It is well known that performance fabrics are ideal for outfitting high traffic areas in interior spaces that are designed to stand the test of time. When searching for easy-to-clean materials that can hold up to heavy wear-and-tear, it is best to specify those that are armed with attributes such as resilience, resistance, and durability. Whether engineered into the fibers or added during a finishing process, the information below explores the potential of performance fabrics and highlights its host of helpful, hard-wearing characteristics.
Performance fabrics first emerged for use in the upholstery of outdoor furnishings, offering an advanced ability to withstand weather related stains and abrasions. Once the advantages of their resilient characteristics became apparent, the same performance attributes were then adapted for indoor use as well. The threads that are most commonly turned to for use in performance upholstery fabric include acrylic, nylon, olefin, and polyester, among others. Prevailing performance properties include durability, stain resistance, mold and mildew resistance, light fastness, and antimicrobial traits, which work in tandem to address concerns for heavily used spaces. “One of the key advantages to performance fabrics is the cleanability they provide in high-traffic spaces,” says Paul Templeman-Holmes, Global VP of Sales and Marketing at Brentano. “So much emphasis is placed on rub-count, which is important, but it has been proved time and time again that 40,000 rubs is more than enough for even the most demanding environments, what makes the difference are the ease at which fabrics can be cared for and maintained so they continue looking good for years to come.”
Engineered to stand up to more stringent conditions than traditional fabrics, performance fabrics can be designed to address a variety of different concerns, from resisting stains to repelling microbes. “Technology has been instrumental in helping create fabrics that can be easily spot or deep cleaned, which is vital especially in restaurants and public areas,” says Templeman-Holmes. “The processes and fibers used ensure this performance is no longer just surface deep, but inherent to the characteristics of the textile, meaning their looks and durability can be guaranteed for much greater periods of time.”
Performance Content Versus Performance Finish
There are two approaches to achieving performance-level degrees of durability in fabrics. The first is to use fibers that possess performance traits, and the second is to chemically treat or coat a fabric with a performance finish. Thus, performance can be engineered into a fabric’s fibers or added during a finishing process. “The key is to remember that finishes enhance performance while the content is the performance,” says Sarah Tofan, Director of Marketing at Anzea Textiles. “Finishes serve to further enhance the performance of a fabric by adding moisture resistance, moisture barriers, stain resistance, anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties, flame resistance, and so on.”
When weighing the advantages of performance contentas compared to performance finish, the decision is dependent on the type of textile and performance level that is needed. One of the key differences comes down to cost. “Budget is a major consideration and the advantage of high-performance finishes is that they can be applied to almost any product and are relatively inexpensive,” says Templeman-Holmes. “High performance yarns are a much higher initial cost, so to give outstanding performance but at a price that works for large scale projects, high performance finishes often offer a reliable, effective and more affordable alternative.” The premiere level of performance is enabled by a dual approach, with performance engineered into the fabric’s fibers and also added as a finish. “For ultimate performance, a combination of a finish on top of a high-performance yarn really offers the most effective overall protection and durability and it’s a path we often go down at Brentano,” says Templeman-Holmes. “Finishes often provide an initial barrier between what’s been spilled and the fabric, meaning if it is cleaned up quickly, the stain never even has a chance to permeate the fabric. However, we know that’s not always possible, so having the back up of an easy clean yarn as well as the finish means you have great immediate protection and long-term stain resistance.”