Durable Beauty: What You Should Know About the Martindale & Wyzenbeek Fabric Rub Tests

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The Martin-whatsit and the Wyzie-dongle? Yes, there are names for these methods that have been developed to test the durability of fabrics. Keep these numbers in mind the next time you're on the hunt for some new upholstery.

The Martindale test involves rubbing a piece of worsted wool cloth in a circular motion on a flat mounted fabric sample. Each pass is one cycle, and the number of cycles the test fabric can withstand before showing a change in appearance (such as thread breakage or pilling) is its abrasion rating. At the beginning of the test checks are made every 1,000 cycles, and if no wear is apparent, the fabric is put through another 1,000 rub cycle. As the test goes on, sometimes these intervals will increase.

The Wyzenbeek test is the standard in the United States, and involves a machine on which the test fabric is pulled tight over a frame and then rubbed back and forth using a cotton fabric. Each back and forth motion is called a "double rub", and they are counted until there are either two yarn breaks or the wear is evident. Like the Martindale test, checks are made in intervals of 1,000 rubs or greater.

One important thing to note is that there is NO correlation between the two tests! There is no formula that will accurately tell you the rub count of one test based on the other.

That's all very interesting, but what does this mean for the average fabric shopper? Consider the application for your fabric, then refer to these numbers (situations may vary):

Martindale

  • Light use: 6000 - 9000 double rubs
  • Medium use: 9000 - 20,000 double rubs
  • Heavy use: 20,000+ double rubs

Wyzenbeek

  • Light use: 6000 - 9000 double rubs
  • Medium use: 9000 - 15,000 double rubs
  • Heavy use: 15,000+ double rubs

Note that the higher the rub count, the more expensive the fabric tends to be as well. Generally though, anything with an abrasion rating over 50,000 for either test is overkill, especially for residential use.

Now you know everything there is to know about rubbing your fabric! Happy shopping!

(Image credits: Florence A sofa from Organic Modernism)

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