.
There is, however, one misconception about the two methods. You cannot estimate the number of cycles on one test if the test results are known from the other method because there is no correlation between the two.