These days, many discerning customers are paying a lot more attention to what goes into the products they buy. Sure, much of it's pretty basic -- no poisonous lead, no toxic VOCs -- but some of it goes a step further. Take fabric, for example. Fabric plays a huge role in our daily lives; for example, right now you're likely sitting on a piece of furniture composed of fabric, and hopefully, you're also wearing something made of fabric! But a big downfall of most fabric is how easily it's damaged. Stains, mildew and different sorts of bugs and bacteria can take a toll on everything from your couch to your curtains.
Until recently, people just had to put up with smelly pet beds, stained couches, soaking wet patio furniture and germy placemats. Now there's an answer to those little annoyances, and it's called Crypton Super Fabrics. The development of Crypton Super Fabrics began in 1993 by Michigan residents Craig and Randy Rubin. Fifteen years later they report more than 60 million yards of their sophisticated fabric have been installed worldwide -- even in swanky places like the White House and Buckingham Palace [source: Crypton].
Originally, Crypton Super Fabrics were especially popular in places like hospitals, hotels and restaurants, although residential investments are now growing. To find out whether you should jump on the bandwagon and deck your house out in Crypton Super Fabrics, let's take a better look at the what they claim in a dozen U.S. and global patents these wonder textiles can do.
- Water resistant: First and foremost, Crypton Super Fabric acts as a moisture barrier, while still allowing ventilating air to pass through the fibers. The barrier is permanently integrated into each fiber strand, so you don't need to worry about it ever separating or failing to protect because of extended or heavy use or cleaning.
- Stain resistant: Crypton fabrics resist stains mainly because they're a barrier surface. The impervious fabric keeps spills right on the surface where they usually just wipe away. In addition to this, stains (and microbes) are also fought by a special liquid formula that's applied during the production process. For more problematic spills, you can clean them thoroughly -- without worrying that soapy water residue will penetrate the fabric.
- Microbe resistant: Crypton Super Fabrics can also help block the spread of harmful bacteria and molds. Part of this is accomplished while the fabric is processed. Crypton sells a special disinfectant to help decrease the chance of any nasty organisms sprouting in your sofa. But we'll get into this more in a minute.
So how does a fabric do all this? Read all about it on the next page.
Crypton Fabric: The Methods
Special processing is performed on each and every inch of Crypton Super Fabrics to give them the properties we read about on the last page. The process involves coating the fabric in a special mix of materials developed and honed over a number of years by the Rubins, with help from specialists in fields like textile engineering and chemistry.
The process is done at the company's manufacturing plant in Kings Mountain, N.C. To avoid the plastic-like feel of water-repellant materials like vinyl, the fabric is repeatedly treated with a water-based solution containing a variety of ingredients. Mainly, these include antimicrobial and fluorochemical agents. The antimicrobials are disinfectants aimed at preventing the growth of, and killing, microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, mildew, mold and algae. Fluorochemicals (think of products like Scotchgard and Teflon, but with a unique new chemistry) help increase the fabric's water- and stain-resistance. Other ingredients in the fabric's treatment may include:
- thickeners to help ensure the fabric treatment is the proper consistency to effectively coat all the fibers
- UV stabilizers to provide at least two years of guaranteed fade-resistance for Crypton's outdoor line
- flame retardants to help decrease flammability
- resins to help strengthen the treatment's molecular bonds
- additional additives, such as dyes and pigments to add a splash of color
After allowing the wet treatment fully to penetrate the fabric, the fabric is dried and cured at high temperatures and can be printed with different patterns. A variety of different fabrics can undergo the Crypton process, such as cotton, linen, silk, wool, acrylic, rayon and polyester.n product line for the best results.
Once Crypton Super Fabrics -- fully inspected and tested -- leave the factory and head out into the world, a lot of messy situations are likely looming in their future. In restaurants, homes, hotels and hospitals, spills and stains happen all too frequently. On the next page, we'll take a look at the unique disinfectants, deodorizers and stain removers Crypton developed to keep their fabrics sanitized and smelling sweet.
