Finishes on textiles vary with the end use. In residential settings there are fewer requirements than in nonresidential settings. In nonresidential or contract settings, the design professional first should determine which tests the textiles must pass. This information should be obtainable from the project architect or local fire chief. Documentation of the tests the fabrics will pass when post-finished should be, and in some case must be, provided by the fabric finishing company.
The longevity of finishes varies and is categorized into durable and non-durable finishes. A finish that is classified as durable is one that will endure through successive wet or dry cleanings. A non-durable, or soluble finish, is one that will be removed through successive washing or dry cleanings.
Whether a finish is durable or non-durable likely will not be apparent. If the quantity of yardage or the nonresidential specification dictates, the design professional should research the finishes to document their durability. This is particularly important with flame-retardant finishes to ensure the finish will meet the required codes.
Textile finishes applied after the coloring process generally fall into one of two general categories according to purpose or end result. These categories are: standard, wet or chemical finishes and decorative or mechanical finishes. Let's take a look at the first category.
Standard, chemical or wet finishes augment the textile's durability or ability to perform in a given way. These finishes include antibacterial or antiseptic, anti-static, care-free, flame retardant, insulative, mothproof, soil and water repellent finishes.
Antibacterial or antiseptic finishes are topically applied in the form of bacteriostats -- chemicals that suppress mold and mildew and slow or prevent the rotting process. These finishes are important in health care settings.
Anti-static finishes primarily are for carpeting and wall or furniture upholstery. There are two ways anti-static properties can be applied: by adding chemical inhibitors to the man-made fiber viscose solution, or as a topical application after the carpet or fabric is completed.
If added to the viscose, the anti-static finish will be durable. If applied topically then it is a soluble or non-durable finish. This finish is for personal comfort (to reduce shocks after walking across a carpet then touching the light switch, for example), and in office settings where computers or other delicate equipment would be protected against damage by reducing the potential static electricity.
Care-free finishes make a textile easier to care for. Bedding and other fabrics that are washed often and upholstery fabrics that receive much use can benefit from a wrinkle-resistant finish. Some wall and drapery fabrics and some upholstery textiles have a permanent wrinkle or pleated appearance. This effect may be accomplished by a permanent press finish. These are topical finishes that are heat-set or calendered into the fabric.
Flame retardant finishes inhibit the rate of ignition, slow flame spread and encourage a fabric to self-extinguish. They are topical applications that are heat-set into the textile and are required for many nonresidential settings in order to meet code. Because of flame retardant finishes, there are far more aesthetically beautiful textiles that may be used in nonresidential settings today than ever before.
The durability of finishes may vary, as there are several levels of flame retardant finishes.
Insulative finishes typically are a foam material that is sprayed onto the backs of fabrics to insulate against temperature and noise. They are durable.
Lamination or bonding is the process of joining two textiles through the application of heat, pressure and sometimes adhesives. Vinyl upholstery and clear vinyl laminated fabrics are examples.
Mothproof finishes are topical finishes applied to wool or cellulosic fabrics that may be vulnerable to insect damage. Site location will be one factor in determining the need for mothproofing. The finish may be durable or non-durable.
Soil repellent finishes are available as either durable or non-durable. If the treatment is applied to the fabric when it is manufactured or when it's sent to a fabric finishing company, it is durable. Topical application from a spray can or in the back room of a furniture warehouse is non-durable.
Soil repellent finishes hold dirt and oily stains on the surface of the textile for a time so they can be readily removed. It is important to blot the spill quickly, as the soil or spill can work its way into the fibers after a period of time. Soil repellent finishes are very useful in carpeting and upholstery and are desirable in draperies and fabric window shades.
There are well-known brand names for soil repellent finishes, such as 3M's Scotchgard[TM] and DuPont's Teflon® finish. However, many products are now on the market, so it is wise to compare the durability of each product.
Water repellent finishes sometimes are added to the soil-repellent finish and can be either durable or non-durable. These finishes make the textile less hydrophilic, or water-absorbing, in order to protect it against moisture damage. Outdoor furniture fabric, drapery fabrics and some nonresidential textiles benefit from water repellent finishes.
Water absorbency finishes enhance the ability to absorb water and aim at making the textile more washable and more able to let go of soil and stains once they are absorbed into the surface.
Decorative finishes achieve a decorative result or an enhanced aesthetic hand or appearance. A decorative finish may give a fabric its name, such as moiré, plissé or chintz, for example. Some decorative effects are not apparent because they enhance the surface texture of the finish by brightening or dulling it. Some finishes increase the durability of the decorative effect.
