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In addition to the "inner values" of a bed, the cover fabric plays an important role in how well a bed fits your needs and how long you will enjoy it. The first question that often arises is: leather or fabric? And if the decision is in favour of the fabric version, the next thing to decide is which fabric quality is desired or, more fundamentally: how do you actually measure the quality of a fabric?
There are essential measurements for this, which you can find, for example, under technical data on fabrics. Here we explain what mysterious terms like "abrasion resistance" actually mean.
Light fastness indicates how much the colour of a fabric changes, for example fades, when exposed to artificial or natural light. The UV component in sunlight is particularly aggressive and can not only cause discolouration, but also changes in the properties of the surface and the materials in general.
This value is particularly relevant for garden furniture and here, for example, for parasols. But lightfastness can also play a role for sofas, armchairs and upholstered beds indoors: If the sun shines regularly and for a long time on an upholstered piece of furniture, the influence of UV rays will affect the surface of the fabric over time.
DIN 53952 has provided a scale from 1 ("very low") to 8 ("excellent") for this. In a test, a piece of the fabric to be tested is exposed to light while a part is covered. At defined intervals, the fabric is then compared with eight blue wool strips of known lightfastness as a control element. The length of exposure to light roughly doubles from stage to stage.
Level 7, for example, means that the fabric could remain outdoors in Central Europe for a year before discolouration becomes noticeable. This will also occur at the highest level 8. Accordingly, there are no fabrics without changes due to the influence of light. Values for upholstered furniture covers usually end up at level 4 or 5.
Generally, synthetic fibres have a better light fastness than natural fibres.
The abrasion resistance indicates how easily the colour of the upholstery fabric can transfer to another fabric (e.g. clothing). It is also referred to as rub fastness.
In other words, how thoughtlessly can you lean your bright white summer shirt onto the brand new bright red bed headboard?
The scale for abrasion resistance ranges from 1 ("very low") to 5 ("very good"). The test examines this effect with both a dry and a wet fabric sample.
In general, it is not surprising to see that light colours often achieve better results than dark shades.
By the way: this rub fastness can also play a role in reverse. For example, if you have just bought a pair of jeans, you should not immediately sit down on the white edge of the bed with them. These trousers are known to rub off, at least initially. This will usually disappear after a few washes.
Pilling is how quickly and severely a fabric forms lint, fluff or fibre nodules. It is also known as pilling. There is a scale from 1 ("very strong") to 5 ("none").
This property, like abrasion resistance (see above), can be tested using the Martindale method. It is implemented in a slightly modified form according to DIN EN ISO 12945-2. The fabric samples are tested after 125, 500, 1000 and 2000 friction cycles.
Linting and knotting are particularly prevalent in flat and mixed fabrics, especially in short-fibred fabrics with a surface structure. Fibres are detached from the fabric by friction and can collect in small balls.
By the way, slight fluffing is normal and widespread. It is therefore not a quality defect and hardly affects the fabric. It is mainly a visual problem. If the worst comes to the worst, a lint shaver will help. A lint roller can also be used, but usually does not work as well because it is not intended for large-scale use.
The number of abrasion cycles indicates how resistant a fabric is to abrasion, i.e. how well it can withstand, for example, a piece of upholstery and a garment fabric rubbing against each other.
A tip here is: The more often an upholstery cover is used, the more you should pay attention to this information. So it is less important for an armchair used twice a year in the guest room than for an upholstered bed in the bedroom. It is particularly important for commercial use, for example in waiting rooms or restaurants, which have to withstand much higher wear and tear.
In a nutshell: the higher the number of abrasion cycles, the longer it will last.
How is the value determined?
To determine this number, the standardised test procedure with the "Martindale method" is used (e.g. according to DIN EN ISO 12947-1).
Here, the laboratory takes the fabric to be tested and a standardised fabric made of wool. Both are rubbed against each other for the test with a defined weight load in a specially manufactured apparatus (the "Martindale abrasion tester").
The test ends when two threads in the fabric under test break or show signs of abrasion. Until then, the number of rubs is recorded and the measured value is given in abrasion cycles or Martindale.
What is a good value for upholstered furniture?
How high the value of the abrasion cycles should be depends on various factors. A starting point: The German Furniture Quality Association requires 10,000 abrasion cycles to award its seal of quality. Generally speaking, such a fabric is suitable in private households if the piece of furniture is used little. If the furniture is used regularly, it should be at least 15,000.
Which value is sufficient depends not only on the use, but also on the upholstery: If it is rather soft and the cover fabric lies loosely on it, it is generally less stressed than with hard upholstery where it is stretched tightly. With firm upholstery, you should therefore prefer a fabric with a higher abrasion number. Example: While the above-mentioned 10,000 Martindale is sufficient for occasional use of a soft sofa, it should be 15,000 for a firmer sofa.
From 20,000 Martindales, the fabric is also suitable for use in public spaces. For use in offices, at least 25,000 abrasion cycles are recommended. Here, by the way, the test is carried out with a heavier weight to simulate the heavier wear.
The scale goes much further: for the heavily used control rooms of the police or emergency services, for example, 200,000 to 500,000 martindales are required.