When choosing curtain and furniture fabrics for your home, you want your fabrics to last at least long enough for you to get tired of them. You don’t want to have to replace them because they wore out too soon. The key is to select the right fabric for your application.
Drapery and upholstery fabric suppliers provide all kinds of information to help you select the right fabric. Each fabric sample in a swatch book has a label. If you have read some, you might have been rather confused by all those strange terms. Wyzenbeek? Martindale? NFPA? Railroaded? What in the world do they mean?
Your designer knows what they mean and will guide you to the right choices for your project. The fabric’s durability may be an important choice, as may the fabric construction and its recommended uses. You’ll find details about these on the label, along with design information, its durability, other factors that relate to how long the fabric will look good, and cleaning. Right now, let’s talk about durability, which is often indicated by a number.
Drapery and Upholstery Fabric Wyzenbeek Ratings
A standardized measure of upholstery fabric durability that is frequently used in the U.S. is “Wyzenbeek double rubs.” For this test, a mechanical arm rubs a piece of cotton duck fabric (similar to the fabric in your jeans) across the fabric. Each back and forth motion is a “double rub.” The rating indicates the number of double rubs before the fabric shows signs of wear. Here’s what to look for in upholstery applications:
> 3,000 or fewer Wyzenbeek double rubs – good for pillows and curtains in the home.
> 3,000 to 9,000 Wyzenbeek double rubs – can be used on upholstery, but save it for the formal living room or accent chair that isn’t used very often.
> 9,000 to 15,000 double Wyzenbeek rubs – considered to be fairly durable, a good economical choice for highly-used areas such as family rooms.
> 15,000 plus Wyzenbeek double rubs – if your budget allows and you have an active household with children and pets, aim for fabrics with at least 15,000 double rubs for furniture. These fabrics will likely have a higher initial cost but may save you money in the long run because they won’t have to be replaced as soon as less durable fabrics.
> 30,000 Wyzenbeek double rubs and up – now you’re getting into commercial grade fabrics.
Drapery and Upholstery Fabric Martindale Tests
Another standard for rating curtain and furniture fabric that is sometimes used in the U.S. is the Martindale test. Widely used in Europe, it involves rubbing a piece of worsted wool cloth over the fabric in a figure eight motion. You might think that you can predict the Martindale numbers based on the Wyzenbeek test results, but there’s actually no relation between the two. I don’t see many Martindale ratings, but if you do see it, know that 6,000 to 9,000 rubs is suitable for light use, up to 20,000 is good for medium use, and over that is considered good for heavy use.
Durability ratings are only a guide. Other factors can affect the lifetime of your fabric, such as how and how often it is cleaned, whether it is exposed to the sun, if you have cats who like to scratch or dogs that climb on the furniture, and how your kids use it. Your designer will help you choose the right type of fabric for your lifestyle.