ABRASION RESISTANCE... A Major Factor In Fabric Performance and User Satisfaction

Abrasion resistance is one of the most essential performance characteristics of an upholstery fabric… the ability of the material to withstand the rubbing or abrasion it receives in day-to-day use. Many factors are directly related to abrasion resistance, including: type of yarn(s), fabric construction, construction of the furniture, and degree and type of use.


Abrassion Resistance Issues Pilling 806x806px

closeup of pilling on fabric

Pilling is the formation of groups of short or broken fibers on the surface of a fabric, which are tangled together in the shape of a tiny ball. Pilling may be more or less noticeable depending on the presence of other fibers (lint), and the degree of color contrast. The condition may be accompanied by such other phenomena as loss of color, development of fuzz or color change.

Short staple fiber spun yarns are more prone to pilling than long staple spun yarns because there are more fiber ends at the surface. For the same reason, low twist yarns pill more readily than high twist yarns.

Certain fibers tend to pill more than others. Strong synthetic fibers, such as nylon and polyester, if they are in a construction that is prone to pilling, will create pills that are not easily broken from the cloth during use, thus causing a more severe and unsightly problem.

Testing Methods

The Joint Industry Fabric Standards Committee, in its “Woven & Knit Residential Upholstery Fabric Standards & Guidelines” has reaffirmed the historic lack of accepted testing methods for pilling. Their document states: “There is no acceptable test method for pilling of woven and knit upholstery fabrics that is suitable for direct comparison to actual use.”

Although there is much disagreement on the subject of pilling tests, there are several methods currently in use.

“Random Tumble Pilling Tester Method (ASTM D3512-96)” and “Brush Pilling Tester Method (ASTM D3511-02)” are two of the more common tests.

The Random Tumble Method is used to test a fabric’s tendency toward both regular and lint pilling. Fabrics are tumbled in a cylindrical test chamber lined with a mildly abrasive material.

For this test, small amounts of cotton fiber (to simulate lint) are added to the test chamber with the specimens. The random rubbing motion produces pills on the fabric, which are then evaluated by comparison with visual standards. These standards may be either actual fabrics or (more commonly) photographs of fabrics showing a range of pilling resistance. The observed pilling is reported on an arbitrary scale ranging from No. 5 (no pilling) to No. 1 (severe pilling).

The Brush Pilling Method is used to indicate only regular pilling (not lint pilling). The fabric is first abraded with a nylon bristle brush, forming fuzz on the fabric surface. Next, two of these abraded specimens are rubbed together to try to form free fiber ends into pills. The same visual evaluation method used for Random Tumble is also used for Brush Pilling.

Again, there is no generally accepted test method for pilling resistance of upholstery fabrics.

The tests mentioned here are, like other laboratory tests, not always able to reproduce results which parallel in-use experience.

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