To start, let's briefly define abrasion. Abrasion is the ability of fabric to withstand wear caused by the fabric rubbing against another material. The primary test that is used in the United States is the Wyzenbeek abrasion test, in which a piece of abradant rocks back and forth against the fabric being tested until 2 or more yarns break, or there is noticeable wear.
For at least the recent past, there has been a race to introduce and specify woven contract textiles with higher and higher Wyzenbeek abrasion ratings. However, abrasion results are not the end all be all when it comes to a fabrics durability. It's important to note that multiple abrasion tests on the same fabric sample can vary as much as 25,000 Wyzenbeek or Martindale cycles. And, as the abrasion number climbs, the reliability of the test decreases. A recent industry survey found that factors other than abrasion are more likely to result in the failure of a fabric.
So if it's not as easy as looking at an abrasion number to determine the durability of a fabric, then what do you look at? According to ACT (Association for Contract Textiles), a trade association for the contract textile industry, there are many factors other than abrasion that should be considered when thinking about the durability of a fabric:
◦Look at the results of other ACT physical properties tests.
◦Think about the style and quality of the furniture being specified. Is there sufficient padding to support the upholstery?
◦How much traffic and wear is the fabric going to be up against? The ACT tests do not indicate how a product will perform in an abusive environment.
◦Determine whether a performance finish such as an Antimicrobial, Moisture Barrier, or Stain Repellent is needed, which may increase its durability, but may also have a negative impact on flammability resistance, appearance, or environmental properties.
◦Contact the textile provider to help you determine if what you are specifying will perform well in its specified environment
In an effort to alleviate some of the "abrasion wars" that are raging, all ACT members (us included) are required to put a disclaimer on all product sampling materials that have abrasion ratings of 100,000 or more double rubs. The statement is as follows:
"Multiple factors affect fabric durability and appearance retention, including end-user application and proper maintenance. Wyzenbeek results above 100,000 double rubs have not been shown to be an indicator of increased lifespan."
So in the end, a lot more factors than just the abrasion number need to be taken into consideration to determine whether it is high performance fabric, or something more suited for light duty use.