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What is a Martindale Rub Test?

A Seat & Cushions Covered in Upholstery Fabric, made to measure

How do you know if a fabric is suitable for furnishing? A guide to the Martindale rub test.

Do you need fabric for a sofa, box cushions or occasional chair? Choosing a fabric means choosing for functionality as well as for design, and for that you need to know the Martindale abrasion or rub score.

What is a fabric rub test?

Customers often ask if a fabric can be used for a particular project, like box cushions. We know it can be hard to be sure a fabric is suitable, so here comes science comes to the rescue!

It’s really simple to check the rub test rating of a fabric. You’ll find a Martindale rub test score on most of our furnishing fabrics in hangers and books. For roll stock, we try to label all our rolls for usage, and shop staff are always happy to advise.

What’s a good rub test result?

You’ll only see a rub test rating on fabrics designed for soft furnishings, and it’s a great guide to how to use the fabric. A good rub test result simply means the right score for your project. Getting the right Martindale abrasion test or rub test rating is important because it means the fabric you choose will stand up to wear it’ll get.

This will differ for curtains, cushions, or hard-working sofa covers, so it’s important to get it right. For instance you could use a furnishing fabric with a low rub score on a statement occasional chair, but not on hotel furniture or on a much-loved family sofa. Checking the rub count when you’re choosing saves you making a bad choice.

What is Martindale abrasion?

The Martindale abrasion test is an internationally-recognised method of measurement. It measures the durability of a furnishing fabric using a Martindale machine. This uses the controlled abrasion of the surface of the fabric with sandpaper discs. The Martindale test score is the number of times the discs can rub the surface before signs of wear begin to show. The higher the number, the more resistant the fabric.

What do the rub score numbers mean?

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10,000 rub score: Decorative use

Fabrics with a low rub score are light or easily damaged furnishing fabrics. They are only suitable for decorative use, such as scatter cushions or accents.


10,000 – 20,000: Light domestic use

Fabrics with a Martindale rub test to 10,000 – 20,000 rubs are for light domestic furnishings such as curtains, cushions, blinds. You can also use these fabrics for furniture that gets light occasional use such as dining chairs and bedroom furniture.

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20,000 – 30,000 rub score: General domestic use

Fabrics with a Martindale rub count of 20,000 – 30,000 are suitable for general domestic use like chairs and sofas in the living room.

These fabrics are tough enough for furniture that gets a lot of use, but will not be suitable for furniture that puts specific stress on the fabric, such as a recliner chair, or for use in a commercial setting.


30,000 or more: Commercial use

Fabrics with a fabric rub test score of 30,000 or more are suitable for furniture that will be used in commercial settings such as restaurants and hotels. We stock fabric with a Martindale score of up to 100,000, which is tough enough for use in any home or commercial setting.

Is the rub test score all I need to know?

It’s not just the rub test score! Other factors also affect how a fabric will wear. This includes physical wear and tear outside of normal use. For instance, if you are planning to re-cover or upcycle old furniture,there may be extra risk areas. Sharp corners, old nails and rough edges will cause extra rubbing and wear.

Piped seams look great on cushions and upholstery but can be an area of greater wear regardless of th rub test score of the fabric. Depending on the position of the piping, the type of fabric and even the firmness of the piping cord within, fabric over the piping may wear out more quickly, This is especially likely on high-contact areas of furniture like the front of a seat cushion.

A few other things to think about:

  • UV light: Sunlight will damage fabric even if it has a high rub test number. If your furnishings are for a conservatory, boat or south-facing window, you’ll need to consider UV exposure. Fabrics with a high polyester content will be more resistant to fading.
  • Pets: Dogs jumping off and on of sofas, and cats scratching exposed surfaces will cause more wear and tear; fabrics that catch more easily might not be a good choice in this scenario.
  • Dirt: How dirty might the fabric get, and will you need to wash it frequently? For fabric for a hectic family home or a holiday let, it’s good to make sure the fabric is strong enough to clean. A fabric with a higher Martindale abrasion test score will be more resistant.
  • Chemicals: Is the fabric at risk from chemicals such as cleaning sprays? Furnishings in commercial properties can get damaged or marked by contract cleaning materials.
  • FR treatment: Does the fabric you choose need to be fire resistant? FR treated fabric is a legal requirement in commercial settings; you can also choose it for your home. Some of our fabrics are ready-treated, as are our range of contract furnishings. We supply FR treatment sprays for you to use at home. Alternatively we can treat smaller lengths in-house or send larger quantities of fabric away for FR treatment. .

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