Textile vocabulary is not easy. The experts tend to rattle on using technical and chemical terms. Hopefully we can help clear some of the fog...

Antimicrobial is a wet finishing technique that is durable. It is an application of chemicals that inhibit the growth of odor causing bacteria and fungi. This is of particular use on wicking synthetic performance fabrics, which tend to accumulate perspiration and wetness, breeding microorganisms. It is also used to help alleviate asthmatic reactions by creating a hostile environment for dust mites.

Azo-free colorants
Azo-free colorants are dyes and pigments that are free of the nitrogen-based compounds aromatic amines, also referred to as "Azos". These compounds are toxic and banned in the EU due to their mutagenic, carcinogenic and often allergic properties. These dyes are not biodegradable.

Batch dyeing
The process of dyeing units of production one batch at a time

Beam dye
A batchwise dyeing process used for dyeing pile fabrics or those with very high elastane content. Fabrics are rolled onto perforated beams like giant toilet rolls and dye liquor is forced through. Similar to jet dye in terms of water, energy and chemical use.

Bioblast is the process that removes protruding fiber ends and prevents cotton and cotton blends from pilling after wash and wear. This way, bioblasting ensures quality textiles.

Substances that decompose readily and become absorbed by the environment. From an environmental standpoint, they should not contain inorganic salts, heavy metals, toxic chemicals and amines.

A characteristic that gives textiles such things as a stonewashed or sand washed look.

Biowash is a wet, permanent finish that is usually done before dyeing. It is also referred to as bio-polishing, and is done only to cellulosic fabrics. During this process, enzymes are applied to the fabric under acidic conditions and at a high temperature to weaken fibers that would normally pill, and instead of pilling, they readily break-off.

The process used to remove the natural colour of fibres to give a white base onto which dyes can be applied. Bleaching is not always necessary. Chlorine based chemicals are effective but not good from an environmental point of view so have been largely replaced by hydrogen peroxide.

Other substances produced during the manufacture or production of a desired product.

Calendered is a dry finish that creates a very smooth, lustrous fabric. There are many types of calendering which vary in permanence. All types involve passing the fabric through large heated rollers that flatten the yarn.

The process of treating wool fabrics in concentrated sulphuric acid and baking to remove vegetable matter.

An enzyme that breaks down cellulose, the primary component of plants. Cellulases are used in the textile industry to give denim a stonewashed look, prevent pilling, and improve texture of clothes.

Chemical finishes - see wet-finishing

Chintz is a calendered finish given to chintz fabric, and is often called glazed chintz. The glazing gives the fabric a glossy smooth appearance and enhanced hand, drapability and durability produced by applying to the fabric a finish composition comprising a silicone polymer and a catalyst.

Chlorine-free bleaching
Chlorine-free bleaching is the use of hydrogen peroxide to whiten fabrics. Hydrogen peroxide naturally degrades into oxygen and water, leaving no harmful chemical residue on the cloth or in the effluent. It is sometimes referred to as Green Bleach.

Chrome-free tanning
Chrome-free tanning is the tanning of hides to create leather either through the use of oils or natural tannins instead of chromium salts. This tanning process is more time intensive than chrome tanning, but is better for the environment, as the chromium method uses chrome, a known carcinogen that can be absorbed through the skin and cause contamination of soil and waterways surrounding tanneries.

Cold or low temperature dye processes save energy by operating at atmospheric temperatures and do not require steaming of the textile to set or fix dyes.

Compacting - see sanforising

Continuous Dye
The process of applying dye to fabric on a continuous basis rather on a batchwise process. Uses less energy and water that batchwise processes in principle but there are long periods of time when the machines are switched on and not processing fabric.

The process of passing wool fabrics through sequential hot and cold baths to set the fabric.

Crinkle effect
Crinkle effect is either a wet or dry finish depending on the fiber content of the fabric. On cotton, a crinkle effect can be achieved through the use of sodium hydroxide. On synthetics a crinkle effect can be achieved through the application of a heat set finishing technique.

The process of steaming wool to set the fabric and reduce shrinkage and creasing

In textiles: the removal of the sizing (starch sizing is used to strengthen warp yarns in order to speed up the weaving process) with amylases.

