This Is the Most Essential Factor for Selecting a Durable Sofa

published Jul 25, 2019
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Credit: Creative Studio

Hands-down, synthetic fabrics are some of the best sofa fabric choices for those looking for durability and cleanability. But as more and more synthetic fabrics come onto the market, we start to ask: “What’s the difference between them all?” Turns out there are a lot of differences, but just one metric you can look at: “The Rub Count.”

Interior Define developed the Rub Count to score their (many) fabric options on a durability scale. The scores are all based on how well fabrics perform in the Martindale Abrasion Test, which measures the number of “rubs” a fabric can withstand before changing in appearance. If durability is top on your list of priorities, here are the fabrics with the highest rub counts. 

Credit: Interior Define

Toughest: 50K Rub Count

Tight-weave polyester fabrics dominate the “toughest” category. That’s mostly because polyester is resilient; it’s basically a plastic that is melted, extruded into yarn, and then woven into cloth. Depending on how they’re woven, colored, and treated, polyester fabrics can resemble anything from a sturdy cotton to a soft felt. The tight weave makes these fabrics even more durable and stain-resistant. For any fabric with this high of a rub count, you’ll want to select based on feel. Order swatches or visit one of Interior Define’s Guideshops to decide if you want the plushness of a microsuede or the hefty feel of a static weave. 

Credit: Interior Define

Tougher: 20K Rub Count

While they’re tough, polyester fabrics are not always UV-protected, which means they can fade over time if they live in a particularly sunny spot. Sunbrella® fabrics are an antidote to that problem. Originally developed in the 1960s to be used for storefront awnings, Sunbrella® makes solution-dyed acrylic fabrics that are fade, water, mold, mildew, and stain-resistant. “Solution-dyed” means the plastic itself is pigmented before being woven into fabric, making it resistant to UV damage. Today, they’re making great fabrics that looks just as at home indoors as they do outdoors, and clock in at a 20K Rub Count.

Credit: Interior Define

Tough: 18K Rub Count

If polyester just isn’t your thing, good old cotton can also be a good option for high-traffic sofas—it just needs to be woven the right way. Just like polyester, a tighter weave with cotton means more durability and stain-resistance. Think of fabrics like canvas and denim when choosing a cotton (a tight weave is less likely to let dust, dirt, or liquid in). Leather, of course, is also a good natural option in this category, just make sure it is genuine 100% leather by looking for the stamp. Bonded leather or leather hybrids will peel over time on a high-traffic sofa.