Brightening finishes can be either durable or non-durable. They augment the clarity or brightness of the colors in a textile making it look crisp and new for a length of time.
Calendering finishes are applied and pressed into the textile with a calendering machine: a heavy cylinder roller that applies heat and pressure. Starches, glazes or resins can be forced deeper into the textile surface by calendering, and when the roller is engraved specialty textural effects such as Palmer or moiré finishes are achieved. Calendered finishes can be durable or non-durable.
Ciré (chintz) finishes are calendered finishes that use a glaze, usually in the form of a resin, that is applied then pressed into the fabric. The finish may be durable if dry cleaned; but non-durable if washed or wet cleaned.
Delustering finishes, when done to yarns or finished fabrics, takes away the shininess of the textile. Sometimes a high luster in textiles is considered a cheaper look, so a low-luster finish will enhance the richness of a particular fabric or carpeting.
Durable press calendering is the application of resins to a textile that is stretched tight then cured at a very high temperature in order to make it more wrinkle-resistant and to retain its shape. Durable press also is used in the calendering process to add a greater degree of permanence to the embossing. Durable press is a flat curing process.
Embossed finishes involve an engraved or bas-relief (raised) calender roller that presses a three-dimensional pattern into a textile. If the fabric has a pile, such as a velvet or velour, the embossing permanently presses it down to create the embossed effect.
Etch printing or burn-out finishes print a design into a fabric such as a polyester/cotton with an acid compound that burns or etches (dissolves) the cellulosic fiber to reveal a sheer pattern.
Flocked finishes are the adherence of tiny fibers or fine particles to create a pile effect on a fabric through one of two methods:
1. Adhesive is applied to the surface of the fabric, which may be in a design or pattern. The fibers are added with the excess flocked fibers vacuumed off. The adhesive is cured and the fabric brushed and cleaned.
2. Electrostatic flocking uses adhesive on the ground cloth, which is then passed through a high-voltage field that charges the fibers causing them to be attracted to the adhesive.
Flocked fabrics can be embossed and printed. Generally, the finish is durable.
French wax finishes are a ciré finish in which resins are applied then calendered. A French wax is the shiniest or highest gloss finish. It is durable when dry cleaned.
Friction calendering is a means of producing a glazed surface with or without the application of starches or resins.
Moiré finishes are created through an embossing method in which the calendering roller is engraved or raised into a watermark design and applied to faille fabric (fine cross-wise or weft ribs). The moiré look also can be achieved by (pigment) printing and jacquared weaves.
Napped finishes are created by brushing-up the fabric fibers to loosen and create a fuzzy finish or depth similar to a short pile.
Panné finishes are created through an embossing method in which a velvet, ribbed velour, or other pile textile is pressed down in one direction.
Plisse finishes are the application of a caustic acid that causes the yarns to pucker. The plissé pattern is typically a plaid or all-over wrinkle.
Resin finishes are the result of a resin -- a natural or synthetic clear, translucent substance -- that when applied to a textile and calendered becomes a lustrous glaze or the basis for waterproofing or soil repellence.
Schreiner calendering involves tiny engraved lines on the calender, which produce an increased luster to a textile without the application of resins or starches.
Finishes can be applied to fabrics to meet special needs. A fabric finishing company is one that specializes in treating fabrics prior to their construction into draperies, bedspreads, upholstered furniture or their application to walls.
The key advantage to post-finishing is that a fabric that has the right weight, color, texture and pattern but does not meet a certain requirement still can be specified and installed after it has been treated. This allows far greater latitude in fabric selection for the interiors professional as well as the client.
The process for having fabric finished is as follows:
1. Contract the fabric finishing company of your choice and obtain specifications as to which finishes they are equipped to apply, how long it will take, what guarantees exist, and what the charge is per yard, for example.
2. Send a sample for testing and to evaluate any apparent color or textural surface changes after finishing. Approval of aesthetics, durability and documentation of test results.
3. Add the finishing costs to the job price.
4. Ship the yardage to the fabric finisher (be certain to allow for the sample with a little extra yardage). Allow time for the finishing in the production time frame.
Post-finishes applied to textiles include: flame-retardant finishes, lamination (applying plastic to the face or reverse of fabrics), paper, foam, or latex backing for wall application.
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at Brigham Young University. She is a practicing interior designer and has authored several books including Window Treatments and Understanding Fabrics. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education and merchandising.