I have been working for few months now at Bemz, a small-medium size company specilised in soft furnishing, specifically on slip covers for IKEA sofas and armchairs. Embarking on this new adventure has taught me already great aspects of the soft furnishing business and what customers struggle the most with. The most frequent question is surely: which fabric is more durable? Nobody wants to upholster a sofa or armchair and see the fabric scratching or breaking after a short period of time. We all want to invest our money wisely and consciously.
The Martindale Test result is surely the answer to all doubts and this is how it works:
Above: Martindale Test machine
The definition of Martindale is: a unit to quantify the level of abrasion resistance of textiles for upholstery. This is a measure of the durability of the fabric. The tests are run on upholstery fabrics to check their suitability for different uses - decorative fabrics, light or heavy domestic use or heavy commercial use.
How does it work?
The fabric being tested is pulled taut and loaded onto the lower plates of the Martindale machine. Small discs of worsted wool or wire mesh (the abradant) rubbed against the test specimens in a Lissajous figure - a wandering, oscillating circle. The fabric is continually inspected for wear and tear, and the test ends when two yarns break or when there is a noticeable change in appearance.
You can view a video of a Martindale machine in action by clicking here.
How do I read a Martindale Test result?
Test results are given as a score of 1000’s of rubs or cycles, and the higher the number is, the more suitable the fabric is for heavier usage. Fabrics are categorised depending on their test results.
Decorative use - score of 10,000 rubs or less It is recommended to use the fabric on decorative cushions, lampshades or decorative objects. Not suitable for sofa, armchairs or curtains (general use).
Light domestic use - score of 10,000 to 15,000 rubs Recommended the use of these fabrics only on area that will not be frequently used. This is due either to the use of delicate yarns in the construction of the fabric or due to the delicate composition of the fabric itself. Some decorative fabrics may not be suitable for use on heavy wear areas or fixed upholstery areas due to “dry clean only” cleaning being required, and this is not possible other than where the fabric can be removed and taken to a dry cleaner.
Atrio col.1 zebre by de Le Cuona - Martindale: 10,000 rubs - for curtains or light upholstery
Giardino Segreto Cornflower by Designers Guild - Martindale: 10,000 rubs - ideal for curtains or cushion covers
General domestic use - 15,000 to 25,000 rubs Recommended on furniture in the house that may be subjected to everyday use. However if the use of the furniture will be very persistant, I would recommend a fabric that is suitable for heavy-duty use. General domestic fabrics are not recommended for motion furniture (i.e. recliners) or furniture with a fixed seat or back that will put high levels of stress on the fabric. They are not recommended for sofas or armchairs, mostly if you have small children or domestic pets and if you plan to wash often the fabric.
Torben China Blue by Romo - Martindale: 20,000 rubs - for curtains
Rhythm Harlequin by Zoffany - Martindale: 20,000 rubs
Heavy domestic use - 25,000 to 30,000 rubs Suitable for heavy duty domestic use i.e. use on the main furniture in the house that will be subjected to high levels of everyday use (sofas, armchairs, ottomans, etc.) Also suitable for motion furniture (i.e. recliners) and for furniture with a fixed seat or back. Also suitable for light commercial applications. If you are buying a new sofa or armchair, make sure that the fabric corresponds to this category and that it is suitable for slip covers. Generally fabrics for upholstery use tend to shrink if washed often, therefore always ask about that.
Austin Henna by Romo - 30,000 rubs - for sofa, armchair, ottoman
Fitzrovia Antique Jade by Designers Guild - Martindale: 30,000 rubs
Commercial use - 30,000 rubs and more These are the strongest fabric in the market, they are recommended for heavy-duty use in domestic and in commercial environments, such as: restaurants, bars, hotel lounges and rooms. These type of fabrics are highly recommended if you have domestic pets, small children or simply if you want a durable fabric. If washed according the instructions they will last a life time.
Opera, Quartz by de Le Cuona - 40,000 rubs
Losely Velvet Airforce Blue by Linwood - Martindale: 100,000 rubs
What I always recommend to my customers, and this is valid for any type fabric and final use, always wash them at low centrifugation, and if you have direct sunlight to your furniture, protect them with curtains or even better with an awning during the hottest hours (this is mostly recommended in South Europe and hot countries). Other than that, the Martindale Test rub is a truly indicator of the durability of the fabrics that we can completely trust 100%.
For any inquiry do not hesitate to get in touch in the comments below or at my email: firstname.lastname@example.org