Textile Terms

Embossing or Debossing

Method of imparting a pattern to the surface of a material. Embossed dies, metal rolls, or paper are used to transfer grain patterns onto coated fabrics with heat and pressure. An embossed pattern is raised against the background, while a debossed pattern is sunken into the surface of the material


Process where faux leathers are surface printed with patterns. There are 3 primary ways of achieving this:

  • Gravure printing from embossed metal roll
  • Transfer printing from embossed paper
  • Digital printing from a digital image directly to the material


Leather is made from skins of cattle, goats, and pigs through a chemical process. Aniline is the most natural looking, flexible, feels like soft skin but is less resistant to soiling and scratching. Semi-aniline has a light polyurethane surface coating to give some protection. Protected or pigmented is the most durable and has a heavier pigmented urethane coating. The result is a stiffer, plastic feel that is not as pliable as aniline.

There are several types of leather grains and looks: 

Full: Leather that has not been sanded or buffed
Corrected: Abrade off imperfections and then emboss with a decorative grain pattern
Split: Low quality leather is cut and embossed. Low cost and not durable.
Antique: A contrasting top coat is applied to mimic a “worn” look
Nubuck: Lightly abraded on surface to create a fine, velvet like surface
Pull-up: Lightens in color when stretched to give a worn effect
Suede: Split leather that has been abraded to create a nap surface

Faux (Synthetic) Leather

A coated fabric manufactured to look and feel like natural leather. Typically constructed of a polymer skin (PVC vinyl, polyurethane, TPE) coated onto a textile backing (polyester, cotton, nylon, rayon)


A textile fabric that is created by weaving two or more sets of yarns interlaced at right angles to each other.


Unlike woven fabric, knitted fabric consists entirely of parallel courses of yarn. The courses are joined to each other by interlocking loops in which a short loop of one course of yarn is wrapped over the bight of another course. It can be constructed in the round (circular knitting), or by going back and forth in rows.


Nonwoven fabrics are broadly defined as sheet or web structures bonded together by entangling fibers filaments, or films mechanically, thermally, or chemically. They are flat, porous sheets or fabrics that are made directly from separate fibers or from molten plastic or plastic film. Faux Leathers are not considered non-wovens.


Machine direction

Weft (Fill)

Cross machine direction


Natural (derived from animals or plants)

  • Cotton
  • Linen
  • Silk
  • Wool, Cashmere, Mohair
  • Rayon
  • Bamboo
  • Hemp

Synthetic (derived from petroleum)

  • Acrylic
  • Polyester
  • Nylon
  • Acetate
  • Olefin (Polypropylene)
  • Spandex (Lycra)

Cleaning Code

Voluntary standards for furniture upholstery cleanability. Used as a guide for spot removal and for overall cleaning.

W--use water-based cleaner.
S--use solvent-based cleaner.
WS--use water-based cleaner onwater based stains, and solvent-based cleaners on oil-based stains.


The term railroading refers to the layout of the fabric on a piece of furniture in relation to the way it is woven at the fabric mill. When looking at a railroaded pattern, the filling yarns are in the vertical direction, while the warp yarns are in the horizontal direction.

Put Up

The term used to indicate the way fabric is packaged when it is sold. Most coated fabrics are sold on rolls containing between 30 and 50 yards of fabric.


A repeat refers to the length of the pattern before it repeats itself again. Fabrics can have a vertical or horizontal repeat, or both, or none.

Test Terms

Abrasion Resistance

Measure of ability of fabric to hold up to abrasive force against its surface. The most common test for upholstery coated fabrics is the Wyzenbeek wear test. One specimen of approximately 2 x 8 inches in size is cut with the long dimension parallel to the machine direction and tested for resistance to abrasion to a #10 Cotton Duck fabric or a wire mesh, using the Wyzenbeek abrasion wear tester.Test values are shown in thousands of cycles. Test Method: ASTM D 4157. The ACT standard for commercial upholstery is 50,000 cycles. Other tests sometimes used are Martindale abrasion and Taber abrasion.

Adhesion of Coating

The adhesion test is used to determine the force or pull necessary to separate a coating from its fabric backing. The measurement is pounds of resistance per inch. Test Method: ASTM D 751-06. The ACT standard for coated fabrics is 3 lb/in minimum.


The treatment of fabrics to impart resistance to bacterial and fungal growth.

