How to Measure the Durability of Textiles

Testing durability of textiles

Without realizing it, most people have probably performed durability tests on their clothes. Who didn’t spend time as a child crawling around on the carpet, climbing trees or playing in a sandbox? The durability of textiles is a critical factor in the fabric industry defined as the ability to withstand wear despite continual use. Manufacturers use tests to determine how tough their products are and whether they can endure repeated wear and tear.

The Wyzenbeek Test

Although it sounds like something a mad scientist would do, the Wyzenbeek test — also known as the double rub test — is a standard procedure in the textile industry. It involves rubbing a piece of fabric back and forth in the same spot, once in each direction, which counts as a single cycle. The process is repeated for thousands of cycles to see how the fabric holds up.

Thankfully, a human doesn’t have to perform this arduous test, which only stops when the material undergoes two yarn breaks or shows signs of wear. A machine stretches the fabric taut and begins rubbing it with another cloth or an abrasive wire. This is supposed to mimic years of everyday use.

The number of cycles the fabric endures before it fails is called the Wyzenbeek abrasion rating. People can look at a product’s tag or label to find this rating, especially for upholstery. If it isn’t on the tag, the fabric manufacturer should be able to clarify what the Wyzenbeek abrasion rating is.

The Martindale Test

The Martindale test is a second, slightly less common way of measuring durability, which involves rubbing a piece of fabric in a figure-eight pattern. Like with the Wyzenbeek test, manufacturers determine the abrasion rating by the number of rubs the material withstands before breaking down. The main difference is the pattern.

If a textile endures 30,000 figure-eight strokes before showing signs of wear, it has an abrasion rating of 30,000. Interestingly, a material can score highly on one test but poorly on the other. That’s why it’s crucial to consider both numbers when looking for upholstery or heavy-use fabric.
Rating the Durability of Textiles

The Martindale and Wyzenbeek scores determine the durability of textiles for different uses. Here is how to calculate it.
1. Wyzenbeek
The number of double rubs determines whether the fabric is light, medium or heavy-duty. The higher the number, the thicker or sturdier the material typically feels.
  • Light: 14,000 double rubs or fewer. This rating is suitable for drapery, tablecloths, decorative pillows and other uses for thin textiles. If a tag says “For drapery purposes only,” it fits in this category of fabrics.
  • Medium: 15,000-29,000 double rubs. Bedding, Roman shades, tablecloths and slipcovers may fall into this category.
  • Heavy: 30,000 double rubs or more. Upholstered furniture, seat cushions and cornices are some examples of household items that use textiles with heavy durability.

2. Martindale

This score is usually broken down into more categories than the Wyzenbeek test.
  • Decorative: 10,000 or fewer rubs. Cushions or accent pillows might be made of thin, decorative fabric.
  • Light domestic use: 10,000-20,000 rubs. Textiles in this category will be dry clean only and are still quite delicate.
  • General domestic use: 20,000-25,000 rubs. This can be found on some furniture, though not furniture that puts a high amount of stress on the fabric, like recliners.
  • Heavy domestic use: 25,000-30,000 rubs. Materials in this category could suit almost any type of furniture.
  • Commercial use: 30,000 or more rubs. Things like public bus seats and upholstery fall under this rating.

What Don’t the Tests Reveal?

Neither test reveals how a textile stands up to UV exposure, water, chemicals or odors. They also don’t provide insight into staining and washability. The Wyzenbeek and Martindale tests only measure the durability of textiles against physical force.

Why Does the Durability of Textiles Matter?

The world has a sustainability problem. With so many people wearing clothes for only a short time before discarding them, lower-quality fabric leads to increased waste over time.

Durability is an essential component of a circular economy, where companies create products that last longer and use fewer resources to develop. Durable textiles save material, don’t wear out as quickly as weaker fabrics, are easier to repair and save people money in the long run. Companies that produce sturdier clothing, bedding and furniture can also build better reputations and brand loyalty.

Toughness may not matter as much for casual, everyday clothing, but it’s a critical factor in certain situations. That’s why it’s important to consider durability when it comes to things like firefighting uniforms, scuba suits, backpacks, airplane seats, hiking gear, hospital beds and more.

Built to Last

Manufacturers check the durability of different textiles to ensure quality, performance and reliability. The Martindale and Wyzenbeek tests can reveal a lot about how materials will hold up over time, ensuring they’re tough enough for whatever job they have to do.

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