The process of introducing dye (or pigment) into the molten plastic or solution from which yarns are produced to manufacture coloured yarns rather than the usual white ones. Because no extra dyeing process is required it is the least impact dyeing process.

Certain treatments to achieve a desired effect or performance, dry being those applied mechanically. Dry finishes are generally considered environmentally preferable and consumer friendly as they use machinery and heat rather than chemicals.

Dry-heat fixation
Dry-heat fixation is a method of fixing reactive dyes printed through the ink-jet method. The dyed/printed fabric is passed through hot iron plates in lieu of steam. This method conserves water and energy by using an alternative to steam fixing as well as the ink-jet printing method.

Dry spinning uses a solvent that evaporates in air. The dissolved polymer is extruded through the spinnerette into a chamber of heated air or gas, the solvent evaporates, and the fibre forms. The solvent is generally recovered for reuse. Acrylic is produced by dissolving the polymer in dimethyl formamide before dry spinning. Other fibres formed by dry spinning include acetate, triacetate, spandex, and aramid. The evaporated solvent is drawn upwards by the air stream, for collection and recycling, but almost impossible to contain all solvent within system.

The process of applying dyes to fibres, yarns, fabrics or garments. The type of dye, method used and liquor ratio (i.e. The amount of water used relative to the amount of fabric) has a huge influence on resource utilisation.

Dye bath reuse
Dye bath reuse is the practice of recycling the water used in dye baths for subsequent baths. The water conserved through the bath's reuse is substantial, as anywhere from 10 -50% of dye from one bath does not fix to the fabric.

Eco bleach
Eco bleach is the use of natural phosphates and silicates in cow dung combined with sunlight to achieve whitening of natural fabrics. This is the most eco-friendly form of bleaching.

A protein that catalyzes a biochemical reaction, usually speeding it up. Enzymes are vital components of any living organism. Fluorocarbon-free
Fluorocarbon-free are finishes, generally DWR (dirt and water repellent), which are free from harmful fluorocarbons.

Enzyme-catalyzed reactions
Biochemical reactions that are catalyzed by enzymes leading to the building or breaking down of biological material.

Fiber dye
The process of dyeing fiber prior to formation into yarns. Very high fastness dyes can be used and there is less pressure on getting color exactly right since batches can be blended prior to yarn formation.

Fiber reactive dyes
Fiber reactive dyes are dyes used to color cellulosic and protein fibers such as cotton, rayon and soy. The dyestuff bonds to the fibers through a chemical reaction and does not require the use of mordants. Therefore, direct dyes require less salts and heavy metals to be used to achieve optimal coloration and fixation than other commodity dyestuffs. When used correctly, this can reduce not only the salt and metal content of the effluent, but also the quantity of water used to remove excess dye and the amount of dye run off.

In textiles, a continuous object, limited in length only by its spool, and not cut to length. Synthetic fibers and silk are filament threads.

Fixing is the term described for the various ways of getting dyes stuck onto or into fibres. Fixing is part of the dyeing process and differs from after-fixing which is generally used to describe a process of dealing with dyes that haven't been fixed properly during the dyeing process.

Foam finishing
Foam finishing is an alternate process for applying wet finishes in which the finishing chemical is applied as foam, using air as a diluter instead of water. This process reduces energy and water consumption by reducing the need for water and the heating of it as well as reducing fabric drying times.

Formaldehyde-free refers to wet finishes that do not use formaldehyde as a fixative, which is a suspected carcinogen, known allergen and whose use in textiles is now regulated in many countries.

Garment dye
The process of dyeing finished garments. Benefits are that colour decisions can be left until the last minute (reducing manufacture of unwanted merchandise) and you only dye the fabric in the garment (cut and sew also dyes the 10 - 20% of the fabric that ends up as waste). Garment processing usualy uses a bit more water than fabric processing.

Genetically engineered enzymes (GMOs)
Enzymes derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs are obtained by altering the genetic material of cells or organisms in order to make them capable of making new substances or performing new functions. GMO-cotton needs much less pesticides and herbacides. GMO-derived enzymes are used primarily in laundry and dish washing detergents; and as aids in food processing.

