Textiles 101

The Association for Contract Textiles (ACT) is a not-for-profit trade association made up of textile wholesalers to the contract interior market, furniture manufacturers, and industry partners. ACT has developed Performance Guidelines represented by five symbols, which give architects, designers, and end-users a vast amount of information in a succinct, visual way. Member companies display these symbols on textile samplings to assure that fabrics perform up to contract standards and pass all applicable testing.

The five categories below describe a textile's performance features as measured by specified methods under standard laboratory conditions. A brief description of each category is followed by the test method used for each type of material and the required standard. For more comprehensive information, visit the ACT website at contracttextiles.org.

ACT Colorfastness to Light

Colorfastness to Light

A material's degree of resistance to the fading effect of light.

Woven Upholstery Fabrics: AATCC 16, Option 1 or 3—Grade 4 minimum at 40 hours

Coated Upholstery Fabrics: AATCC 16, Option 1 or 3—Grade 4 minimum at 200 hours; or ASTM D4329—No appreciable color change at 150 hours

Direct Glue Wallcoverings: AATCC 16, Option 1 or 3—Grade 4 minimum at 40 hours

Wrapped Panels and Upholstered Walls: AATCC 16, Option 1 or 3—Grade 4 minimum at 40 hours

Drapery Fabrics: AATCC 16, Option 1 or 3—Grade 4 minimum at 60 hours


A textile's performance when exposed to specific sources of ignition.

Upholstery Fabrics: California Technical Bulletin #117, Section E—Class 1 (Pass)

Direct Glue Wallcoverings and Adhered Panels: ASTM E 84 (Adhered Method)—Class A or Class 1

Wrapped Panels and Upholstered Walls: ASTM E 84 (Unadhered Method)—Class A or Class 1

Drapery Fabrics: NFPA 701, Method 1 or 2 as appropriate—Pass

Physical Properties

Woven Upholstery Fabrics:

Pilling—The tendency for fuzzy balls of fiber to form and remain attached to a textile's surface.

ASTM D3511(Brush Pill test)—Class 3 minimum; or ASTM D4970 (Martindale test)—Class 3 minimum

Breaking Strength—The measurement of the amount of stress necessary to pull a textile apart, under tension.

ASTM D5034 (Grab Test)—50 lbs. minimum in warp and weft

Seam Slippage—The movement of yarns in a textile when it is pulled apart at a seam.

ASTM D4034—25 lbs. minimum in warp and weft

Coated Upholstery Fabrics:

Adhesion of Coating—The measurement of the force required to separate the coatings from the substrate.

ASTM D751, Sections 45–48—3lbf/in minimum

Tear Strength—The measurement of stress exerted to rip the fabric under tension.

ASTM D2261 (Tongue Tear)—Knits & Woven Substrates, 4 in x 4 lbs

ASTM D5733 (Trap Tear)—Nonwoven Substrates & Nonwoven Composites, 15 in x 15 lbs

Hydrolysis Resistance—The evaluation of a polyurethane fabrìc's ability to withstand exposure to extended periods of heat and humidity.

ISO 1419 (Tropical Test, Method C)—5 weeks, visual evaluation for no cracking, peeling, or delamination

Note: There is no direct correlation of testing weeks to years of service in the field.

Wrapped Panels and Upholstered Walls:

Breaking Strength—ASTM D5034 (Grab Test)—35 lbs. minimum in warp and weft

Drapery Fabrics:

Seam Slippage—ASTM D3597-D434 (for fabrics over 6 oz. sq yd)—25 lbs. minimum in warp and weft

Wet + Dry Crocking

The transfer of dye from the surface of a dyed or printed textile onto another surface, by rubbing.

Woven Upholstery Fabrics: AATCC 8, Dry Crocking—Grade 4 minimum; Wet Crocking—Grade 3 minimum

Coated Upholstery Fabrics: AATCC 8, Dry Crocking—Grade 4 minimum; Wet Crocking—Grade 4 minimum

Direct Glue Wallcoverings: AATCC 8, Dry Crocking—Grade 3 minimum; Wet Crocking—Grade 3 minimum

Wrapped Panels and Upholstered Walls: AATCC 8, Dry Crocking—Grade 3 minimum; Wet Crocking—Grade 3 minimum

Drapery Fabrics: AATCC 8 (for Solids), Dry Crocking—Grade 3 minimum; Wet Crocking—Grade 3 minimum. AATCC 116 (for Prints), Dry Crocking—Grade 3 minimum; Wet Crocking—Grade 3 minimum


The surface wear of a fabric caused by rubbing or contact with another fabric. The ACT thresholds for acceptable abrasion results for Woven Upholstery Fabrics are:

Low Traffic/Private Spaces—15,000 double rubs, Wyzenbeek method (ASTM D4157); 20,000 cycles, Martindale method (ASTM D4966)

High Traffic/Public Spaces—30,000 double rubs, Wyzenbeek method (ASTM D4157); 40,000 cycles, Martindale method (ASTM D4966)

The thresholds for Coated Upholstery Fabrics are:

High Traffic/Public Spaces—50,000 double rubs, Wyzenbeek method (ASTM D4157)

Print Retention for Printed Coated Upholstery—Rating of 3 or higher using the ACT photographic scale of approved replicas (ASTM D3389)

End use examples of heavy-duty installations where upholstery fabrics rated at 30,000 double rubs should be appropriate are single shift corporate, hotel rooms/suites, conference rooms, and dining area usage.

