There are many factors that can affect how long the drapery and upholstery fabrics in your home will look good. Some relate to wear and some relate to where you put it. Fabric suppliers will sometimes highlight a specific characteristic on a fabric such as resistance to fading or pilling. Here’s how to interpret those specialized ratings.
Are Upholstery and Curtain Fabrics Resistant to Fading?
Sunlight and fluorescent light can cause in-home fabrics to fade. Some curtain and furniture fabric suppliers list an ISO-105-B02 colorfastness grade of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning it will fade noticeably and 5 meaning it won’t fade—or at least it didn’t during testing. All upholstery and window fabrics should have a rating of at least 4. Other rating systems may also be used. Some drapery and upholstery fabric lines, such as Sunbrella, are made specifically for uses in the sun. I don’t usually see such ratings because most fabrics for the home are rated at 4 or 5, so it’s not usually a concern.
Are Upholstery and Curtain Fabrics Resistant to Pilling?
You’ve seen pilling on sweaters, I’m sure. It’s those little fuzzy balls that don’t brush off. The balls are actually fiber ends that have twisted together. You have probably realized that they aren’t easy to remove, and they aren’t very pretty. That’s why you don’t want them on your upholstered furniture or draperies. Many factors affect fabric pilling, including the type of fiber, the length of the fibers, how they are twisted, the fabric weave, and how the fabric is finished. Most mills develop curtain and upholstery fabrics that are resistant to pilling, so I’ve rarely seen ratings. In twenty-five years, I have seen only a few cases of unsightly pilling, so it’s not something I worry about. If you do see a rating, it will probably be a Martindale Grade of 1 (severe) to 5 (no pilling).
Upholstery and Drapery Fabric Flammability
One rating that I see on a lot of drapery and upholstery fabric is for flammability. There are different flammability testing methods and standards. The one I see most often is UFAC Class 1 – California Technical Bulletin #117 Section E (that long title is often abbreviated.) The National Fire Protection Association has some different tests, NFPA 260 and NFPA 701. The 260 test is for horizontal surfaces (think upholstered furniture). The 701 test is for vertical surfaces like window coverings. These are “yes” or “no” tests – either the fabric passes (Class 1 or Pass) or it doesn’t. Generally, these ratings are taken into consideration only in commercial applications.
Sometimes a “finish” will be added to a curtain or drapery fabric. These will be listed on the fabric label and are usually a chemical finish that adds a property that the fabric does not naturally have, such as flame proofing or a soil and stain repellant finish.
Aside from whether you like the look of your fabric (the design information may help you understand the pattern features,) the next most important consideration is its construction and its recommended uses. For upholstery, check the durability rating. Depending on where you intend to use the fabric, cleaning may also be important. Don’t be overwhelmed by all the choices and information. Your designer will help you choose the right fabric.