The following post is republished from the Association for Contract Textiles. The study was researched and written by the ACT Technical Committee.
The contract textile industry has struggled for years with the negative impact of ever-increasing abrasion resistance numbers. Recognizing that these numbers are believed to represent lifespan and durability for contract upholstery, the ACT Technical Committee surveyed members in October 2009 regarding actual end-use failures. The goal of the survey was to reach a better understanding of real-world upholstery performance.
Questions were carefully constructed to elicit a broad view of issues related to durability and to explore relationships among failures, durability and the ACT Voluntary Performance Guidelines. Those surveyed include ACT distributors, furniture companies, finishing companies and mills. Responses varied from concise to complex and were wide ranging. The following summary presents the majority view, but also includes answers that were unexpected and interesting.
"surface abrasion testing is less relevant than other indicators of real world performance."
Products are frequently eliminated from the selection process based solely on abrasion test results. If abrasion results were indicative of durability, we would expect to see extended life spans for fabrics with higher abrasion results, and more field failures for fabrics with lower results. In fact, this is not the case. Among members surveyed, there are very few abrasion claims or failures—especially considering the diverse market segments served, and their wide-ranging requirements.
The survey shows that surface abrasion testing is less relevant than other indicators of real world performance. Only seam slippage and pilling are failures mentioned frequently enough to warrant ranking the answers as issues for wovens. It is interesting to note that there were no claims due to surface abrasion for coated upholstery products.
Upholstery durability is dependant on a host of broad and complex end-use conditions. Simplifying durability to a number achieved by surface abrasion testing has done a disservice to the design industry. The ”wild cards” when assessing overall durability and lifespan of any upholstery are cleanability and abuse. No amount of double rubs can compensate for these issues.
The survey underscores the need for an overarching education campaign about upholstery durability, including the appropriate role of abrasion resistance testing. As a result, the ACT board accepted the challenge and charged the Technical Committee to research and develop new documents and materials for this purpose. The White Papers that the Technical Committee’s recent research has produced are now online at our Website. The board encourages all ACT members—and the A&D community—to visit www.contracttextiles.org and refresh their understanding about durability so they are better equipped to assess the potential lifespan of upholstery products.
You can read the full survey and results here.