CAL 01350 VOC Emission Test

A stringent test method that measures the amount and type of volatile organic compounds emitted by furniture upholstery fabric in a controlled air space to simulate a building or classroom environment. It is intended to help reduce the impact of building materials on indoor air quality and health. GREENGUARD® Gold™ certified products, and products certified with SCS Indoor Advantage and Indoor Advantage Gold comply with CA Section 01350 indoor air quality requirements.

Chemical resistance

Test method ASTM D1308-2 measures any detrimental surface effect (discoloration, cracking, etc) when a variety of chemicals, cleaners and agents are applied to the surface of the material

Colorfastness to Light (UV and Fade Resistance )

The Colorfastness to Light Test method AATCC 16 A reproduces the damage caused by sunlight. To simulate outdoor weathering, the test exposes materials to alternating cycles of UV light and moisture at controlled, elevated temperatures. The tester’s fluorescent lamps simulate short-wave UV radiation that realistically reproduces the physical property damage caused by sunlight. In a few days or weeks, the test can reproduce the damage that occurs over months or years outdoors. After exposure, the specimens are examined for any signs of stiffness, tack, color change, or any other deviation.


The purpose of this test is to determine the resistance to transfer of color from another surface by rubbing action. The specimen to be tested shall be rubbed with an unstarched, cotton cloth with a Crockmeter or similar device. This test is performed with both a wet and dry cloth. Performance is normally measured by 1 – 5 rating scale, with 5 representing excellent and 1 being poor crock resistance.

Appropriate Test Method: AATCC 8. The ACT standard for coated fabrics is Grade 4 minimum.


The measurement of the % elongation or stretch of a fabric in the machine and cross-machine direction when a constant load force is applied to it.

Flame Resistance

There are many types of flammability tests for coated fabrics. Several of them are presented below. Currently, the only ACT standard for fabric upholstery is the California Technical Bulletin 117-2013 Section 1. 

California Technical Bulletin #117-2013: A semi-composite burn test that supersedes the previous California Bulletin #117. Instead of determining ease of ignition when material is subject to an open flame, the new law determines ease of ignition when a cigarette is left to smolder on the material. If any of the following criteria occur, the material has failed the test:

  1. The material continues to smolder after 45 seconds;
  2. A char develops more than 1.8" in any direction from the cigarette;
  3. The material transitions to open flaming.

IMO A.652(16)8.2: Test Method: A small flame (match-flame equivalent) is used as a flaming ignition source. The test object is exposed to the flame for 20 seconds, and fire development after removal of the flame is observed. Two parallel tests with small flame as ignition source are performed. Standard to Pass: The sample shall show no sign of development of smoldering fire or flames more than 120 seconds after the ignition flame has been removed from the object.

U.F.A.C. Class I: Test Method: A sample is placed over a standard foam substrate and exposed to a burning cigarette. Standard to Pass: Class I - Char length less than 1 3/4"; Class II - Char length over 1 3/4"

NFPA 260: Test Method: A sample is placed over a standard foam substrate and exposed to a burning cigarette. Standard to Pass: Class I - Char length less than 1 3/4"; Class II - Char length over 1 3/4"

MVSS 302 - Automobiles, Buses, RV's: Horizontal test method: The edge of a 4" x 14" sample is exposed horizontally to a 1 1/2" flame for 15 seconds. Standard to Pass: Maximum burn rate is 4” per minute or "self-extinguishing" before burning 2" past the start of the timing zone.

BIFMA x 5.7 - Class I: Test Method: 5 samples 6 1/2" x 3" are exposed to a 5/8" flame for 1 second. Standard to Pass: Flame spread is 1 second or longer.

Flex Resistance

A measurement of the ability of a faux leather or fabric to withstand numerous cycles of bending and creasing without causing surface defects, cracking or delamination. The ASTM D 2097 Newark Flex test for 30,000 cycles is an example.

Hydrolytic Stability

The purpose of this test is to determine the resistance of a urethane coated fabric to hydrolysis when subjected to a combination of an elevated temperature and high humidity. Both tests below are conducted by placing the polyurethane material in a heat and humidity chamber at 158 degrees Fahrenheit and 95% relative humidity for a period of time. A brief description of each test is as follows:

ISO 1419 Method C “Tropical Test”: In this test, the polyurethane material is put into the test chamber and visually examined against a control sample at the end of each one-week period for a pre-determined number of weeks, or until the product breaks down and fails. Failure against the control sample would be in the form of surface cracking, delaminating of the PU film layer from the backing substrate, or extreme changes in color and gloss level. The ACT standard states the product should withstand at least 5 weeks in the test chamber. Some people erroneously ascribe the number of weeks in the chamber with an equivalency of years in the field. No such equivalency exists.

