Rub-a-dub-dub: Demystifying Double Rubs

 

Choosing an upholstery fabric can be a daunting task. As with other fabric applications, a designer or homeowner will first be attracted to a certain fabric for a specific job based on aesthetics only. But don’t fall in love too quickly as certain fabrics may not be suitable for upholstery applications.

In general, high traffic areas of a home or commercial spaces require more durable fabrics. But how do you determine the durability of a fabric?

There are two methods of testing for abrasion in fabrics: the Wyzenbeek test for abrasion and the Martindale test for abrasion. According to Herman Miller, a high end furniture manufacturer known for its modern designs and classic pieces, abrasion refers to the fabric’s ability to withstand surface wear from rubbing.

The most common test for abrasion is the Wyzenbeek method which evaluates fabric strength and is measured in double rubs. A double rub is exactly what it sounds like: a fabric is passed through a machine and rubbed back and forth, counting as one double rub.

In the Wyzenbeek method, a fabric is pulled tight and then rubbed in both the warp and weft directions using a piece of cotton duck fabric as the abradant. The number of double rubs through this machine is counted and determines a fabric’s abrasion rating.

Wyzenbeek Test Machinery

 

When selecting a fabric, you can do a short test yourself by rubbing a fabric against your hand to see if the fabric marks or shifts. Of course, a heavy duty fabric will not show anything, but a more delicate fabric or one with a looser weave may shift. In general, the tighter the weave of the fabric, the more effectively it will stand up to wear.

Another self-test is to do a “key test”. If you take a key and rub it across the fabric several times and the fabric starts to wear or the threads pull, it is likely not suitable for upholstery applications. There are exceptions depending on the use, but this test is especially effective if you have pets or children – both of which might use nails or other objects to pull at the fabric.

An alternative to the Wyzenbeek method is the Martindale test for abrasion. In this test, the fabric is mounted flat and rubbed in a figure eight motion using a piece of worsted wool cloth as the abradant. Again, the number of cycles endured before change in the fabric is noted determines the fabric’s abrasion rating.

Martindale Test Machinery

 

Now that you have absorbed all of that information, let’s break it down a bit more specifically to further help in the selection of an upholstery fabric. What should you be looking for?

Wyzenbeek Method

*The following are averages based on research – situations may vary.

Residential Upholstery = anything over 15,000 double rubs (We recommend using a fabric with over 30,000 double rubs, especially if there are pets and kids).

Commercial Upholstery = anything over 30,000 double rubs (Commercial grade upholstery is generally closer to 100,000 to 250,000 double rubs. The higher the rating, the better it will be for commercial upholstery jobs. Each situation must be evaluated based on the traffic expected in certain areas).

Martindale Test

*The following are averages based on research – situations may vary.

Residential/General Contract Upholstery = anything over 20,000 rubs

Heavy Duty/Commercial Upholstery = anything over 40,000 rubs

At Q. Design, we want to ensure that there are no mistakes, so let’s break it down even further for commercial and residential design purposes:

Heavy Duty Commercial Grade: 100,000 double rubs or more

-These fabrics are extremely durable and will withstand the wear and tear of a high traffic commercial area.

201,000 Double Rubs – Very high abrasion rating and is therefore perfect for commercial applications and high traffic areas.
100,000 Double Rubs - A very tight weave that is perfect for both commercial and residential upholstery jobs.

 

HD (Heavy Duty): More than 30,000 double rubs

-These fabrics are generally stiffer and thicker and are to be used in high traffic areas of the home, such as a family room or den space.

80,000 Double Rubs - With a slightly larger weave, this fabric is still perfect for residential applications, but is no longer adequate for commercial.

 

MD (Medium Duty):  Between 15,000 and 30,000 double rubs

-These fabrics are a bit more versatile and can be used for light upholstery jobs or other applications in the home. These fabrics are recommended for use in living rooms or other rooms with moderate traffic.

30,000 Double Rubs – An even bigger and looser weave is perfect for light upholstery, such as a bench, but would not be suitable for a well-used sofa.

 

LD (Light Duty): Between 9,000 and 15,000 double rubs

-These fabrics generally only withstand one to three years of regular use as they are very delicate. We recommend using these fabrics in spaces that have very occasional use and not for upholstery.

12,000 Double Rubs – As stated on this tag, this fabric is appropriate for light upholstery jobs, but is very light weight and is therefore not recommended for much upholstery – we would prefer to see it as a drapery treatment.

 

DD (Delicate Duty): Under 9,000 double rubs

-These fabrics are used for purely decorative applications and are never to be used for upholstery jobs. They would be suitable for use as toss cushions or draperies.

5,000 Double Rubs – We recommend using a fabric with this rating for drapery or toss cushions. Never use this for upholstery.

 

Please keep in mind that the number of double rubs is often directly related to the cost of the fabric. The higher the double rub count, the more abrasion that the fabric can stand and often the higher the price point of the fabric. Upholstery is a big investment, so take the time to select the correct fabric for your space: look at traffic patterns in the area, the type of people using the space (ie. kids) and of course, pick something beautiful that will make a statement in your home or work space. And most importantly, never hesitate to fall back on Q. Design for further information or advice.