Fabric Wearability Code

How to Tell if a Fabric is Strong Enough

Young couple on couch looking at computer
Cavan Images/Taxi/Getty Images

The Fabric Wearability Code is based on one of the durability testing standards used in the upholstery industry. The code, or test result value, is useful as a basic indicator of how much wear and tear an upholstery fabric can withstand. While a code or test score is not a guarantee of quality or even durability, it can help you choose the right type of fabric for your application.

How the Wearability Test Works

The standard wearability test used in the United States is called the Wyzenbeek test, also known as the "double-rub" test. During the test, fabric is rubbed back and forth with a piece of cotton duck fabric. Each back-and-forth motion, or double rub, counts as one cycle. The idea is to approximate the wear and tear that comes from someone sitting down or getting up from an upholstered seat. As a general guideline, 3,000 double rubs equals one year's worth of use.

Another commonly used durability test is the Martindale test, which involves rubbing fabric in a figure-8 pattern, with one complete figure 8 counting as one cycle. The results of Wyzenbeek and Martindale tests are not interchangeable, nor are they indicative of each other. In other words, if a fabric scores highly on the Wyzenbeek test it will not necessarily score highly on the Martindale test.

Where to Find Wearability Codes

You can find fabric wearability codes on manufacturers’ swatch samples in dealer showrooms. Ask a salesperson to help if you cannot find the fabric wearability code on your own. If you're shopping for fabric online, look for wearability data with each fabric product. Not all online retailers publish test results. If you can't find the data, contact the retailer or the fabric manufacturer.

Wearability Codes for the Wyzenbeek Test

Wearability data may be provided as a number (such as 30,000) or simply as a code (such as MD, for "medium duty"). Here are the basic codes and the associated range of test values:

  • HD or Heavy Duty: If a fabric holds up to more than 15,000 double rubs it is classified as heavy duty. Many heavy duty fabrics are relatively thick and stiff, but there are also some highly durable blends that carry this rating. HD fabric would be a good choice for family room furniture.
  • MD or Medium Duty: Medium duty fabric can withstand 9,000 to 15,000 double rubs. Usually, the closer the fabric gets to 15,000 the stiffer it is. Medium duty fabrics are versatile and can be used for many purposes, including family rooms and living rooms. For furniture to stand up to kids and pets, however, look for something closer to 15,000.
  • LD or Light Duty: A fabric that can take anywhere between 3,000 to 9,000 double rubs is classified as light duty fabric. These fabrics can withstand one to three years of regular use and are generally very delicate. They are suitable for pieces that get only occasional use, such as sofas that are used primarily for guests or an occasional chair that actually gets occasional use.
  • DD or Delicate Duty: Delicate duty fabrics withstand only 3,000 double rubs and should be used only on furniture that is primarily decorative, or for pillows.