Making claims of being safer or more environmental friendly than is actually the case.

Hazardous waste
A subset of solid wastes that pose potential threats to public health or the environment and meet any of the following criteria: is specifically listed as a hazardous waste by EPA or other countries' similar agencies; exhibits one or more of the characteristics of hazardous wastes (ignitability, corrosiveness, reactivity, and/or toxicity); is generated by the treatment of hazardous waste; or is contained in a hazardous waste.

Heat setting
Heat setting is a dry, durable finish for synthetic fibers that creates a crease resistance or permanent pleats by setting the fabric either flat or pleated.

Heavy metal free dyes
Heavy metal free refers to dyes that do not require the use of heavy metals to achieve the fixation of colors. Toxic heavy metals, such as chrome, copper and zinc, which are all known carcinogens, are commonly used as fixers in dyes. And, although most heavy metals can be removed from the effluent through wastewater treatment, this often does not occur.

The process of removing large amounts of water from fabrics after dyeing using either industrial spin dryers or vacuum extractors. They reduce the amount of energy required in stentering or other heat-based drying processes.

Not likely to cause an allergic reaction.

Ink-jet printing
Ink-jet printing is a method of applying pigment and dyes to cloth using an ink-jet printer. It is considered the most eco-friendly and efficient method of printing due to its lower water usage, water wastage and energy consumption compared with other commercial printing methods.

The process of dyeing long continuous ropes of full width fabrics in machines that use a combination of pulleys and high pressure jets of dye liquor to propel fabrics around the machine. The most common type of dyeing which typically uses large amounts of water, chemicals and energy although liquor ratios of as low as 3:1 are possible. A batch dyeing process.

Jig dye
A batchwise dyeing process used for dyeing lining fabrics. Fabric is transferred from roll to roll via a trough of dye liquor.

A term used to describe the uniformity of colour accross a large piece of fabric. In general terms the faster you try and dye something or the greater % of applied dye you try to fix on a fibre the greater the risk of unlevelness. Paler shades give more problems than darker shades.

Low-impact dyes
Low-impact refers to synthetic dyes that do not use substantial levels of heavy metals or toxic chemicals as fixers.

Mechanical finishes - see dry-finishing

Some polymeric fibres are spun by melting the polymer to a liquid state. The liquid is forced through the spinner opening under pressure and cooled by a jet of air to form the filament. Nylon can be spun by melting nylon polymer chips in a melt-extruder, a long heated cylinder that contains a rotating screw. The chips are melted as they travel the length of the heated zone of the tube, pumped to the spinerettes, and extruded into a cold air stream. Melt spinning requires no chemical reactions and no solvent recovery system, but is difficult to do because you need an exact temperature.

Mercerisation alters the chemical structure of the cotton fibre. The structure of the fibre changes from alpha-cellulose to beta-cellulose. Mercerising results in the swelling of the cell wall which causes increases in the surface area and reflectance, and gives the fiber a softer feel and more lustrous appearance, increases strength, affinity to dye, resistance to mildew, but also increases affinity to lint. Cotton with long staple fibre lengths responds best to mercerisation.

Any organism that can be seen only with the aid of a microscope. Also called microorganism.

Living cell seen only with the aid of a powerful microscope. A general term referring to bacteria, molds, and yeasts.

Mordants are after-fixing chemicals essential to impart some degree of colour fastness performance to most natural dyes and some synthetic ones. They are typically metal salts and therefore decidedly environmentally unfriendly. Some are better than others.

Nano-treatments are wet finishes of low molecular weight fiber-reactive fluorocarbons that are added to a fabric to create a self-cleaning mechanism that repels both water and oil.

Napped is a dry, permanent finish in which fibers are raised from the fabric by bristled rotating brushes. This finish allows the fabric to provide more insulation, while also lowering its resistance to abrasion. Microsanded, Peach and Brushed are different types of napping.

Natural dyes
Natural dyes are dyes that are created from bark, bugs, flowers, minerals, rust and other natural materials. Dyes produced in nature that can be animal, plant or mineral based. On the face of it 'better' than synthetic dyes but they require huge amounts of land for cultivation, they are weak compared to synthetic dyes, require metal based mordants and many have very poor technical performance. However still worthy of further study. Natural dyes allow small producers to retain their traditional dyeing methods and promote biodiversity.

