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Choosing the Correct Fabrics for Upholstery & Soft Furnishing

Choosing the Correct Fabrics for Upholstery & Soft Furnishing

Fabrics come in many varieties and for many applications.  Choosing the right fabric for any application is important to ensure the fabric lasts and will be durable for the intended purpose.

To assist in selecting the correct fabric the Martindale rub test provides data as to the suitability of fabrics for upholstery use.  The higher the rub test value the more durable the fabric. The following is therefore a useful guide in selecting fabrics -

Use Example Rubs
Decorative Use Curtains, Cushions Less than 10 000
Light Domestic Use Occasional Chairs 10 000 - 15 000
General Domestic Use Sofas, Dining Chairs 15 000 - 25 000
Heavy Domestic Duty Heavy Daily Use, Light Contract 25 000 - 35 000
Commercial Use Office Chairs, Office Sofas 30 000 plus

It is important to note that a fabric with a high Martindale rating may still be suitable for curtains, cushions or other soft furnishings, however, a fabric with a low Martindale rating should not be considered for anything but very light upholstery, curtains and general soft furnishings.

We also have fabrics that have not been tested.  These are mainly embroideries, silks and voiles and these should only be used for soft furnishings which will not be subject to abrasion eg curtains, cushions, bedspreads etc

Other tests -

In the UK the Martindale Rub Test is the most common test referred to, however, you may see references to the Wyzenbeek Test which is used primarily in North America.

What the Martindale Rub Test does not tell you -

The Martindale Rub Test measures the durability of the fabric based on friction but does not provide information about soil retention, damage from UV light or chemicals or indeed cat claws.

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