The home furnishings market continues to successfully employ nonwovens for the array of features and advantages the fabrics can provide such as comfort, uniformity, light weight, durability, flame-resistance and aesthetics. Nonwovens can be applied to furnishings inside or outside the home, and are incorporated into in everything from upholstered furniture and bedding to wallcoverings and window treatments.
The following is a look at some of the unique nonwovens technologies from the market’s key players.
Soft and Cushy
Nonwovens producer Sandler of Schwarzenbach/Saale, Germany, has focused on providing an assortment of nonwovens to make the home and workplace more comfortable. Both its sawaflor and sawaloom product lines are applied as upholstery for seats, backrests, armrests and body covers.
Sandler’s sawaflor thermally bonded nonwovens are made of 100% polyester fibers, recyclable, “virtually free” from formaldehyde, washable and feature flame-resistant qualities which are verified according to the British Standard 5852/II. The needlepunched sawaloom nonwovens are abrasion-resistant, offer high stability in machine and cross machine direction, and are also flame-resistant.
In outdoor furniture, Sandler’s nonwovens are used for the lining of upholstery in cushions. According to Gerhard Klier, sales director Technical Products for Sandler, sawaflor and sawaloom provide optimal cushioning properties and good structural integrity for durable comfort. “Owing to their high recovery rate, the wear of sofas or armchairs is reduced and the furniture is rendered more durable, contributing to a high level of long-term comfort,” he says.
Meanwhile, Sandler’s sawatex, which are based on thermally bonded nonwovens, can be laminated on one or both sides to charmeuse, tubular fabric, coarse velour or hydroentangled nonwovens. These fabrics are used as slip agents or processing aids. “In leather furniture, they add stability to the outer cover, thus helping to prevent unsightly creases and adding to long-term comfort,” Klier explains.
At the office, Sandler’s fibercomfort nonwovens are used as upholstery in office chairs or lounge furniture, offering a high level of seating comfort during long days at work. The thermally and mechanically bonded nonwovens are made without chemical additives, and are made of up to 70% recycled fibers, single-polymer, recyclable material. Fibercomfort can also be used to insulate noise in suspended ceilings, partition walls or can function in textile wall decoration. “These nonwovens contribute to a quiet working environment and also offer opportunities for customized room designs. Finishes such as printing or embossed designs, molding or lamination increase fiber integrity whilst offering potential design features,” Klier adds.
For its part in the home nonwovens market, East Walpole, MA-based Hollingsworth & Vose (H&V) offers wetlaid and drylaid nonwovens and laminated composites for window treatments.
According to Jim Vogt, director of sales and marketing for Industrial Specialties, H&V’s offerings for window treatments include custom engineered stand alone nonwoven fabrics used in cellular shades as well as wet and drylaid nonwoven laminates used as backings for woven and knit window treatments. The company also markets proprietary blackout and room darkening products as well as proprietary lightweight thermal adhesive technology to laminate nonwovens to other fabrics.
Vogt is seeing a trend for non-traditional window treatments in North America, and Europe, and Asia to a lesser extent, is following suit. “Alternative window coverings such as cellular shades, panel tracks, roman shades, and vertical blinds are continuing to take share in North America from more traditional drapery styles,” Vogt says. “This trend is growing in Europe as well with cellular shades market share increasing. Europe uses smaller cell sizes and more decorative prints while North America trends toward solid colors.”
Other trends Vogt is noticing include alternative window treatments that offer insulation properties, ease of cleaning, dust repellency and stain-resistance.
He points out that there are a number of factors helping nonwovens grow in this market. “Nonwovens see growing use as window treatments because they are lighter weight and lower cost compared to woven or knit alternatives, are easily pleated, offer variety in fibers and textures, and meet designers need for novel appearance. They also do not fray like woven fabrics and don’t require hot-knife slitting.”
Meanwhile, Freudenberg Performance Materials uses its Evolon technology as a sun protectant for window treatments such as curtains, roller blinds and sunshades, as well as awnings, canopies and marquees. Evolon is a microfilament fabric combining good textile and mechanical properties, while being soft, drapable and light, yet strong, similar to traditional microfiber.
With doctors reporting a rise in the number of skin cancers, while calling for better prevention, the company says sun protection provided by textiles is becoming increasingly important. In fact, Evolon has earned a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating of 80, the highest value of the UV Standard 801 for different variants of the fabric.
Freudenberg executives say there’s no need for additional coatings on Evolon, as it’s made from polyester and polyamide, which provide “inbuilt” sun protection. Additionally, unlike window treatments that are woven or knitted, Evolon’s tight construction with multidirectional laying avoids any gap between fibers. “This high density microfilament structure allows Evolon to provide a durable sun protection, even after laundering,” the company says.
Nonwovens In Bedding
Freudenberg’s versatile Evolon technology is also being used for anti-allergy bedding applications, such as encasings for mattresses, pillow and comforters, combatting dust mites. The fabric’s highly dense microfilament structure creates a proper protective layer against allergen particles, without the use of chemical post-treatments or coatings, while also being breathable. Freudenberg claims that Evolon, which is accredited by the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation, has successfully replaced conventional textiles such as woven fabrics in the anti-mite bedding sector.
For its role in the bedding market, Totowa, NJ-based Precision Custom Coatings’ (PCC) textiles division offers high-loft thermal bond, needlepunch and stitch bond flame-resistant (FR) nonwoven barriers; high-loft thermal bond and needlepunch polyester nonwoven barriers (non-FR); and high-loft thermal bond and needlepunch barriers with natural fiber blends (wool, alpaca, cashmere) that can be flame-resistant or non flame-resistant. These nonwoven barriers are found under a woven product, on the inside of the mattress.