Non-Government Organization

Non-toxic semi-aniline
Non-toxic semi-aniline dyes are non-toxic transparent dyes used to dye leather. These dyes are derived from coal tar and fully penetrate the leather while preserving the appearance of natural grains and markings.

Organic chemicals
Raw materials of the chemical industry such as acetone, glycerol, and alcohols. These are key components for the development and production of substances like explosives, resins, plastics, and fibers.

A commercially-used chemical derived from petroleum or natural gas.

Derived from the mineral apatite; any salt or ester formed by the reaction of a metal, alcohol, or other radical with phosphoric acid.

Preshrunk is a dry, permanent finish in which the fabric is washed in order to create a more stable fabric. Often this process allows the elasticity to become improved due to an increase in yarn crimp. After a fabric is preshrunk, there usually remains potential for additional or residual shrinkage.

Product stewardship
Part of the sustainability management system. Includes working with customers and ensuring safety in terms of product use and disposal.

Enzymes that are involved in the breakdown of proteins. They are the most widely used enzymes in detergents; it removes protein stains from egg, grass, blood, and sweat. Also used to treat wool and raw silk.

Raw materials
A natural, unprocessed material used in a manufacturing process.

Reactive dyes
Dyes for cotton and other cellulosic fibres that actually react to form covalent bonds with cotton to produce a new chemical (e.g. Red cotton). They require large amounts of chemicals (salt and alkali) to fix the dyes and lots of water to wash off unfixed dye.

Recombinant enzymes
Enzymes derived from recombinant DNA technology as opposed to naturally occurring enzymes.

A general term for allowing fabrics or yarns to find their most 'comfortable' configuration. These processes tend to involve immersion in large volumes of water to allow things to shrink and swell.

Renewable resources
Resources that can be sustained or renewed indefinitely, either because of inexhaustible supplies or because of new growth.

Ready-to-wear, factory production of clothing.

The process of physically compressing (or shrinking) woven fabrics so that they don't shrink unacceptably when a customer washes them. Most fabric processes work under tension that stretch fabrics as they are being prepared, dyed or finished and this final process undoes some of that stretching. (also called compacting)

Scouring or bioscouring
Scouring or bioscouring is the removal of wax (fatty acids, alcohols and esters), which is critical to improved wetability. The process removes pectin which functions as a glue binding wax to the fibre, and renders wax extractable and the cotton ready for dye or bleach.

Abbreviation for specific gravity which is a measure of the density of a liquid - it is commonly used to calculate the amount of salt in a dyebath.

Shearing is a dry, permanent finish used to create a uniform surface of napped or pile fabrics.

Also called gassing, singeing is a process applied to both yarns and fabrics to produce an even surface by burning off projecting fibres, yarn ends, and fuzz. This is accomplished by passing the fibre or yarn over a gas flame or heated copper plates at a speed sufficient to burn away the protruding material without scorching or burning the yarn or fabric. Less hairy yarn generally costs more.


Soil release
Soil release is a wet, durable finish that increases the absorbency of a fiber that is hydrophobic in order to allow water to better penetrate the fabric in laundering, thus allowing dirt and stains to be removed.


Stain resistance
Stain resistance is a wet, usually semi-durable finish applied to a fabric in order to resist the penetration of a liquid stain substance while allowing the passage of air and moisture. The finish can be a wax emulsion or other chemical, and each option varies in efficacy, toxicity and eco-friendliness.

Any filament, fibre, or yarn that can be made into fabric or cloth, and the resulting material itself. The word originally referred only to woven fabrics but now includes knitted, bonded, felted, and tufted fabrics as well.

The process of applying heat and moisture to fabrics. Steaming is used to fix dyes applied in continuous dyeing processes and printing. It is also used to 'fix' fabrics such as wool and silk and can be used to remove creases from many other fabrics.

