Choose the right fabric for your home project.

We are frequently asked to recommend fabrics. In particular customers want to know if the fabric will last the test of time, clean well and not fade. There are no official fabric standards in Ireland but as a member of the EU we are legally obliged to adopt the EU standards. However the British standards are identified with most as they are our closest neighbour. It is worth noting that the German and British standards are a little higher than the EU standards and that if you use either of these standards you cannot go wrong. But it is important to note that none of these standards are compulsory, they are guidelines for quality manufacture only.

Abrasion Testing.

All fabric are tested using an abrasion test. The most popular one in the EU is the Martindale test which is a British standards testing method.  A fabric sample is put under an abrasion machine, which revolves rubbing the fabric. The rating rub test result is based on the number of revolutions achieved before the fabric starts to break down. The British standard test is BS5690

Standard Specifications:

Curtains                                                        Rated 1,000 rubs and up – anything goes

Domestic upholstery                                  Rated 10,000 rubs and up

Contract upholstery (Hotel)                     Rated 20,000 rubs and up

Contract upholstery (Bar/ Restaurant)  Rated 30,000 rubs and up

Public Waiting Areas (Airports etc)        Rated 60,000 rubs and up

Public transport                                          Rated approx. 500,000 rubs

Grades Usage: Some fabric companies do not give their rub test results. Instead they provide the standard grade categories. These are recognised worldwide but as with all standards are not policed. They are as follows:


Domestic Light duty

Domestic Medium duty / Commercial Light duty

Domestic Heavy duty / Commercial Medium duty

Commercial Heavy duty

Light Fastness

Fabrics are tested for their colour fastness to light. Fabric samples are exposed to light for a number of days and rated based on the results. They are rated on a scale of 1 to 8. 1 having the poorest light resistance to light and 8 having the best resistance to light. The British standards test is BS1006-B06

Standard Specifications:

Blinds                                                           Rated 6

Lined Curtains in dark shades                Rated 3-4 or 4-5

Lined Curtains in pale shades                 Rated 3-4, or 4-5

Upholstered Fabrics Domestic                Rated 3-4 or 4-5 or 5-6

Upholstery fabrics Commercial              Rating depends on how the fabrics are to be used.

Piling Testing

All fabrics are prone to piling on the surface. British standards to no run a test for this. The test is the EU Zweigle Method with uses the Martindale machine in a different manner. The method is a visual assessment and usually based on the opinion of two textile technicians. The fabric is rated 1 – 5. 1 represents severe piling and 5 represents no piling. Very few textile manufacturers include this rating in their information so it is a bonus when it does appear.

Fire Rating of Fabrics

Fire rating of fabrics is really only necessary in contract situations. The method of applying fire retardancy to fabric can be done in two ways. A) The fabric can be sprayed with a liquid to bring it up to the required standard. B) The fabric can be woven with the inclusion of a fire rated thread during its manufacture making it inherently fire retardant fabric.

There are 3 British standard tests as follows:

BS 5852 Part 1, Source O – This means that the fabric is has a good resistance to a smouldering cigarette – Usually advised for Domestic Upholstery in the UK.

BS 5852 Part 2, Source 1 – This means that the fabric has good resistance to butane flame.

BS 5852 Part 3, Source 5(CRIB) – This means that the fabric has good resistance to fire in a commercial or contract environment.


Fire retardancy can be applied to a piece of furniture after it has been manufactured using the spray method.

The  disadvantage of the spray on fire retardancy is that it does tend to change the feel of the fabric and sometimes there may be a slight change  in the tone / colouring in the fabric although this is rare.  Always check that your fabric is suitable for spraying before you purchase it.

It should be noted that some fabrics can only achieve Crib 5 rating if they are used in conjunction with another fire retardant product. For example fire rated foam for upholstery or fire retardant interliner for curtains or upholstery

Fire retardancy is not permanent. It wears off after 5 – 7 years or if the fabric is washed.

Colour Matching

Colours of all fabrics vary from batch to batch. All batches are numbered (as with wallpapers). If you think that you may need to order more of the same fabric make sure to get the batch number.


All Fabric books should show cleaning instructions. All fabrics are cleanable. Some are dry clean only while others are washable. Shrinkage is always a problem unless you choose a pre-shrunk fabric. But even pre-shrunk fabrics are not steadfast.

If a fabric is vacuum cleaned and stains removed with a damp cloth or mild soapy water solution shortly after the spillage then the fabric should last a considerable length of time before needing a major cleaning.

We do advise that you should always follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions to ensure your fabric lasts as long as possible.

Fabrics Treated with fabric protectors.

There are two fabric protectors on the market – Teflon & Scotchguard. Both do effectively the same thing. They protect from sunlight and slow down the fading process. They repel a certain about of dirt but will still advise that you clean up a spillage immediately. They do advise that fabric that has been sprayed with the coating should be dry-cleaned so as not to disturb the protective coating. Even so the coating does wear off over time and will wear off in patches where spills have occurred more quickly. In recent times there have been some health concerns about these coatings and their carcinogenic properties. Whether or not you want to apply these to your fabrics is a choice only you can make.

And Finally…

So this is everything that you need to know. When you are next shopping for upholstery or curtain fabrics do make sure to ask about the various quality tests so that you can be assured that you are purchasing the right fabric for your project. Happy shopping!


Written by admin

September 3, 2013

Posted in Tips & Advice.

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