Using Crypton Super Fabrics
We've covered the basics of what goes into producing such impervious fabric, now let's see what happens when it's put to the test.
Although Crypton is great at resisting water and stains, occasionally a mess might come along that requires more than the quick swipe of a towel to clean it up. For those more serious spills, Crypton has developed a line of cleaners that work best on its fabrics, but can do a good job on regular types of fabric too.
One of their stain removers, the Gold, is good for working on stains made of things like beer, blood, coffee, soda, mildew, milk, ketchup or vomit. Another one, the Purple, is suitable for stuff like cosmetics, grease, ink, crayon, nail polish, oil or mustard. On top of that, the company offers a disinfectant and deodorizer, which can knock out an impressive list of micro villains, another factor that makes these products popular in places like hotels and hospitals. E. coli, hepatitis, salmonella, HIV, influenza, staphylococci like MRSA and VRSA, herpes simplex 1 and 2, mold, mildew -- taking a deep breath -- streptococcus, parvovirus and canine distemper are just some of the many germs and viruses Crypton's disinfectant kills. As the first fabric EPA-certified as disinfectable, you're probably beginning to see why odor-resistance is just another perk of Crypton fabrics.
Developing a disinfectant for Crypton Super Fabrics did pose quite a challenge, though. The problem stemmed from the widespread use of Crypton in industry fields such as health care and hospitality, and the fact that lots of disinfectants are corrosive to fabric and damaging to the impermeable liquid barrier. One important benefit to note, however, is that Crypton fabric is able to keep harmful microorganisms from breaking through to the other side. For example, once a suitable disinfectant was developed, Crypton mattress covers could be made to keep anything from reaching the actual mattress -- everything stays on the surface waiting to be sanitized.
So what can you buy that's made with Crypton Fabrics? Apart from the fabric itself, you can also get products like pet beds and accessories, kid-sized chairs, quilts, bags and luggage, sofas, pillows, outdoor furniture, armchairs, rocking chairs, ottomans -- the list goes on and on. Crypton offers a variety of designer collections that are available online through their Web site, and through many different retail distributers.
Continue to the next page for some interesting links to more information concerning cleaning, killer critters and kryptonite.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Great Links
- "Copolymers." The Free Online Dictionary. (8/22/2008) http://www.thefreedictionary.com/copolymer
- Crypton Care Web site. (8/21/2008) http://www.cryptoncare.com/default.aspx
- Crypton Fabric Web site. (8/21/2008) http://www.cryptonfabric.com/shop-online-crypton-fabric/main_html.do
- Marx, Ali. Personal Correspondence. Susan Becher Public Relations. (8/21/2008)
- Rubin, Craig et al. "Treated polyester fabric." United States Patent 5565265. Free Patents Online. 10/15/1996. (8/21/2008) http://www.freepatentsonline.com/5565265.html
- Rubin, Craig et al. "Treated Textile Fabric." United States Patent 20070021019. Free Patents Online. 1/25/2007. (8/21/2008) http://www.freepatentsonline.com/y2007/0021019.html?query=crypton+rubin&stemming=on
- Rubin, Craig et al. "Treated Textile Fabric." United States Patent 6492001. Free Patents Online. 12/10/2002. (8/21/2008) http://www.freepatentsonline.com/6492001.html?query=crypton+rubin&stemming=on
- Rubin, Craig et al. " Water-resistant and stain-resistant, antimicrobial treated textile fabric." United States Patent 6024823. Free Patents Online. 2/15/2000. (8/21/2008) http://www.freepatentsonline.com/6024823.html?query=PN%2F6024823+ OR+6024823&stemming=on
- Rubin, Craig and Hadfield, Charles. "Method for disinfecting a non-porous textile fabric and a disinfected, non-porous textile fabric." United States Patent 20070254544. Free Patents Online. 11/01/2007. (8/21/2008) http://www.freepatentsonline.com/y2007/0254544.html?query=crypton+disinfectant&stemming=on
- "Weaving Magic." Trends Ideas. (8/22/2008) http://trendsideas.com/ViewArticle.aspx?article=6286®ion=23&category=136