How to Choose Sofa Fabric: How the Martindale Scale Can Help

Natural Linen Sofa

When it comes to choosing the right sofa for your living room, one of the most important factors to consider is the fabric. Not only should it be aesthetically pleasing and match your decor, but it should also be durable enough to withstand everyday wear and tear. This is where the Martindale scale comes in. In this article, we’ll explain what the Martindale scale is and how it can help you choose the right sofa fabric for your needs.

Understanding the Martindale Scale

The Martindale scale, also known as the rub test, is a measure of a fabric’s durability. It’s named after the British company that developed the machine used to perform the test. The test involves running a piece of fabric back and forth under pressure until it shows signs of wear and tear. The number of rubs it takes for the fabric to show significant wear is recorded, and this number is used to determine the fabric’s durability rating.

What the Martindale Scale Ratings Mean

The Martindale scale ratings range from 0 to over 100,000 rubs. The higher the rating, the more durable the fabric is. Here’s a breakdown of what each rating means:

  • 0-9,000 rubs: Suitable for decorative purposes only, such as cushions or curtains.
  • 10,000-15,000 rubs: Suitable for light use, such as accent chairs or headboards.
  • 16,000-25,000 rubs: Suitable for general use, such as sofas or dining chairs.
  • 26,000-40,000 rubs: Suitable for heavy use, such as office chairs or hotel furniture.
  • 40,000+ rubs: Suitable for extra heavy use, such as public seating or healthcare furniture.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Sofa Fabric

When selecting a sofa fabric, it’s important to consider more than just the Martindale rating. Here are some other factors to keep in mind:

    • Style: The fabric should match your personal style and the overall aesthetic of your home.
    • Colour: Consider the colour of the fabric in relation to the rest of your decor, as well as how it will hold up to sunlight and stains.
    • Texture: The texture of the fabric can add visual interest and depth to your sofa, but it should also be comfortable to sit on.
    • Cleaning and Maintenance: Different fabrics require different levels of cleaning and maintenance, so consider how much time and effort you’re willing to put in.

    Types of Sofa Fabrics

    There are many different types of sofa fabrics to choose from, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the most popular options:

      • Leather: Durable, easy to clean, and develops a unique patina over time. However, it can be expensive and may not be suitable for households with pets.
      • Velvet: Luxurious and soft to the touch, but can be difficult to clean and may show wear and tear more quickly.
      • Linen: Lightweight and breathable, but can be prone to wrinkles.
      • Cotton: Durable and versatile, but can be prone to fading and wrinkling.
      • Polyester: Durable and easy to clean, but can be less breathable and may pill over time.
      • Microfibre: Durable and stain-resistant, but may not be as comfortable as other fabrics.

      Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

        Can I use the Martindale rating to compare fabrics of different types?

        Yes, the Martindale rating can be used to compare the durability of fabrics of different types. However, keep in mind that other factors such as texture, color, and cleaning requirements may still need to be considered.

        Can I trust the Martindale rating to accurately reflect a fabric’s durability?

        Yes, the Martindale rating is a standardized and widely accepted measure of fabric durability. However, keep in mind that it’s just one factor to consider and other factors such as the quality of the fabric and the way it’s constructed can also affect its durability.

        Can I get a sofa with a high Martindale rating without sacrificing style?

        Yes, there are many stylish sofa options available with high Martindale ratings. Look for fabrics such as velvet, chenille, or microfiber which can offer both durability and visual interest.

        Can I increase the lifespan of my sofa by choosing a high Martindale rated fabric?

        Yes, choosing a fabric with a high Martindale rating can help ensure your sofa lasts longer, especially if it’s going to be used frequently or in a high traffic area. However, keep in mind that regular cleaning and maintenance are also important for extending the lifespan of your sofa.

        Can I test a fabric’s durability before purchasing a sofa?

        To give yourself an idea of durability request a small swatch of the fabric and test it at home by rubbing it back and forth with a heavy object such as a book to see how it holds up.


        Choosing the right fabric for your sofa can make all the difference in terms of both aesthetics and durability. The Martindale scale is a useful tool for assessing a fabric’s durability, but it’s important to also consider other factors such as style, color, and texture when making your selection. By taking the time to choose the right fabric, you can ensure that your sofa not only looks great but also stands up to everyday wear and tear for years to come.