A Brief Guide to Understand High Performance Fabrics
Want a beautiful, clean home but have kids, pets or just prone to spilling things? One of the main concerns I hear from homeowners about investing in quality furniture and design pieces is the need for durability in their busy, messy household.
Luckily, through innovation and exciting developments from incredible industry leaders, high-performance fabrics are now an option for your busy home. These unique and durable fabrics are man-made textiles that undergo a specific treatment giving them longer lives than most natural materials.
This brief guide is aims to give you an overview into the world of high-performance fabrics; covering manufacturing, accessibility and health and environmental impacts. As a vegan interior design business we always encourage our clients to look for cruelty-free alternatives that stand up to the test of time. High-performance fabrics are a fantastic option for anyone looking to make an investment into their furniture. Design pieces that meet the demands of their on-the-go house and beautiful homes are not mutually exclusive.
What exactly is a high-performance fabric?
High-performance fabrics are made from man-made materials such as polyester, acrylic, rayon, etc. They can be a blend of different textiles; this is dependent on the manufacturer. There are several different ‘brand’ names for high-performance fabrics, the most common being Crypton, Sunbrella, and Revolution. These brands each employ a proprietary textile and manufacturing process to ensures the fabrics meet the expectations required to be high-performance.
Typically, high-performance fabrics are stain, soil, mold/mildew, and water resistant. They are less sensitive to damage from light and are considerably more durable than other textiles like cotton or leather. In addition, these fabrics have antimicrobial properties which are great for indoor/outdoor spaces or high use areas of a home. Most often they are used in high traffic areas of the home and endure constant use. Family room sofa, kitchen seating or outdoor patio furniture are all great places to use high-performance fabrics in your home.
How are these fabrics made?
The process of creating these textiles is unique to each brand. It usually involves taking a man-made thread like polyester or olefin – these fibers are naturally more durable – and treating them with a chemical submersion process to enhance their positive traits. Additionally, they are treated with stain and odor protection and a permanent moisture barrier to protect from mold, mildew and spills. The chemicals are usually free from major pollutants like formaldehyde, VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), and certain POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants) like PFOA/PFOS.
Remember..these are not just ‘treated fabrics’ but are a fabric all it’s own. Cryton and Sunbrella are considered fabrics, just like you would say ‘Band-aid’.
Are these fabrics safe?
High-performance fabrics are designed with you, your family and the earth in mind. With innovative manufacturing techniques, they aim to reduce their environmental impact and use chemicals that are not bio-accumulative. Since the fabrics are resistant to bacteria growth or viruses, they are even safer than most other commercial materials. The lack of harmful chemicals and the man-made fibers make this fabric allergy friendly, although if you have more severe allergies, always check with your doctor.
The materials we bring into our home should support our health and bring positive, vibrant energy into our lives. When choosing textiles that have a lower environmental impact than others, is a great way of supporting sustainable design. However, the safety of these fabrics is usually overlooked; considering our skin touches these fabrics every day, it should be a priority in the design of your home.
Are high-performance fabrics vegan?
Yes and no.
High-performance fabrics are considered vegan. They use man-made materials that are created through a process free of animal products. If you are purchasing a completed piece of furniture make sure that the other components are also vegan, i.e. down filling.
One of the performance fabrics that is not vegan is the ‘Leather powered by Crypton’. This is a different product than just Crypton. It is a leather treated with Crypton technology to give it the same traits as a high-performance fabric. The only distributor of this product is Conneaut Leather. For this reason, as it becomes more popular be sure to check you are purchasing a faux-leather Crypton fabric.
Where are high-performance fabrics made?
This is dependent on the company but Crypton is a great option if you are looking to purchase American made textiles made by American workers. They manufacture and process all their fabrics in North Carolina. Sunbrella is an American company with manufacturing all over the world; their headquarters is located in North Carolina. High-performance fabrics are becoming more and more popular. Consequently, as the industry expands, you will find products manufactured in many different parts of the world. When choosing a specific fabric brand, be sure to look at their sustainability practices and how they are working towards reducing their impact on the planet.
Where can I use Crypton or Sunbrella?
EVERYWHERE! The exciting part of high-performance fabrics is the endless patterns and textures that you can use in different parts of the home; from living spaces to patio furniture, they’re extremely versatile. I highly recommend using high-performance fabrics in high traffic areas like a family room couch or a kitchen banquette. The technology of these fabrics will withstand constant use and messes keeping your home looking fresh and clean. Outdoor spaces are another great place to use these fabrics; they are water resistant and are able to withstand high UV radiation. The fabrics will not discolor over time or succumb to inclement weather – although I always recommend storing your outdoor cushion when not in use to preserve longevity.
The versatility of these fabrics are perfect for anyone who wants a beautiful interior without sacrificing functionality. I still encourage my clients to use plant-based fibers in low-traffic areas of their home but unfortunately many of those textiles do not have the same durability of these high-performance fabrics.
In addition, if you have a busy office or commercial space, high-performance fabrics are a great option. Since they are easy to clean, highly-durable and allergy-friendly, these fabrics work perfectly for a high-traffic space. I love using high-performance fabrics for office chairs or sofas!
How do I clean these fabrics?
Luckily, it is extremely easy and straightforward to clean most high-performance fabrics. Small spills or stains can simply be blotted off with water. For stubborn stains, a mild soap and water will usually do the trick. Because of the engineering of these fabrics, they can withstand harsh chemical cleaners like bleach and still maintain their integrity; however I do not recommend using bleach often as a fabric cleaner. The easy to clean aspect of these textiles further enforces the benefits of using these fabrics in high-use areas.
Where can I find high-performance fabrics for my home?
Since it’s introduction into the interior design industry over 20 years ago, high-performance fabrics have found their way into millions of peoples’ homes. Many major distributors now carry furniture upholstered in high-performance fabrics. You can find design products at many well known furniture stores. Speak with your interior designer or local distributor if you’re interested in getting samples. Often, you need a trade license in order to source the fabrics for residential or commercial use.
So are high-performance fabrics for me?
Most Definitely! They’re for anyone looking to lengthen the life of their furniture, enjoy a beautiful home interior, and not be stressed about life’s little messes. I highly recommend you try out high-performance fabrics in your home. Your home is an investment, and that includes the furniture. Choosing durable and ‘life-proof’ pieces will ensure you aren’t purchasing new furniture every year. Sustainability is so important when we are thinking about home design; by choosing fabrics that don’t wear out or need to be constantly replaced, you’re reducing your overall waste.
Interior design is an evolving industry and I love learning about and using innovative design and products. High-performance fabrics are just one of the hundreds of ways I bring longevity to your home and incorporate some sustainable practices into your design. If you want to learn more about sustainable design, check out this blog post.
If you use high-performance fabrics in your home, leave a comment below! I’d love to hear how they work in your life and if you think they really stand up to their claims.