One of the trends seen by Gerry Welkley, national sales manager, Precision Custom Coatings, is the evolution of quilted borders to laminated smooth borders. “It’s more of an aesthetic look than anything,” he says. “Because of that shift in the market, our FR needlepunch nonwoven is more ideal for that application versus a FR high-loft (densified) product.”
He also notes that consumers’ high interest and the bedding manufacturers’ desire to differentiate themselves has pushed developing natural fibers into the company’s high-loft and needlepunch products, which goes along with the trend of the high-end natural latex mattresses.
Another trend Welkley identifies is that consumers have been gravitating towards products that are inherently FR rather than treated with FR coatings. As a result of this push from consumers, in the fourth quarter of last year PCC launched an inherent flame-resistant stitch bond product that is used on the bottom of a one-sided mattress, as well as on the top of a tape-edged wood foundation/box spring.
When the rayon for this product is made, Welkley says the sodium silicate—which gives the fiber its flame-resistant properties—is put into the rayon, making it inherent rather than treated. “So that particular product—the stitch bond—up until recently, the majority in the market was FR treated after the stitch bond was made. But now there’s this kind of a resurgence of people wanting safer products, not treated products, so we came up with the inherent FR stitch bond product to be used,“ he says.
Despite the interest for inherently flame-resistant products from consumers, Welkley says FR treated products will still be offered. “The inherent flame-resistant products are just an alternative to the market that seems to be taking off. I don’t think treated products will totally be replaced,” he says.
Headquartered in Spartanburg, SC, Milliken has also put a focus on FR barriers in the residential nonwovens market. The company’s Highloft barriers protect mattresses from burning, acting as a barrier to the bed, preventing the foam and other internal mattress materials from catching on fire, according to a Milliken spokesperson. Milliken’s Highloft fabric can be found in well-known mattress manufacturers such as Serta and Sealy.
Milliken is also seeing a trend in the FR mattress sector of barriers moving from quilted to laminated products, as aesthetics and the desire for a smooth, continuous texture are sought.
Meanwhile, Sandler’s sawaflor nonwovens used in furniture are also incorporated into mattresses and bedding. Klier says they can be used as fillings for quilted mattress covers, mattress protectors and upholstered mattress covers, as well as fillings for bedspreads and quilts. “They provide for optimum temperature regulation, allowing the skin to breathe and thus helping to regulate moisture levels during sleep,” he says. “The nonwovens combine optimum bulk with a high recovery rate, thus helping to prevent the formation of dents and creases.”
Sandler’s nonwovens can also be applied to waterbeds to control the movement of the water filling, resulting in more comfort.
“Nonwovens offer unique combinations of functional properties and comfort factors,” Klier explains. “They are air-permeable, helping to create an optimum micro-climate for high comfort in mattresses and bedding or outdoor furniture. Moreover, these textiles are lightweight, easy-to-handle, adaptable and drapable, commending themselves to various processing methods such as sewing or adhesive fixing.”
What’s more, Sandler’s nonwovens for the home are made from polyester and manufactured without chemical additives, making them gentle on the skin and odorless. Additional features include resistance to moisture and UV light, as well as flame-resistant product variants. “The nonwovens fulfill highest requirements on product safety, health and durability and provide an optimum alternative for people suffering from allergies,” Klier adds.
On the Ground
Strong demand for flooring such as tufted carpets and carpet tiles could mean good things for players in the nonwovens industry who supply fabrics for these applications.
Freudenberg’s Lutradur technology is used as high-quality primary and secondary backings for tufted carpets, carpet tiles and dust control mats. “The great diversity of designs available in modern tufted broadloom carpets, carpet tiles and dust control mats relates not only to aesthetic aspects but also to properties regarding carpet fitting and wear,” company executives say.
The flame-retardant polyester spunlaids provide a high dimensional stability, excellent layflat characteristics, excellent tuft bind, and no fraying edges. Freudenberg also offers an eco-friendly version of its Lutradur technology that’s made up of a high portion of recycled polyester.
As in other nonwoven applications, environmental sustainability is playing a role in the home furnishings market, whether through the products themselves or through manufacturers’ facility operations.
For Sandler, its single-polymer polyester materials are recyclable, conserving valuable resources. Further, Sandler’s sawaflor plus nonwovens for mattresses and bedding are made using fiber producer Lenzing’s Tencel fibers, which are derived from natural resource wood, contributing to climate-neutral production, Klier says.
For its part, H&V has been globally certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FCS), as a result of demand from window treatment manufacturers who are seeking recycled and greener products. This certification shows H&V’s customers that the pulp it uses comes from environmentally managed and sustainable sources.
Moreover, H&V’s Vogt says the trend of using blinds corresponds to a need to reduce energy use and cost. “Blinds are beneficial because they let in variable light and can offer more energy insulation,” he says.
Meanwhile, Milliken has put its attention towards landfill diversion. As a global company, Milliken diverts over 99.8% of solid waste from its operations to landfill. They also use alternative energy, such as methane gas harvested from local landfills, to power its manufacturing plants, according to a company representative.
For the 10th consecutive year, Milliken has also been named one of the Ethisphere Institute’s World’s Most Ethical Companies, a distinction that honors superior achievement in transparency, integrity, ethics and compliance. “This distinction assures our customers that they’re working with a company that is truly ‘doing good’ in the world,” the company says.