What Is a Fabric Wear Rating?
Fabric wear ratings are important because they provide consumers a way to discern which fabric is best for a specific project or living area. They are listed with most fabrics and are helpful in determining how a fabric will hold up in certain applications. A fabric’s abrasion resistance is usually measured using the Wyzenbeek, Martindale or Taber Test. We’re going to describe these tests and why they’re important for selecting fabric in this informative blog.
Wear ratings help to determine how strong or abrasion resistant a fabric is. This makes it easier to classify fabrics as being ideal for light, medium and heavy duty applications. For example, a fabric that shows signs of abrasion very early would have a low wear rating. This means it’s a light duty fabric and only suitable for sparsely used areas. On the other hand, a fabric with a very high wear rating means it’s extremely abrasion resistant and suitable for high traffic areas such as a living room. To make sure your fabric lasts as long as you want it to, it’s very important that you check the wear ratings before you purchase it.
Fabric wear rating is usually expressed in double rubs. Double rubs are found through a mechanized test called the Wyzenbeek Test (sometimes called the Wyzenbeek Method). The Wyzenbeek Test (ASTM D4157) is regarded as the standard of measuring abrasion resistance for fabric in North America. With this method, a piece of cotton or wire is placed on a special machine and rubbed against the fabric being tested in a back and forth motion along the warp and weft until signs of wear are present. All of the fabrics on our website are measured using the Wyzenbeek Test unless otherwise specified.
Wyzenbeek Cotton Test Method
In this type of Wyzenbeek Test, a piece of cotton duck is stretched over a mechanical arm and passed back and forth over the test fabric in each direction. Each back and forth motion is one double rub. The cotton duck passing over the fabric simulates the wear of a fabric being used as a seat cushion, for example. The test is run in sets of 5,000 double rubs until the fabric shows “noticeable wear” or two yarn breaks.
Wyzenbeek Wire Test Method
Another option within the Wyzenbeek Test method is to use a wire screen in place of the cotton duck material to test the fabric. The wire test is normally utilized for fabrics that claim to be extremely abrasion resistant, such as olefin. If a fabric claims that it used the wire test method to measure abrasion resistance, you can be confident in its durability. Below you’ll find examples of how a fabric might be listed on our website and what that means using the Wyzenbeek Test (both cotton and wire).
Double Rubs (Cotton Test): Wyzenbeek method using cotton duck material to test the fabric.
Double Rubs (Wire Test): Wyzenbeek method using wire screen material to test the fabric.
So, how many double rubs should you look for in a fabric? It depends on your intended application. Any number of double rubs using the wire test method is indicative of a heavy-duty fabric and on our website we specify that any fabric listed at over 15,000 double rubs (wire test) or 30,000 double rubs (cotton test) is highly abrasion resistant. To find fabrics with these features on our site, select “Highly Abrasion Resistant” under “Fabric Special Features” on the left-hand side of our website on desktop or in the filter dropdown on mobile. But for more insight, here’s a quick breakdown for the cotton test results:
Double Rubs for Residential Applications
Delicate Duty: Less than 3,000 double rubs. Recommended for more decorative use as in curtains, drapes or pillows.
Light Duty: 3,000-9,000 double rubs. Usually better suited for formal or occasional use furniture.
Medium Duty: 9,000-15,000 double rubs. Versatile. Good for living or family rooms.
Heavy Duty: 30,000+ double rubs. Ideal for living rooms, family rooms or heavily trafficked areas.
Double Rubs for Commercial Applications
Contract Upholstery Minimum: 15,000 double rubs is considered the minimum for general contract, commercial upholstery projects.
Heavy Duty: 15,000-30,000 double rubs. Suitable for single shift offices, conference rooms, hotel rooms and dining areas.
Extra-Heavy Duty: 30,000+ double rubs. Recommended for constant use as in hospital waiting areas, airport terminals, fast food restaurants, theaters and stadiums.
It's also important to note that the double rub rating is only one piece of the fabric-selection puzzle. Other factors from fibers to weave can also affect the longevity of a fabric.
The Martindale Test (ASTM D4966) is an internationally recognized way to measure a fabric's abrasion resistance. In this method, a special oscillating machine rubs the fabric in a rotating figure-eight pattern with a piece of worsted wool or a wire screen. Whereas the Wyzenbeek Test just measures back and forth abrasion, this test measures abrasion resistance in multiple directions. One figure-eight is one cycle.
The results for a Martindale Test are shown as the number of cycles completed before the fabric starts to show wear and tear. If two or more yarns break, the fabric pills, or holes form, these are counted as signs of wear. Below you’ll find some general ratings for the Martindale Test.
Light Use: Anything below 20,000 Martindale cycles
General Use: 20,000+ Martindale cycles
Heavy Duty Use: 40,000+ Martindale cycles
Keep in mind that there is no correlation between different test methods, which means that it's not possible to estimate how results might vary between the Wyzenbeek and Martindale tests without applying both testing methods to the same fabric.
While commonly used to measure the abrasion resistance of leather, the Taber Test can be used on a variety of different materials. During this test, an operator adheres a round, cut portion of the test fabric to a thick paper backer. It is then placed on a horizontal wheel that spins in a manner similar to a record player while two smaller abrading wheels rub against it on a vertical axis. There are two types of abrading methods, called the CS-10 (mildly abrasive) and the H-18 (more abrasive). Weights are utilized by the test operator to control the pressure of the abrading wheels on the cut portion of the fabric.
Calculating the wear rating for the Taber Test is a little more complicated than the Wyzenbeek or Martindale Test. It involves calculating the loss of weight and volume from the fabric as well as the depth of wear. It’s then listed as the number of cycles it took before wear was noticed, similar to the Martindale Test. You’ll find Taber Test ratings on our website on fabrics such as Top Notch® 1S. On our website, we classify anything over 300 cycles as highly abrasion resistant for this type of test. Once again, it’s important to mention that there isn’t any way to calculate or compare a fabric measured using one method versus another without actually testing it.
Although tests like these are used to measure a fabric’s abrasion resistance, it's also important to note that the fabric wear rating isn’t the only thing that matters. There are multiple factors that affect a fabric's wearability and longevity. These factors can include everything from the fiber content, how often the fabric is used (i.e. high-traffic area furniture), the fabric's weave, cleaning instructions and more. All of these play a role in the wearability of your fabric and should be taken into consideration when choosing a fabric for a particular application. Thankfully, Sailrite is here to help ensure you can properly research and decide what fabric is best for you.
Now that you’ve learned about fabric wear ratings and how they differ, it’s time to start sewing! At Sailrite, you can browse thousands of fabrics for indoor, outdoor, patio, marine, RV, automotive projects and much more. You can find the fabric wear rating listed on many of our fabrics if you scroll down to the bottom of the product page and check out the specifications chart. If you have any other questions about fabric wear ratings and what that means for your next DIY, feel free to reach out to us. We’re available via email, phone and the chat function on our website. You can also ask questions in the comments section of this blog. We’d be happy to help!
Footnote: This blog was updated in April 2020 to include Martindale and Taber test methods as well as update current wear ratings.