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By Max W. Sung

Removing wrinkles, safely: Cotton fabric is ideal for apparel due to its comfort, breathability, ability to absorb perspiration and dyeability. However, one of its disadvantages, like that of other natural cellulosic fibres (eg. flax), is its propensity to wrinkle during wear and after laundering. Thus, with the advent of synthetic fibres in the 1950s the market began shifting and cotton's share of global fibre consumption receded from 80% in the early part of the twentieth century to 40% as found by the 2011 World Apparel Fibre Consumption Survey conducted by FAO and the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC).

Scientists have elucidated the mechanism behind cotton wrinkling more than eighty years ago. Cotton fibre is made up of long chains of cellulosic polymers aligned side by side with weak hydrogen bonds, which maintain structure while providing breathability, flexibility and strength to the fabric. These bonds are easily disrupted when the fabric is exposed to moisture or heat. As a result the polymeric chains slip past one another and make the fabric deform. When the moisture evaporates and the garment cools down, the hydrogen bonds reform along the lines of the new structure, forming wrinkles.

This occurs during everyday wear, when the fabric is in contact with body temperature and perspiration, and during laundering, when the garment is immersed in water. Ironing provides the heat to disrupt the bonds again, allowing the formation of a new structure without wrinkles or creases. This cycle is repeated every time a garment is worn or laundered. In a lifetime analysis of a shirt, the most energy expended was in the repeated laundering and ironing of the garment.

Starting in the 1940s and 1950s, researchers led by Ruth Rogan Benerito at the United States Department of Agriculture have worked on a chemical solution to wrinkling. They found that stronger cross-links between the polymeric chains of the cotton fibre can prevent the loosening of the fabric structure when the weak hydrogen bonds are disrupted. Cross-links can be provided by small molecules generated in a reaction between formaldehyde and urea, which is applied as a finishing resin to the fabric. The resulting fabric is wrinkle-resistant, hence its permanent press, wrinkle-free and iron-free labelling. There were problems with the formaldehyde-based finishing resins, however. They made the fabric stiff and brittle (reduced tensile strength), the whites to become yellow, and the colours to fade. There were also health hazards. The finished garments were found to contain formaldehyde which, when released from the surface of the fabric, caused skin rashes in areas in direct contact with the fabric. Fortunately, no vapour emissions of formaldehyde - inhalation of which has found to be associated with development of cancer - were noted with the finished garments.

DMDHEU (dimethyloldihyroxyethyleneurea) emerged in 1992 as a viable alternative to formaldehyde. It is comparable to formaldehyde-based resins for wrinkle-resistance, and since formaldehyde is not used in its preparation, should not harbour formaldehyde in finished garments. In reality, DMDHEU contains amino groups, which over time can be degraded into formaldehyde and be released from the surface of the finished garment.

Formaldehyde levels in clothing are not regulated in the United States, but the European Union, Australia and New Zealand have voluntary limits of 30 ppm (parts per million). Oekotex Standard 100 limits are 75 ppm and undetectable (less than 20 ppm) for infants below three years of age. In a survey reported in 2010 from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the United States Congress, 180 articles of clothing and bedsheets intended for skin contact were tested. Ten of them (dress shirts, bedsheets, pants) exceeded 75 ppm while 55 had undetectable levels. The United States EPA and OSHA have standards that limit employee inhalational exposure to formaldehyde emissions in the workplace, but since most of the cotton fabric and garment production is outsource to other countries, it is not clear if similar standards are mandated in those countries.

At ITMA 2011, Clariant, in collaboration with Cotton Incorporated, launched its Foam Eco Care finishing for cotton fabrics as a high performance, sustainable and innovative technology for wrinkle-free finishing. The technology uses Clariant's Arkofix ELF product, cross-linking it at low curing temperatures and applying the chemicals by foam. Foam has less wet uptake, therefore the fabric dried faster and dwell time was 25% less than using pad application. While tensile and tear strength were equal to pad application, the foam application had superior flex abrasion. Foam Eco Care produced excellent durable press ratings very close to moist cross-linking. Formaldehyde levels were substantially below the 75 ppm permitted limit.

