The forming of water beads as rain comes pouring down on your gear, gives you a sense of security and invincibility, but some of the durable water repellents used with fabrics mess up the environment.
DWRs are topical finishes applied to modern fabrics so that your gear is protected against water,
oil and soil. DWR finishes add a lot of value to textile products. In addition to providing protection against the above mentioned elements, these finishes also extend the life of products and keep them looking brand new for longer.
Historically, the technology of durable water repellents has been achieved with the help of textile finishes that contain a polymer or non-fluorinated finishes. Long-chain fluorinated polymers often contain residual raw materials and trace levels of long-chain perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) as impurities, which are bad for the environment.
In 2011, the ZDHC (Zero Discharge Of Hazardous Chemicals) brands made a commitment to set forth a time line for the elimination of DWR technologies which may contain or degrade into long-chain PFAAs. With the heightened focus of NGOs and a huge pressure to move away from long chain chemistry, many have been looking to the shorter chain or non-fluorinated chemicals to provide the answer.
In light of the environmental concerns associated with long-chain PFAAs, there is a shift towards DWR chemistries with shorter perfluoroalkyl chains.
Since the technology's infancy the repellent chemistries have evolved greatly. Today's DWRs are moslty nano-compounds coated on fabrics to achieve desirable properties without a significant increase in weight, thickness or stiffness. The repellent properties of textiles using nanotechnology include water and soil resistance. To achieve these properties, fabrics are embedded with tiny fibers, called nano-whiskers. Nano-whiskers form a cushion of air around fiber to repel water and stains. This treatment is believed to be durable to repeated home laundering cycles.
Moving from long chain to short-chain fluorinated DWR chemistries is a complex process. There is considerable research in the area and performance concerns will always be an issue. Still, alternative options do exist. It is critical that the DWR chemistries supplied by chemical producers, including their raw materials and by-products, are evaluated for their human health and environmental impacts. This will ensure that potential substitutes are not associated with substances having comparable health and environmental impacts as long-chain fluorinated chemistries.
The move from fluorinated to non-fluorinated DWR chemistries is more challenging now than before. And it requires in-depth research to realize the practical application of non-fluorinated DWR finishes on textile products. Research and development efforts are also needed to make certain that non-fluorinated chemistries can provide the desired fabric attributes as well as meet the industry's performance requirements. Significant efforts are currently ongoing in this area and we will keep you posted with the developments.
And here we are carrying, backpacking, lugging and journeying on thinking about the places to visit or the landing at the airport with the luggage that may be the next big threat to the environment.