We are all concerned about the durability of fabric when choosing upholstered furniture for our home. Often there is confusion when attempting to distinguish between “quality” and “long-wear”.
Ironically, a high-quality fabric, such as pure silk, can be a poor choice in terms of wearability. The indisputable beauty and quality of pure silk, un-matched in its luxury and elegance, is meaningless when one considers the constant abrasion that a family room sofa, for instance, must be able to withstand. The coarse, welted seams in jeans and the abrasion they incur, constant wear and tear,
pillow fights, and pets would destroy a luxury fabric such as silk in a very short time. The same liability holds true with fine cotton chintzes.
So, while “quality” is not synonymous with “tough and long-wearing”, the two are not mutually exclusive. There are many high-quality fabrics, which were designed to be the “workhorses” of the upholstery fabric world, and those are the ones you must choose from when looking for a long-wearing fabric.
Fiber content, weave, finish, and maintenance are what determine fabric performance. When fabricating high-traffic seating, durability is a “must”. Look for fabrics that include in their contents cotton, polyester, polypropylene, nylon, or olefin. There is usually a blend of two or three of the above, as each fiber adds their own unique properties and capabilities to the over-all look, feel and wear of the fabric.
At the manufacturing level, two standard tests are routinely performed by the furniture industry to predict wearability, the Wyzenbeek and Martindale Tests. These two tests are performed independently of each other. There is no correlation between the two, although they are both abrasion tests, which allow manufacturers to eliminate from the beginning, fabrics which do not pass muster before they are offered to the consumer.
According to the Association for Contract Textiles (ACT):
The Wyzenbeek machine pulls samples of test fabrics tight and stationary in a frame. Individual test specimens are then rubbed back and forth using a standardized ACT-approved #10 Cotton Duck fabric as an abradant. The number of double-rub cycles achieved before two yarn breaks occur or noticeable wear is observed is recorded as the fabric’s abrasion rating. A rating of 15,000 is considered adequate for general contract upholstery.”
The Martindale is a test method of the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). It is an oscillating test where fabric samples are mounted flat, and rubbed in a figure-8-like motion, using a piece of worsted wool cloth as an abradant. The number of cycles that the fabric can endure before it shows objectionable change in appearance, such as yarn breaks, pilling, holes,
are counted. The number of cycles determines the abrasion rating. A rating of 20,000 is considered adequate for general contract upholstery.
Reputable furniture retailers who stand for quality products can be trusted to recommend fabrics which will perform best for your needs.
Save the delicate luxury fabrics for throw pillows, or use them on chairs and sofas in rooms which will have light use, such as master bedrooms, or
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