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Technical Information Article

​Reduce upholstery fabric complaints through testing

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Upholstery fabrics are required to be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose.This means they are expected to be free of manufacturing faults and reasonably durable.

When designing or selecting upholstery fabrics performance requirements should not be an afterthought but a first consideration, and if suitable levels are not achievable the fabric is not suitable for use no matter how attractive it may be.

Problems have been identified on several occasions during fault investigations at FIRA and premature fabric deterioration is commonly seen as the cause.

This is supported by the latest figures published by The Furniture Ombudsman 'the sign of fair trading in the furniture industry' which reveal 50% of upholstery complaints received relate to consumer dissatisfaction with cover performance.

The sensible course of action is to evaluate the fabric prior to use to minimise premature breakdown and customer complaint.

Which fabric properties are key to performance?

Fabric properties can be divided into three sections

  • Strength
  • Abrasion
  • Colour

There are many different ways of measuring these properties but the characteristics considered important regarding upholstery fabric are:

  • Strength
  • Abrasion
  • Colour
  • Tear
  • Martindale abrasion resistance
  • Colour fastness to light
  • Tensile
  • Pilling resistance
  • Colour fastness to rubbing (dry)
  • Colour fastness to rubbing (wet)
  • Seam slippage
  • Colour fastness to water
How do I know what performance levels are needed?

British Standard BS 2543:2004 ‘Upholstery fabrics for end use applications – Classification’ classifies covering fabric for domestic and contract use. Fabric is classified via a product profile consisting of a twin letter grouping indicating a technical description for suitable end-use applications.

  • LD light domestic - suitable for upholstery intended for occasional or very light usage
  • GD general domestic - suitable for most styles of upholstery for general use
  • HD heavy domestic - suitable for upholstery where increased durability and enhanced performance are required to counter heavy use
  • GC general contract - suitable for upholstery likely to be subject to general contract use such as environments where the furniture is likely to be used throughout the day
  • SC severe contract -suitable for all types of upholstery use

Performance levels for different upholstery applications are provided in the standard. The fabric evaluation protocols and values are extracted from BS EN 14465:2003 ‘Textiles – Upholstery fabrics – specification and method of test.

The two standards are inter-linked and both need to be used to evaluate and grade fabric for upholstery use.

Reduce complaints and see a cost benefit

The true cost of complaint incorporates not only the value of replacement, repair or refund but also staff time, transport, telephone calls, possible loss of goodwill and future business.

Ensuring the performance of a fabric through testing, using the classification in BS 2543:2004, will reduce complaints and demonstrate that it is of suitable quality for upholstery applications.

Contact: Testing Services

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