Feature Short

Three Hazardous Textile Treatments and How to Avoid Them

You can avoid the most toxic textile treatments with proper fabric selection and maintenance.

February 9, 2016

A textile is only sustainable if it lasts, and designers looking to prolong the life of their furniture or drapery—whether to save the environment or simply to prevent callbacks—typically turn to surface treatments. This alchemy of chemical coatings promises to repel stains, stop fire, and prevent the spread of disease. It sounds too good to be true. It usually is.

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), antimicrobials, and halogenated flame retardants have been sold to the design community, sometimes under false pretenses and with aggressive marketing, for years. With limited information on the health and environmental impacts of these compounds, designers have been talked into coating our couches and chairs in toxic chemicals. In most cases, though, these chemicals can be avoided if you choose the right textile for the job.