The term used for passing fabric through big continuous ovens called stenters. In addition to just drying stenters can align fabrics, set fabrics, apply chemicals to fabrics via pad mangles. Stenter efficiency (i.e. The amount of time they are actually used to dry fabric compared to the time they are switched on) has a large bearing on overall resource utilisation efficiency.

Sulphur Dyes
Dyes for cotton and other cellulosic fibres that are based on suphur chemistry. Can be difficult to achieve top fastness performance but good results possible from selected dyes. Application method has far less impact than reactives

Teflon coated
A process in which Teflon is chemically bonded to a fabric at a molecular level to create a water repellent and stain resistant finish. It is highly effective in that it does not change the hand or breathability of the fabric.

Textile enzymes
Enzymes used for treatment of yarn, fabric, and garments in wet processing operations such as pretreatment, including desizing, scouring, and bleaching; and finishing operations including surface improvement of fabric and treatment of garments for surface effects, for example in denim processing.

To give a desired texture to by a special process.

Twill is a type of fabric woven with a pattern of diagonal parallel ribs. It is made by passing the weft thread over one or more warp threads and then under two or more warp threads and so on, with a "step" or offset between rows to create the characteristic diagonal pattern. Because of this structure, twills generally drape well. Examples of twill fabric are chino, drill, denim, gabardine, tweed and serge.

Vegetable dyes
Vegetable dyes are a sub-category of natural dyes referring to those that come from plant matter only.

Vegetable tanning
Vegetable tanning refers to the use of natural tannins to create usable leather from hides. Natural tannins are present in bark, wood, leaves and fruits of chestnut, oak and hemlock trees. This process is time intensive, as it can take up to three weeks for the tannins to fully penetrate a hide. From an ecological perspective, vegetable tanning is preferable, however the leather produced is not stable in water as it shrivels and becomes brittle.

Volatile Organic Compounds are organic chemical compounds that have high enough vapor pressures under normal conditions to significantly vaporize and enter the atmosphere. Volatile organic compounds are numerous and varied. Although ubiquitous in nature and modern industrial society, they may also be harmful or toxic. VOCs, or subsets of the VOCs, are often regulated.

In weaving, the warp is the set of lengthwise yarns through which the weft is woven. Each individual warp thread in a fabric is called a warp end. Warp means "that which is thrown across". Warp is spun fibre, originally made from wool or flax, but with modern industrialization it became possible to make cotton yarn of sufficient strength to be used as the warp. Later, artificial or man-made fibres such as nylon or rayon were employed.

Washable wool
Washable wool is a wet, durable finish used to reduce shrinkage in wool. A resin coating is added to the wool fibers to prevent them from overlocking during laundering.

Washing off
The process of removing unfixed dye at the end of a dyeing process to ensure it does not rub off or wash off - causing customer dissatisfaction.

Water repellent
Water repellent is a wet, usually semi-durable finish applied to yarn rather than a finished fabric in order to resist the penetration of water while allowing the passage of air and moisture. The finish can be a wax emulsion or other chemical, and each option varies in efficacy, toxicity and eco-friendliness.

The weft is the yarn that is woven back and forth through the warp to make cloth.

See dry-finishing. wet describing chemicals applied to a fabric and generally seen as less environmental-friendly than mechanical dry finishes. However, there are some eco-friendly wet finishes, which are increasing in selection and availability, such as enzymatic treatments. Other wet finishes, such as antimicrobial and stain-resistant, can be beneficial to the sustainability of a garment, as they reduce the need for laundering, conserving water and energy and reducing the amount of chemicals released to the environment.

In wet spinning, the polymer used to form the fibre is dissolved in solution. The solution is forced under pressure through an opening into a liquid bath in which the polymer is insoluble. As the solvent is dissipated in the bath, the fibre forms. Wet spinning produces rayon, acrylic, and modacrylic. Chemicals used in wet spinning may include acids, alkalis, reducing/oxidizing agents and bleaches

Natural dye extracted from plants - yields indigo, the same dye as used to dye denim.

Yarn Dye
The process of dyeing yarns prior to weaving or knitting fabrics. Generally used for patterned fabrics or stripes but poplular for knitwear. Two general methods are Hank (for bulkier yarns - knitwear) or Package (for flatter fabrics).