What causes furnishings & upholstery to fade?

What causes furnishings & upholstery to fade?

The trend for designers is to create beautiful spaces with big windows and open floor spaces inviting a constant stream of natural light, so what are the 3 main causes of fading in our furnishings?

Photo degradation, fume fading and crocking are the three main causes of colour fading in fabrics.

Australia has one of the most damaging sunlight conditions in the world and soft furnishings and upholstery can be damaged if left exposed to Ultraviolet (UV) light over time.  Natural yarns like cotton or silk and regenerated cellulose pulp fibres like viscose, rayon and art silk are particularly at risk.

Why do coloured fabrics fade?

There are three main causes of colour fading:  photo degradation, fume fading and crocking.

  1. Photo degradation: UV light causes a reaction between atmospheric moisture present in all fabrics and the oxygen in the air we breathe to create a bleaching agent, known as hydrogen peroxide,  that breaks down dyes. It’s not the fabric itself fading rather it’s the dye that provides the colour that breaks down. Anywhere there is moisture present, such as coastal locations, high humidity areas, vacation homes that are not regularly ventilated or have air conditioning running frequently, fabrics are vulnerable to decolourisation and fading.  Also, the winter sun, which sits lower in the sky, can cause significant damage, particularly when protective curtains have been pulled back to ‘warm the room’.
  1. Fume Fading: Fumes from chimneys, auto exhausts, open fires, gas fires, stoves, or wherever combustion is present, contain a sulphur compound which, when combined with humidity, produces a mild sulphuric acid which can be absorbed by the furnishing fabric and thereby contributing to the fading, discolouration and deterioration of the fabric. Not only does the colour of the fabric fade, the fibre of the fabric can also be damaged as the chemical bonds break down from oxidation, making the fabric brittle causing it to break and tear easily when cleaned.
  1. Dry and Wet Crocking: Some dyes are physically held on the fibre and these can be worn off over time.  Think of a new pair of jeans that you bought that have been pre-faded or you wash them several times to fade the dyes. This is the physical release of dyes by abrasion or agitation, and it can happen when the fabric is dry, or even damp from sweat. Particle soiling can also contribute to the dry crocking.

How can colour fading in fabrics be minimised?

Window furnishings, ventilation systems and moving furnishings out of direct or reflected sunlight can all help reduce the fading of your fabrics.

By also using textile treatments such as Premium Surface Protection, you will reduce the overall effects of colour fading by creating  an invisible, yet breathable shield around each fibre.

Premium Surface Protection will provide an effective barrier against moisture and the damaging compounds that settle on the textile, making routine cleaning easier and more effective, therefore reducing the chemical reaction contributing to colour fading.

It also adds abrasion resistance, reducing the effect of dye crocking.

While our treatments are predominantly a textile protection solution to assist with every day spills and soiling, this mechanical barrier gives proven results at reducing, (but not eliminating) colour fading, as shown in independent laboratory testing.

Laboratory Testing Results

In a controlled UVA and UVB laboratory testing environment, the actual formula of the proprietary ingredients was found to provide a level of protection from colour loss on both natural and synthetic textiles.

Need more information?

We have professional teams on standby available to answer any question you have and Service Applicators to apply the Fiber ProTector textile protection system on any size commercial area or surface needed. Call us on 1800 189 907, or get in Contact with us.

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– Tony Leask, Founder and CEO


PSP Fiber Protector Fabric Protector 2021