written by Melissa Wolck

Have you ever heard of double rubs or abrasion rating? Have you seen something like “50,000 double rubs” included in a fabric’s spec information? These terms refer to an important number you should consider when deciding on an upholstery fabric. Think about double rubs like this… Every time you sit down on your living room sofa or dining room chair, you “rub” your body against the fabric, and then when you stand up, you “rub” against the fabric again. That is the motion that “double rubs” or “abrasion rating” is referring to.

When a fabric is woven, the manufacturer will perform an abrasion test to determine how many “rubs” a fabric can withstand before showing signs of wear. There are a couple of different methods that can be performed to determine a fabric’s number of double rubs, the Wyzenbeek and the Martindale Test. The Wyzenbeek Test is the standard method used by the United States to determine a fabric’s abrasion rating. It looks like this.

A small piece of fabric is secured onto to the machine, and then a mechanical arm moves back and forth, rubbing against the fabric to simulate the motion of a person sitting down and standing up. There is a ticker located on the machine that counts the number of passes until the fabric begins to show signs of wear.

It seems that the standard number of double rubs for upholstery fabric has continued to increase over the past decade. Though there have been advancements in improving the performance of fabric, the importance of a fabric’s durability has become more and more important to consumers. People want furniture that will last.

As a selling point, manufacturers have begun performing extreme abrasion testing, allowing the test to run up to 100,000, even 400,000 double rubs. But, these huge numbers aren’t really meaningful, especially for residential applications. However, they have become the new standard, and consumers want to see a really big number to know that the fabric will be durable enough.

But what is really necessary? A fabric with an abrasion rating of 15,000 double rubs is more than sufficient for even your most favorite and frequently used chairs and sofas. For accent chairs, benches, formal dining chairs, or furniture that doesn’t get a lot of action, you could even go as low as 9,000 rubs. Fabrics with a rating of 35,000+ can be used for residential applications, no doubt, but these numbers are really only significant when selecting fabric for commercial upholstery.

So when your shopping for fabric, consider the application and refer to the following guidelines:

  • Delicate Use: < 9,000
  • Light Use: 9,000 to 11,000
  • Medium Use: 12,000 to 15,000
  • Heavy Use: 15,000+

“Purchase fabrics that aesthetically appeal to you. It’s more likely that the style of the fabric will wear on you, before the fibers do.” -Melissa Wolck, Greenhouse Fabrics

Read full blog post here.