ACT acknowledges that there are constant traffic/demanding spaces that may require higher levels of abrasion resistance. End use examples that may require higher than 30,000 double rubs include: 24-hour transportation terminals, 24-hour telemarketing, 24-hour healthcare emergency rooms, 24-hour casino gambling areas, and such public gathering places as theatres, stadiums, lecture halls and fast food restaurants.

The Wyzenbeek and Martindale tests are the two methods commonly used to predict wearability. Actual performance is determined by many factors such as fiber content, weaves, finishes, furniture design, maintenance, cleaning, and usage. Durability of an upholstery fabric is a complex interaction (combination) of performance tests that, in addition to abrasion, include seam slippage, pilling, tensile strength, and usage.

Due to misconceptions about Wyzenbeek test results being a reliable indicator of fabric lifespan, ACT has instituted a policy that licensees using the ACT Abrasion certification mark and publishing test results in excess of 100,000 double rubs are required to provide the following statement in their marketing materials: Multiple factors affect fabric durability and appearance retention, including end-user application and proper maintenance. Wyzenbeek results above 100,000 double rubs have not been shown to be a reliable indicator of increased fabric lifespan.

ACT Performance Guidelines

The ACT Environmental Committee surveyed existing sustainable textile standards and identified the need for a universal standard to better serve suppliers, distributors, and specifiers of textiles used in commercial interiors. As a result, ACT and GreenBlue partnered with NSF International to build a consensus-based standard, certified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). In 2011, ACT adopted NSF/ANSI 336 as its voluntary guideline for sustainability.

Facts Sustainability Rating
To recognize contract textiles that conform to this standard, ACT has introduced FactsTM, a sustainability rating that indicates that a fabric has been evaluated for environmental, economic, and social aspects across its life cycle. To earn the Facts certification mark, the textile must be assessed and verified by an independent third-party certification body authorized by ACT. Facts joins ACT's performance certification marks to convey complex information about sustainability.

Facts certified textiles must meet all of the prerequisites in NSF/ANSI 336. Once a textile achieves the Facts Compliant threshold, it can be designated as a Facts Silver, Gold, or Platinum rating by earning points for additional sustainability criteria. Facts assesses both the composition of textiles and how they are manufactured. Half of the evaluation focuses on fiber sourcing and safety of the material; the other half scrutinizes the manufacturing process, including water conservation, energy, air quality, recycling practices, and social accountability.

Additional Sustainability Standards
The Facts certification program covers criteria included in other industry-specific sustainability certifications including: Level® by the Business Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) and GreenSquared® by the Tile Council of North America (TCNA). ACT is pursuing strategic relationships with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the Health Product Declaration (HPD) Collaborative, and other organizations to explore the possibilities of developing equal recognition programs for aspects of sustainability that overlap with Facts.

NSF/ANSI 336–2011

NSF/ANSI 336 is the principal standard used to evaluate and certify the sustainability of textiles used for commercial furnishings, over a product's entire life cycle. The Association for Contract Textiles (ACT) has been involved since the beginning of this effort, after identifying the need for a universal sustainability standard.

The standard addresses the environmental, economic, and social aspects of textiles used for commercial furnishings. Such fabrics can be woven, nonwoven, bonded, or knitted, and they can be used for upholstery (e.g., office and hotel furniture), vertical (e.g., drapery or panel systems) and decorative top-of-bed applications (e.g., bedspreads) in institutional, hospitality, and office settings.

Based on life cycle assessment principles, NSF/ANSI 336 employs an easy-to-use point system to evaluate textiles against established prerequisites, performance criteria, and quantifiable metrics in eight key areas:

  1. Fiber Sourcing
  2. Safety of Materials
  3. Water Conservation
  4. Water Quality
  5. Energy
  6. Recycling Practices
  7. Air Quality in Manufacturing
  8. Social Accountability

Certification to NSF/ANSI 336 is based on point totals, with the aim to achieve a Compliant, Silver, Gold, or Platinum level. As with all ANSI standards, organizations that choose to assess their products with this standard may achieve first-party, second-party, or third-party conformance:

First-party (self-declaration) assessment is performed by the person or organization that provides the product.

Second-party assessment is performed by the person or organization that has a user or purchaser interest in the product.

Third-party assessment is performed by a person or body that is independent of the person or organization that provides the product, and of the use or purchaser interests in that product.

The standard can also be used as a reference guide to sustainable production and "Design for the Environment" principles as they relate to commercial textiles. As a first- or second-party assessment, NSF/ANSI 336 can be met in whole or in part to internally benchmark increasingly sustainable practices or to measure the specific sustainable attributes of a product.