When it comes to specifying performance textiles, it’s all simply a matter of preference—right? As long as a fabric is durable, stain resistant, flame retardant, and doesn’t fade easily, designers are essentially comparing apples-to-apples and ultimately making decisions based on pricing or patterns—right?

Not necessarily. As environmental and human health concerns have taken on greater importance in the built environment—with transparency in materials and chemicals of concern at the forefront of the trend—it is becoming clearer that not all performance textiles are created equal. And, in fact, a number of claims have been made in the industry about the superior nature of solution-dyed acrylic over other performance textiles, which designers need to examine carefully to make more informed specifying decisions.

So, what exactly do interior design professionals need to know about the differences between solution-dyed acrylic and other performance fabrics? Let’s start with construction.

Acrylic is a synthetic fiber made from polymers with a wool-like feel that is inherently colorfast and stain resistant. According to the International Standards Organization (ISO), fibers which contain a minimum of 85% acrylonitrile in their chemical structure are defined as “Acrylic Fibers.” Acrylic fiber is composed of acrylonitrile and a comonomer. The comonomer is added to improve dyeability and processing of the acrylic fiber into textiles.

The solution-dyeing process involves an intensive process in which the color permanently adheres to the fiber while it is still in a viscous form. UV stabilizers and stain-resistant finishes are often added during the process to enhance the product’s performance.

So far, so good—right? Not necessarily. According to one apparel blog:

“Acrylic is made of fibers that are made from the polymer, polyacrylonitrile. Polyacrolonitrile is a flammable, colorless liquid that is created from polypropylene. The EPA found that inhaling polyacrylonitrile yields similar symptoms to cyanide poisoning. In fact, when exposed to polyacrylonitrile, our bodies metabolize the chemical into cyanide. This metabolization can take place after exposure to the chemical through skin contact, ingestion, or inhalation. Polyacrylonitrile is also cited as a potential cancer hazard.”

Indeed, the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) confirms the risk of acrylonitrile exposure to humans, which in all fairness is unlikely unless you live near a factory where it’s made. However, as designers and specifiers are demanding more transparency in the materials they specify and paying close attention to Red List chemicals of concern, it’s important for them to look beyond marketing claims to better understand the composition of performance textiles.

At Crypton, we take human and environmental health seriously, and as such, our products are third-party-certified as containing ultra-low or no VOCs. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) can be emitted from products over time into the air, adversely affecting indoor air quality. Crypton technology also does not add formaldehyde to fabrics and contains no plasticizers. Additionally, because PFOS and PFOA are considered persistent organic pollutants (POPs), Crypton has developed an environmentally preferable C6 chemistry for all of its fabrics that avoids the use of these POPs.

As an added benefit, Crypton’s performance technology does not affect its ability to be recycled. A common outlet for recycled fabric is shoddy, which is used in making carpet padding and rear parcel shelves in cars.

None of this comes at the expense of performance, however. Approved fibers are permanently transformed with stain and odor protection through an immersion process, plus an impenetrable moisture barrier that protects the fabric from spills. Additionally, Crypton fabrics are engineered with an integrated backing that will never separate, permanently enhancing the performance of the fabric. In fact, Crypton’s technology is so stable, it has been deemed a solid surface by the EPA. In fact, Crypton is the only fabric that meets or exceeds all of the following heavy-duty requirements:

  • Stain resistance
  • Water resistance
  • Abrasion
  • Tearing strength
  • Breaking strength
  • Seam slippage
  • Flammability, and
  • Resistance to fungal and bacterial growth

So the next time you specify a performance textile, be sure to look carefully at manufacturers’ claims and ensure you’re making the best decision based on facts, not fiction.