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How to Choose an Upholstery Fabric

When you’re about to start an upholstery project, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is which fabric to use. With all the options available it can be hard to know which fabric would be a good choice. You’ll obviously want to the take the color and style into account so your piece matches your home, but you should also consider if the fabric is strong enough to be stretched for upholstery and how the fabric will wear over time. I recently sat down with Cindi, our resident upholsterer and asked her a few questions about what to consider when choosing an upholstery fabric.

What are the double rubs?

Double rubs are an abrasion resistance measurement from a test called the Wyzenbeek Test. The test simulates people sitting on furniture by rubbing cotton duck over a fabric. Each pass forward and back is one double rub. For a family room, you’ll want to use a fabric with at least 15,000 double rubs. You can read more about double rubs in our post “Double Rubs and the Wyzenbeek Test”. Go to and search (#300100XHT) to read more.

Do you have kids or pets?

Kids and pets are hard on furniture. If you have small children or pet that sits on the furniture you’ll want to look for a fabric that can stand up to a lot of wear and tear. A cleanable fabric like Sunbrella® Upholstery Fabric which is stain resistant and can be treated with bleach, would be a great choice for a family with messy kids. As Cindi says in the video, fabrics with a “hard finish” are good for pets. Look for fabrics that don’t have a loose weave or any fibers that could be pulled by claws. The example fabric from the video is P/Kaufmann which is an animal print fabric with a sateen feel and shine and a slick finish.

Where is the piece in your house?

Where the upholstered piece is going to live in your home and how you use that room is another important consideration to make. You want to choose a fabric with more double rubs that feels heftier for a family room, but you could pick a lighter, more delicate fabric for a formal living room that doesn’t see as much traffic. This could also influence your color choice. Darker colors will hide dirt better than lighter colors.

When you’re ready to start your next re-upholstery project, head to and browse our selection of upholstery fabric.

What is most important to you when choosing fabrics for your home? Share your experiences in the comments.

2013_February_4What are double rubs? This statistic with a funny name actually says a lot about the strength of a fabric. Double rubs are a measurement of a fabric’s abrasion resistance. They are listed with most fabrics and are helpful in determining which fabric is right for your particular application.

Double rubs are found through a mechanized test called the Wyzenbeek Test (sometimes called the Wyzenbeek Method). The Wyzenbeek Test is regarded as the standard of measuring abrasion resistance for fabric in North America. A piece of cotton duck is stretched over a mechanical arm and passed back and forth over the test fabric in each direction. Each back and forth motion is one double rub. The cotton duck passing over the fabric simulates the wear of a fabric being used as a seat cushion, for example. The test is run in sets of 5,000 double rubs until the fabric shows “noticeable wear” or two yarn breaks.

So, how many double rubs should you look for in a fabric? It depends on your intended application. In general, around 15,000 or more double rubs is considered heavy-duty for residential applications. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Double Rubs for Residential Applications

Heavy Duty: 15,000+ double rubs. Suitable for family rooms.

Medium Duty: 9,000-15,000 double rubs. Versatile. Good for living or family rooms.

Light Duty: 3,000-9,000 double rubs. Usually better suited for formal or occasional use furniture.

Delicate Duty: Less than 3,000 double rubs. Recommended for more decorative use as in curtains, drapes or pillows.

Double Rubs for Commercial Applications

Contract Upholstery Minimum: 15,000 double rubs is considered the minimum for general contract, commercial upholstery projects.

Heavy Duty: 15,000-30,000 double rubs. Suitable for single shift offices, conference rooms, hotel rooms and dining areas.

Extra-Heavy Duty: 30,000+ double rubs. Recommended for constant use as in hospital waiting areas, airport terminals, fast food restaurants, theaters, and stadiums.

2013_February_3Check out our wide variety of upholstery, outdoor, and indoor/outdoor fabrics at What do you look for when selecting the perfect fabric?

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