contributed by The Folks at Fiber-Seal
Many fabrics carry information on their labels (or on related materials) about performance characteristics. Common specifications found on fabrics include colorfastness to light, cleaning code, flammability and abrasion resistance. Based on our experience, we are convinced that abrasion resistance may be the most misunderstood of these specifications.
How Is It Measured”
Abrasion resistance is measured using a Wyzenbeek abrasion testing machine (CLICK HERE to see a video of it in action), which rubs a fabric specimen with a second fabric, usually a cotton duck. Without getting too detailed about the specifics of the test, each cycle of the machine rubs the cotton duck forward over the test fabric and then back again to the starting position. The forward and back cycle is called a double rub.
There is a second type of machine called a Martindale abrasion testing machine (CLICK HERE to see a video of it doing its thing) that rubs the fabric in an elliptical pattern. This type of machine is used very commonly in Europe, but less frequently in the U.S. The failure point of the test is reached when there are two yarns breaks or when there is appreciable wear.
But, It Says “Heavy Duty”
The problems begin when abrasion test ratings are used to decide whether or not a fabric is suitable for a particular use. An interior designer recently commented to us that a “heavy duty” abrasion rating had helped her decide to use rayon chenille on a family room sofa. She assumed that this specification meant that the fabric would easily withstand the above-average wear of a sofa that gets used every day. Unfortunately, she was wrong. The sofa looked terrible in short order. The fabric didn’t wear out… it uglied out!
Fabric Group Weighs In
Abrasive wear is not even in the top three reasons for performance failure of fabrics. The Association for Contract Textiles [ACT] did a survey of their member companies and found that the most common problems were:
2. Seam slippage
3. Cleaning issues
ACT has even stated, “…abrasion test results are very misleading in terms of actual endurance in the field.” We would probably take that one step further. It is our opinion that, for typical residential and general contract upholstery, abrasion performance results are all but irrelevant. The exceptions to this would be those installations considered truly heavy-duty (such as hotel guest rooms and retail seating) or extreme (transportation terminals, lecture halls, casino gambling areas, etc.).
Cleanability Is Key
Abrasion test results are never going to point out what we think is the most important factor in long-term appearance maintenance: possible issues with cleaning. If spots and soils can’t be cleaned from a fabric, the problems will become apparent rather quickly.
We previously mentioned the rayon chenille that was specified partly because of a very good abrasion test rating. The fabric failed because the pile developed “spots” that were caused by rayon’s tendency to lay flat and a luster that usually accentuates the problem. This type of information is not on a fabric label. But, we know where you can get it.
They Are There To Help
Because the textiles world is always changing, Fiber-Seal is ready to help designers and clients with our comments about the suitability of their fabric choices. Part of their job at Fiber-Seal is to stay in touch with trends in the fabric and carpet industries. Because fibers and fabrics are ever-changing, it’s even more important to work with professionals who know the industry and can offer the best possible aftercare in both residential and commercial interiors.
Got a question about a fabric or floor covering” They are happy to answer it for you. Trust Fiber-Seal to provide the latest information about elegant interior textiles and their care. A version of this article first appeared in Fiber-Seal System’s FIBERFAX Volume Twenty | Number Four. Copyright © 2010 by Fiber-Seal Systems. All rights reserved.