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What Is The Martindale Test?


Have you ever wondered why we use the fabric on our furniture for that specific purpose? For example, what makes our upholstered wingback chairs so soft and long-lasting? Well, the answer to that comes from the Martindale test. This experiment tests the durability of upholstery fabrics to discover which will be best for what usage. Are you intrigued? Well, here’s all you need to know about the Martindale test, including how to read the results for your upholstery fabrics properly. 

What Is The Martindale Test?

vintage themed living room with upholstered furniture tested with the martindale test

The Martindale test, also known as the Martindale rub test, is used on soft upholstery fabrics to determine their durability. Additionally, a Martindale test result will determine the usability of the materials. For example, fabrics with a lower score on the Martindale test are more likely to be used for decorative pieces. On the other hand, those with a higher score will be able to withstand more wear and tear, so they would work better for domestic furniture. Martindale is a unit used to measure the abrasion resistance of fabrics and was named after Dr J.G Martindale, who invented the machine that conducts this test in the 1940s. 

How Does The Martindale Test Work?

The Martindale rub test uses the aptly named Martindale machine. This machine has small discs of sandpaper or wool that rub against the fabric for testing in a circular motion. The device oscillates the discs against the material until there is a noticeable change in appearance or two yarns snap, which is when the test ends. 

The results of the Martindale test come in a score of thousands. This score relates to the rubs of the machine, and the higher the number, the more durable the fabric. Those who ran the test can then categorise the materials according to this result. The results of a Martindale rub test are recognised internationally and tell how hard-wearing a fabric is for commercial or contract use. 

How To Read The Results

The results of a Martindale test are presented as numbers in thousands, relating to the number of cycles the Martindale machine went through before the fabric began to tear. The higher the score, the more long-lasting the material will be. Here are all the results you can expect to see from a Martindale test and how to read them properly:

Score Usage Result
10,000 or less Decorative use e.g. cushions or accents. 

A fabric with this score would not be useful for furniture upholstery or domestic use

10,000 – 20,000 Light domestic use e.g. occasional furniture

A fabric with this score is strong enough for occasional use, but will likely be dry clean only and made from delicate yarns

20,000 – 25,000 General domestic use e.g. armchairs or sofas

A fabric with this score is suitable for everyday usage on main house furniture. However, it is not durable enough for furniture that puts a high level of stress on the fabric. 

25,000 – 30,000 Heavy domestic use e.g. motion furniture

A fabric with this score is good for high levels of everyday use and motion furniture, such as recliners. 

30,000 or more Commercial use e.g. restaurant chairs

A fabric with this score is ranked as commercial grade, meaning it is strong enough for heavy duty furniture and will suit commercial environments.

What A Martindale Rub Test Can’t Tell You

lushly decorated living room with upholstered furniture tested with the martindale rub test

Unfortunately, a Martindale test can’t tell you everything. Although it is undoubtedly helpful for monitoring the durability of furniture and understanding which fabrics to use when the Martindale test can’t tell you how well furniture will handle other environmental factors. For example, the Martindale test will not reveal the effects of the following:

  • UV lights
  • Chemicals
  • Dirt
  • Pet stains
  • Claw marks
  • Maintenance levels

All of these will naturally affect the longevity and durability of your furniture. Knowing how to maintain upholstered chairs will help to make your furniture last longer, so you enjoy it for years to come. 

In Summary

And that is the Martindale test! The results of the Martindale rub test still influence the fabrics we use in our homes and workplaces to this day, and now you know how. A high score from the Martindale test indicates that your domestic furniture will last, and with regular maintenance, you can ensure that. 

Do you have any thoughts on the Martindale test? Please leave us your comments below! 

Anna Sharples

Office and marketing manager for Sloane & Sons Stylish Chairs, who sell a range of high-quality tub chairs, accent chairs and more.

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