The Martindale test is a measure of the durability of a fabric.  The tests are undertaken on upholstery fabrics to check their suitability for various uses – i.e. decorative chairs, heavy-traffic areas or commercial furniture.  The test is also known as the ‘rub test’, and tests for abrasion resistance.

 

How does the test work?

The fabric being tested is pulled taut and loaded onto the lower plates of the Martindale machine.  Small discs of worsted wool or wire mesh (the abradant) are continually rubbed against the test specimens in a Lissajous figure – a wandering, oscillating circle.  The fabric is continually inspected for wear and tear, and the test ends when two yarns break or when there is a noticeable change in appearance.

You can view a video of a Martindale machine in action by clicking here.

Charles Parsons Interiors performs Martindale testing at their independently accredited inhouse laboratory in Sydney, Australia. 

Charles Parsons Interiors Martindale test machine

Pictured above: Martindale machine in the Charles Parsons ISO laboratory in Sydney

 

How do I read a Martindale test result?

Test results are given as a score of 1000’s of rubs or cycles, and the higher the number is, the more suitable the fabric is for heavier useage.  Fabrics are categorised depending on their test results.

Charles Parsons Interiors categorises upholstery useage as follows:

Decorative (less than 10,000 rubs)

Recommended for decorative purposes (i.e. cushions and accents).  Not recommended for general use.

Light Domestic (10,000 to 15,000 rubs)

Recommended for use on furniture that will only receive occasional use. This is due either to the use of delicate yarns in the composition of the fabric or due to the delicate construction of the fabric itself.  Some decorative fabrics may not be suitable for use on heavy wear areas or fixed upholstery areas due to “dry clean only” cleaning being required, and this is not possible other than where the fabric can be removed and taken to a dry cleaner. Refer to the relevant sample if unsure.

Jerica Ruby upholstery fabric by Charles Parsons Interiors  Reef Onyx upholstery fabric by Charles Parsons Interiors  Lilly Pewter upholstery fabric by Charles Parsons Interiors

Pictured above: Light domestic upholstery fabrics Jerica Ruby, Reef Onyx and Lilly Pewter

General Domestic (15,000 to 25,000 rubs)

Recommended for use on the main furniture in the house that may be subjected to everyday use.  However if the level of use will be very high we recommend selecting a fabric rated for heavy-duty use.  General domestic fabrics are not  recommended for motion furniture (i.e. recliners) or furniture with a  fixed seat or back that will put high levels of stress on the fabric.

Cleopatra Jet upholstery fabric by Charles Parsons Interiors  Gala Berry upholstery fabric by Charles Parsons Interiors  On Safari Zulu upholstery fabric by Charles Parsons Interiors

Pictured above: General domestic upholstery fabrics Cleopatra Jet, Gala Berry and On Safari Zulu

Heavy Duty (25,000 to 30,000 rubs)

Suitable for heavy duty domestic use i.e. use on the main furniture in the house that will be subjected to high levels of everyday use. Also suitable for motion furniture (i.e. recliners) and for furniture with a fixed seat or back. Also suitable for light commercial applications. 

Gabby Indian Red upholstery fabric by Charles Parsons Interiors  Bramble Citrus upholstery fabric by Charles Parsons Interiors  Wisteria Black upholstery fabric by Charles Parsons Interiors

Pictured above: Heavy duty upholstery fabrics Gabby Indian Red, Bramble Citrus and Wisteria Black

Commercial Grade (30,000 plus)

Suitable for heavy duty commercial use and heavy duty domestic use.  Suitable for all commercial furniture applications and environments.

Creedence Softstone upholstery fabric by Charles Parsons Interiors  Savoy Garnet upholstery fabric by Charles Parsons Interiors  Woodstock Mouse upholstery fabric by Charles Parsons Interiors

Pictured above: Commercial grade upholstery fabrics Creedence Softstone, Savoy Garnet and Woodstock Mouse

 

My fabric has a really high rub test result!  Is it invincible?

There can be competition within the textiles industry to obtain higher and higher abrasion test results, but in the real world, any results over and above 50,000 have very little noticeable impact and become moot in practical applications.

A Martindale test is for abrasion only.  There are many other factors that can affect the wear and tear of upholstery on a piece of furniture, including chemicals used in washing the fabric, UV exposure, embedded dirt, and surface treatments such as soil guard or flame retardant treatments.  A high rub count does not mean the fabric will be impervious to cat claws!

Breaking thread closeup

Pilling is not a reflection of poor durability, but is a normal result from repeated rubbing or scuffing of an upholstery fabric.  When surface fibres are continually rubbed together, they form small knots that can easily be removed with a pill shaver or depilling comb.

 

What is a Wyzenbeek test?  Is it better?

A Wyzenbeek test is another kind of abrasion test that involves rubbing a piece of cotton duck or wire mesh against the surface of the test specimen in a straight back and forth motion – one move back and forth is called a ‘double rub’.  Tests are performed against samples in both the warp and weft directions.

The Wyzenbeek method is completely different than the Martindale test, therefore you cannot compare results from one test with results from another.  The Wyzenbeek test is primarily used in North America, while the Martindale test is an international standard endorsed by International Wool Secretariat and Cotton Council International.  The Martindale test is considered by many experts to be a more true-to-life measurement of how a fabric will perform.

Charles Parsons Interiors Martindale test machine