Recently, on February 2, BASF launched Fixapret Resin EFF, a new finishing agent for wrinkle resistance. Lütfü Okman, Textile Chemicals, BASF Southeast Asia, explained: "The future of finishing is here: a 'wholistic' performance that ensures a high wrinkle-free effect with zero add-on formaldehyde, yet maintaining optimal fibre strength. This property is a first in the industry, as often fibre strength is compromised and weakened in such applications. Additionally, it meets strict consumer safety and ecological standards." The new solution meets the highest consumer safety standard OEKOTEX Standard 100 Product Class I. This means that formaldehyde is not intentionally added by recipe or through its raw material components. In addition, its resin is biodegradable according to OECD guidelines for the testing of chemicals.

Cross-linkers which do not release formaldehyde are currently under investigation. BTCA (polycarboxylic acid) and aminosilicone softener (ionic cross-linkage) are both promising candidates which can retain wrinkle resistance without sacrificing tensile strength. Their commercial success will depend on cost, superiority for wrinkle resistance, and meaningful sustainability.











Special Reports

  • Don't worry; the future is bright, especially for Asian economies: Asian Financial Forum brings together every year some of the most influential members of the global financial and business community to discuss the latest developments and trends in the dynamic Asian markets. More than 90 such internationally respected leaders spoke at the two-day sixth Asian Financial Forum themed 'Asia - Powering World Growth' held in Hong Kong in mid-January. The topics discussed were indeed relevant to the textile industry. This forum noted that the US economy is recovering very well, Europe is positive and Asia is full of hope for a good future.

    By Vicky Sung

  • Pearl of the Orient gains greater lustre: An initiative that the Hong Kong Design Centre took twelve years ago for providing an annual forum for designers and business people to interact has developed into a significant event attracting international participants. The latest Business of Design Week held last December brought together 20 designers and architects, including six designers from fashion garments and accessories sectors, besides business leaders and entrepreneurs. A total of 70 international experts addressed the gathering, sharing their knowledge and experience with 100,000 others who participated in this weeklong event.

    By Alpana Shrestha

  • Cotton: Mill use to rise with economic growth: The world economy is forecast to grow this year. It will help increase global demand for clothing and textiles which, in turn, will lift up mill use of cotton.

Regional Notes

Sri Lanka

From A.H.H. Saheed, Colombo

  • Textile Jersey takes first step for regional expansion: Texured Jersey Lanka, a joint venture knit fabric manufacturer with two top brands in the industry - Pacific Textiles of Hong Kong and Sri Lanka's Brandix Lanka - as major stockholders and also known for the production of top quality knit fabrics, has sealed a two-year agreement for providing technical and management services to Ocean India, a knit fabric manufacturer located in India.

  • Miracle T-shirt enters Sri Lanka: Glitz, a leading fashion retail brand in Sri Lanka which operates five outlets across the country, has launched its latest T-shirt label, Chathak Miracles. .


  • Textile sector ranks high in skill and cost efficiency: Most of the textile sector ventures in India follow the principle of 'lean manufacturing'. Thus, the overhead cost of a textile venture in the country is just a tiny fraction of the overheads of a similar-sized company in any other industry. Besides the efficiency and productivity level of Indian workers are as good as the best in the world. These were the central points in a presentation that Anshuman Gaur, the economic and commercial counsellor at the Indian embassy in Paris, made at an exhibition in France in mid-February.

American Markets

  • US apparel market recovers from 2012 drop: Apparel shipments clearing US customs in 2012 had reduced both in volume and value. Market however recovered last year, with imports rising 4.7% in quantity and 3.9% in value.

    By Douglas Smith, Columbia, S.C.

Exhibtions & Conferences

  • Heimtextil 2014: From exhibition to symposium: The latest edition of this world leading show of home and contract textiles included the European Digital Textile Conference besides the Trend Forum lectures. Exhibitors totalling 2,718 came from more than 60 countries attracting 67,000 visitors from 133 countries.

