The Martindale Test: Fabric Rub Count
Not only do you need to consider which type of material is best for your needs, you need to ensure that the chosen fabric will last well.
Manufacturers subject their fabric to what’s known as a Martindale Test (also known as the rub test). This is an important test that measures the durability of the fabric.
The fabric is placed onto the flat base of the martindale machine and then discs loaded with either worsted wool or wire mesh are lowered onto the fabric and continually rubbed against the material in circular motions.
The discs are rubbed against the fabric until there is a noticeable change in appearance. The test is stopped at this point of noticeable wear. The martindale number is the amount of times the discs can oscillate before the fabric shows signs of distress.
The results are supplied as a score of 1000’s of rubs or cycles. The higher the number, the more durable the fabric.
What is the Martindale scale?
The martindale scale is the amount of times the discs can oscillate before the fabric shows signs of distress.
The scores inform you of how suited a fabric is to certain uses, as below.
This means the fabric should only be used for decorative purposes i.e. for Scatter Cushions and not the main seat cushions of a sofa. Not suitable for furniture upholstery.
This means the fabric is intended for dry clean only and is likely to be made from delicate yarns. Therefore, it is suitable for light domestic use only. Examples of uses would be for the upholstery of an occasional chair i.e. a chair that isn’t for everyday use, but rather to complement the main sofas and chairs situated in the room.
A fabric with this rating is suitable for everyday use on the main items of furniture in your home. It can be used for the upholstery of all chairs and sofas including all seat and back cushions. It shouldn’t show signs of wear even with the fact that it will be rubbed against by your clothing whilst being sat on daily.
Suitable for high levels of daily use means that this is a heavy-duty fabric. A fabric of this rating would be suitable for items of furniture where there are areas where extra levels of wear are incurred such as recliner chairs and sofa beds. It would also be suitable for light commercial use.
A fabric that falls into this rating is very hard-wearing and would be suitable for use in any commercial environment. Public seating, such as sofas and chairs in hotels, pubs and gyms can be upholstered in this fabric and would stand up to the high demand placed upon it. Another use would be for office environments.
What is a double rub test?
The double rub test is a test of a fabrics durability and a good indicator for how well it will stand up to every day use in its desired setting.
During the Wyzenbeek test a sample of test fabric is stretched tightly over a frame on the Wyzenbeek machine. A piece of abradant material, such as cotton duck fabric is then continually passed over the test fabric in a back and forth motion. Each back and forth pass is called a “double rub”.
What is a good rub count for a sofa?
When having a sofa reupholstered or choosing a new one, it’s important to know the rub count of the chosen fabric. You need to know if the fabric will stand up to everything life throws at it. This is where the Martindale test comes in.
The Martindale (or rub test) is a way of measuring the durability of the fabric. A sample of the fabric is placed on to the flat base of the Martindale machine and then discs loaded with worsted wool or wire mesh are lowered onto the fabric and continually rubbed against the fabric in circular motions.
The test stops at the point of a noticeable change in appearance occurring. The amount of rubs are recorded. The higher the rub count, the more durable the material.
The amount of durability a certain material has determines what it should be used for. In general, fabrics with a lower rub count are only to be used for items of decorative purposes such as scatter cushions that aren’t really intended for sitting on. A higher rub count would be required for public seating in high usage areas such as hotels, bars and gyms.
So in order to ascertain what would be classed as a good rub count for a sofa you must have a good idea of the intended usage or setting.
A Martindale test of between 15,000 – 20,000 rubs is considered to be an ideal amount of durability for general domestic use. This fabric would be ideal for the upholstery of all parts of a sofa in your home including all seat and back cushions.
A Martindale test of between 20,000 – 25,000 is classed as heavy domestic use, meaning that it can be used on sofas in the home that incur extra levels of wear such as recliner or fold down sofa beds.
What is a good Martindale Rub Test?
The answer to this question greatly depends on the desired use of the fabric. An outcome from a Martindale test considered to be a positive one for a fabric for a certain environment, may be considered a poor outcome for the same fabric used in a different environment.
For instance a fabric that achieves a rub count of between 15,000 to 20,000 rubs would more than stand up to everyday general use for furniture in and around the home. Whereas a fabric of the same rub count of between 15,000 to 20,000 would be totally inadequate for a high usage setting such as seating in a hotel or gym.
Something to bear in mind, is the fact that despite a high rub count, there are certain situations that can still cause fabrics to wear thin before their time.
Fabrics wrapped tightly around sharp corners can wear quicker than they should. Also fabrics upholstered directly onto wood without any foam in between the fabric and the wood can also cause the fabric to wear prematurely.
Finally, although piping adds a nice touch to furniture, the fabric (regardless of how high the rub count is) used to construct the piping can wear prematurely in high use environments, particularly in vulnerable places such as the front of a seat.
What is the difference between Martindale and Wyzenbeek?
These two tests are commonly used to predict wear-ability on fabrics i.e. how long a material should last before it starts displaying signs of wear. This helps to determine in what setting the material should be used.
A material with very high durability would be the ideal candidate for the upholstery of furniture in high traffic areas such as hotels and restaraunts. Whereas materials achieving a lower durability should be reserved for decorative items such as scatter cushions and occasional chairs.
The Wyzenbeek method is more commonly used in the United States, whereas manufacturers in Europe more commonly employ the Martindale method.
Similarly the Martindale test is more often used to test Wool and natural fibers and Wyzenbeek is regularly used for testing synthetic fibers.
So what’s the difference between the two tests?
During the Martindale test a sample of the fabric is placed on to the base of the Martindale machine. Discs loaded with an approved abradant material such as worsted wool or wire mesh are then lowered onto the fabric and continually rubbed in a figure of eight motion.
The test continues until any signs of wear (including yarn breaks, piling & holes) are observed. The amount of cycles determines the rating. The higher the amount of cycles the more durable the fabric.
This test employs the use of a Wyzenbeek machine. A sample of test fabric is pulled tight in a frame. Cotton duck fabric is then rubbed in a back and forth motion on the test fabric (each pass back and forth is called a “double rub”). The test continues until there is a noticeable change in appearance or two yarns break
The amount of double rubs are recorded at the end of the test. A fabric achieving 15,000 double rubs or less is classed as suitable for low traffic use and any material achieving 30,000 rubs or higher is approved for use in areas of high traffic use.
Comparing test results
It should be noted that there is no direct correlation between the results of the Martindale and Wyzenbeek. Therefore it’s not possible to estimate the number of cycles achieved in one test if results for the other test have been established.
If for instance a fabric proves to be highly durable in the Wyzenbeek test, you can’t simply say that it would also prove highly durable in the Martindale test.