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What is the Martindale Test, and how does it work?

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, there are many equivalents to this test. But this is my favourite.

Why? I guess you could say it’s because, to my mind, this is the upholsterers’ equivalent of a Crash Test Dummy!

But it’s also, in my experience, a pretty reliable measure of the potential durability of the fabric you choose.

What is The Martindale Test

Basically, the test is a unit that’s used to quantify how well fabrics (textiles) can stand up to wear and tear. It’s used especially in the world of upholstery and is a really good indication of which fabrics can withstand the uses for which they’re intended. In other words, “How durable is the fabric you’re choosing?”

How does it work?

This is the ‘Crash Test Dummy’ bit!

The Martindale Rub Test simulates natural wear of fabric when attached to a seat cover (which when testing is placed in the Martindale Machine).

The cover is then put through its paces and rubbed with varying levels of force against an abrasive surface. The abrasive surface can be something like rough wool or wire mesh, depending on the fabric being tested.

The equipment used in the test works in intervals of 5000 cycles. And, depending on how many intervals the fabric can withstand, it’s given a ‘wear number’. And of course, the higher the number, the more the fabric can resist wear and tear (abrasion).

Throughout the process, the material is inspected regularly until the point where two of the yarns in the fabric composite break or there is clearly a difference to the appearance of the fabric.

What does the score mean?

The minimum requirements (wear number) for each use is specified by the German Textile Industry and varies depending on whether the fabric is to be used for private or commercial use. That means the rub score can be anything between 20,000 and 100,000 – with 100,000 being the most durable, so by definition lasting much longer!

Something to consider…

Although a good indication of the ability of your chosen fabric to withstand abrasion (wear and tear) what it doesn’t do is account for every scenario. For example, chemicals, UV light – and those pesky pet claws when your furry friends jump up to say “Hello!” (Even when they’re not supposed to.)

So you need to also bear in mind the weave, composition and pattern of your chosen fabric as they will all have an impact on its longevity and appearance of wear and tear.

And finally, there are other tests similar to the Martindale Test (they’re known as ‘rub tests’) – but this is my favourite. It’s really only a guide, but it’s a great starting point and will definitely help you to narrow your choices down.