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3 Reasons Fabric Can Wear Thin Despite A High Martindale Count


When it comes to specifying seating fabrics for hospitality furniture, the fabric needs to be able to withstand a high level of abrasion so they can look good for longer. 

As a general rule of thumb we ask designers to use the Martindale rub count when selecting a fabric suitable for contract use.

  • Decorative (less than 10,000 rubs) - Recommended for decorative purposes (i.e. cushions and accents)
  • Light Domestic (10,000 to 15,000 rubs) - Recommended occasional use domestic furniture
  • General Domestic (15,000 to 25,000 rubs) - Recommended domestic furniture in everyday use
  • Heavy Duty (25,000 to 30,000 rubs) - Suitable for heavy-duty domestic use and light hospitality use
  • General Commercial Use (30,000-40,000) - Suitable for general hospitality use
  • Commercial Grade (40,000 plus)- Suitable for heavy hospitality use

The problem is that when you hit commercial grade fabric the Martindale becomes an unreliable indicator of wear & tear. If we look at what the test consists of, you'll understand why.

What exactly is the Martindale test?

The Martindale test measures the abrasion level of a fabric in the following way: four test fabrics are mounted onto the four circular holders of a Martindale Abrasion Tester and simultaneously rubbed against a worsted fabric. The machine measures the number of cycles completed. The test samples are checked regularly and the worsted cloth changed every 50,000 cycles. The test ends when two threads of the fabric have worn so much they are broken in two.

The abrasion value is the average number of cycles completed before the two threads break. The durability of non-woven material is measured in flexes, which means a small piece of the leather or vinyl is pulled back and forth to assess suppleness and checked for surface cracking.

Why can fabric with a high Martindale rub wear thin before its time?

1.Sharp Corners

Where the fabric is upholstered will affect the fabric's lifespan. It will also last longer when upholstered to soft foam, rather than hard wood. These chairs were upholstered in a fabric with an immensely high durability of 250 000 Martindale rubs. However the fabric was starting to wear thin on the corners out in about 9 months.

corner fabric fraying

On investigation, there was no foam at the corner parts - and fabric wears much more quickly on corners than on seat pads, particularly without foam. This shows that even the toughest fabrics can wear thin in tough conditions that are not reflected by the Martindale test. The solution was to reupholster the chair, ensuring there was foam under the fabric of the corner sections.

2.Hard Surfaces

In this instance, a velvet with a Martindale count of 100,000 rubs started to wear on the top of the barstool backrests. On investigation, this part of the backrest didn't have foam underneath and as a high traffic area the fabric didn't stand a chance against the hard wood below. Again the solution was to reupholster the chair, ensuring there was foam under the fabric.


3: Piping

Adding piping to chairs can give them an extra wow factor, however, if the piping is in a predominant area like front edge of the seat pad, it can wear quicker than expected (especially if plastic strips are used to form the piping). 

The chair below has drastic wear to the piping after just 5 months in a busy hotel environment. The fabric was faux suede & again had a high rub count of 250,000. piping-pick-points

Examples of fabric with high rub count (suggested fabric for contract use)

Lana Aquaclean by Sunbury

Lana Aquaclean by Sunbury

Rub count: 250,000. Crib 5. 50% Polyester, 35% Polyamide, 15% Nylon.
Kiboko by Sekers

Kiboko by Sekers

Rub count: 200,000. Crib 5. 50% Polyester, 35% Acrylic, 15 % Polyamide.
Mystere Warwick

Mystere by Warwick

Rub count: 150,000. Crib 5. 100% Polyester.
Sunbury Lux Velvet

Lux Velvet by Sunbury

Rub count: 100,000. Crib 5. 100% Polyester
Agua Fabrics Libra

Libra by Agua Fabrics

Rub count: 100,000. Crib 5. 100% Coated Polyester.
Field by Kvadrat

Field by Kvadrat

Rub count: 100,000. Crib 5. 100% Trevira CS.
Ballantrae Sekers

Ballantrae by Sekers

Rub count: 100,000. Crib 5. 53% Cotton 47% Viscose.
Nova by Agua Fabrics

Nova by Agua Fabrics

Rub count: 100,000. Crib 5. 100% Coated Polyester.
Gedda by Sekers

Gedda by Sekers

Rub count: 90,000. Crib 5. 100% Polyester.
Ariana by Vescom

Ariana by Vescom

Rub count: 90,000.  Crib 5. 100% Mohair.
Harvard Panaz

Harvard by Panaz

Rub count: 80,000. Crib 5. 100% Polyester with FR back coating.
Allure Panaz

Allure by Panaz

Rub count: 70,000. Crib 5. 100% Polyester.
Read our blog for a full overview of how to specify contract upholstery, get contract upholstery care & maintenance tips here or download our Furniture Knowledge book below for more hospitality furniture tips and tricks.

Topics: Furniture testing, Contract upholstery

By Paula Stanbridge-Faircloth Paula Stanbridge-Faircloth on 21/01/19 11:43
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