    By Arthur D. Sager, Frankfurt

  • Intertextile Guangzhou Hometextile China: The trade fair, Intertextile Guangzhou Hometextile China which has hitherto been held as a four-day event, is expanding this year to a five-day fair. It will take place at the China Import and Export Fair Complex in Guangzhou, from March 18 to 22, this year.

  • R&D brokerage event in Turkey: The R&D Brokerage Event in Turkish Textile and Clothing Sector that Uludag Textile Exporters Association (UTIB) has been organising since 2009 will hold its sixth session on April 3-4, this year in Merinos Atatürk Convention Center in Bursa, Turkey. Its aim is to bring together researchers, academicians and textile and clothing manufacturers to develop high value innovative products.

  • China Interdye, a dyes and chemicals exhibition in China, is to hold a three-day show in Shanghai from April 16 to 18 this year. Scheduled to take place at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition & Convention Center, it will have more than 600 exhibitors displaying their products and services. They will come from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, Turkey, etc.

  • Home textiles show in Hong Kong: The Hong Kong International Home Textiles and Furnishings Fair of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council will be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from this April 20 to 23.

  • Specialty textiles conference: An international conference on advancements in specialty textiles and their applications is to take place on April 23-24 this year at Kumaraguru College of Technology in Coimbatore, India. Organised jointly by the Department of Textile Technology at Kumaraguru and the Faculty of Textile Engineering at the Technical University of Liberec in Czech Republic, it will focus on the emerging and cutting-edge advancements in technical textiles, materials engineering and medical textiles.

  • Converting and Bonding conference: The Converting and Bonding conference (CAB), which the INDA, the association of the nonwoven fabrics industry, started in 2012, will hold this May a three-day session which will highlight new technologies, raw materials and processes with a special focus on engineered fabric needs for the automotive and furnishings market segments. It is scheduled at the Hyatt Regency in Greenville, South Carolina, USA, from May 6 to 8.

  • Proposte in May: The annual preview of furnishing fabrics and curtains known as Proposte will mark its 22nd edition on May 7-9 this year in Cernobbio, Italy.

  • London garments expo (LGE) that began in 2011 as an annual event will stage its fourth presentation on September 7 and 8 this year at the Business Design Centre in London.

  • MoOD in September: Meet only Original Designs (MoOD), the annual international trade fair for producers of upholstery, window and wall coverings, will be held in Brussels Expo, Belgium, on September 9-11, 2014.

  • Cashmere World in Hong Kong: Cashmere World, a trade fair devoted entirely to all aspects of the cashmere industry and a world forum to discuss critical issues concerning the global cashmere industry, will be held at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre from September 25 to 27, this year.

  • Composites trade fair: Composites Europe, the trade fair and forum for composites technology and applications which the Reed Exhibitions Deutschland organises annually, will be held this year at Halls 8a & 8b of Düsseldorf Exhibition Centre, Germany, from October 7 to 9.

  • Premičre Vision at East-West gateway: Premičre Vision, the noted international fashion industry trade show, is to stage its first presentation in Turkey this year. It will be organised by a new company formed by Premičre Vision SA, which owns the Premičre Vision exhibitions as the majority (51%) partner and Turkey's CNR Holding Inc as 49% partner.

  • ITMA 2015 to add a special chapter: The International Textile Machinery Exhibition (ITMA) will make its 17th presentation at Fiera Milano Rho, Italy, from November 12 to 19 next year with a new sub-chapter on recycled fibres and yarns. It will be included under the 'Fibre and yarn' chapter which the world leading integrated textile and garment manufacturing technologies show introduced at its 16th presentation in Barcelona in 2011 and endorsed by exhibitors as an excellent platform. Some 37 exhibitors from 14 countries took part under this chapter in Barcelona.

  • Functional fabrics fair in Munich: The bi-annual 'Performance Days' functional fabrics fair will hold its next session on November 13-14, this year in Munich.

  • Filtech next Feb: The trade fair for filtration technology called Filtech is scheduled to hold a three-day show in Cologne, Germany, on February 24-26 next year. Organised by Filtech Exhibitions Germany, it is designed for all those concerned with designing, improving, purchasing, selling or researching filtration and separation equipment and services worldwide. .


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