ASTM D 3690: This test incorporates physical testing after a set period of 15 days in the test chamber. Before the material is put into the test chamber it is tested for adhesion in both the warp and fill directions, and the results are documented. After 15 days the material is removed from the test chamber and allowed to recondition at a controlled room temperature for 24 hours, then tested for adhesion, abrasion, and flex resistance. Adhesion results must maintain at least 75% of the documented values of the material before being placed into the test chamber. It must show no signs of cracking or delaminating after 25,000 Wyzenbeek cycles, with 4 pounds of tension and 3 pounds of compression, using a 100% cotton sateen fabric as the abradant. For flex resistance the ASTM D 2097 Newark Flex test is performed on the material; after 15,000 cycles, there can be no breaks in the PU coating. The criteria of all three of these tests must be met for the PU material to get a passing grade.

Moisture Vapor Transmission (Breathability)

Test Method: CFFA19 / ASTM E96. This test evaluates the water vapor transfer through semi-permeable and permeable samples. The higher the number the more breathable the material is.


Measurement of how flexible a fabric is by determining the amount of force required to bend it.

Puncture Resistance

Measure pounds of force required to puncture through a coated fabric. ASTM D751

Stitch Seam Strength

ASTM D1683. Measures the force required to break a standard seam stitched in a coated fabric

ASTM D4033 Dynamic seam test

Scratch and Scuff Resistance

ASTM D1683 Measures resistant of material to scratching and scuffing of the surface.

Stain Resistance

CFFA 141. Various water soluble and non-water soluble materials are applied to the surface of the fabric and measured to see if there is residual staining after they are removed and cleaned. A Gray scale of 1-5 is used, where a 1 means a bad stain and a 5 means no stain.

Stretch and Set

SAE J885 (CFFA 15). This tests measures how far the material will stretch in both directions when a 27 pound weight is applied for five minutes. Then the test also measures how much the material recovers back to its original position. The test is designed to simulate wrinkle resistance of the material once upholstered on a chair.


Test Method: ASTM D 5034-09. Breaking Strength - The grab tensile test is the basic test used within the textile industry to determine the pulling force required to rupture fabrics. It provides an index of the ultimate strength of the specimen at failure. In the test, each specimen (4” x 6”) is clamped by one inch jaws in the center of the width and pulled quickly. The ACT industry standard for coated fabrics is 50 x 50 lb. /inch minimum in warp and weft.

Tear Strength

Test Method ASTM D5587. The trapezoid tear test is used to determine the resistance to further tearing after the material has been cut. The industry standard for coated fabrics is 15 x 15 lb. /inch minimum in both machine and cross machine directions.

Wyzenbeek Abrasion

The purpose of this test is to determine the abrasion resistance of coated fabrics. One specimen of approximately 2 x 8 inches in size is cut with the long dimension parallel to the machine direction and tested for resistance to abrasion to a #10 Cotton Duck fabric or a wire mesh, using the Wyzenbeek abrasion wear tester.

Test values are shown in thousands of cycles. Appropriate Test Method: ASTM D 4157. The ACT standard for commercial upholstery is 50,000 cycles.

Wrinkle Recovery

A dynamic test where a heavy weight is applied to the material for one hour and the time to recover any wrinkles or distortion is measured.

Environmental Terms

Azo Dyes and Pigments

AZO colorants are a class of organic dyes and compounds which contain the azo group (-N=N-) as the main chromophore (color bearing group). In traditional polyurethanes, many of the yellow, red and brown colors fall into this category.


The process in which chemical compounds travel long distances through numerous ecosystems and food chain without breaking down. As a result, the concentration of the chemicals increases as it moves up the food chain to humans.


Capable of decomposing in nature within a reasonably short period of time.


Any of a number of agents that can cause cancer, including chemicals, radiation, and viruses. Exposure to such agents, singly or in combination, can initiate cancer under conditions not wholly understood.

Conflict Minerals

Include gold, as well as cassiterite, wolframite, and columbite-tantalite and their respective derivatives, tin, tungsten, and tantalum. Together, these are commonly referred to as 3TG. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires manufacturers to report whether their products contain conflict minerals that are necessary to the functionality or production of those products.


A disinfectant is a substance applied to nonliving objects to destroy microorganisms that are living on the objects. Disinfection does not necessarily kill all microorganisms, especially resistant bacterial spores. Disinfectants are less effective than sterilization, which is an extreme physical and/or chemical process that kills all types of life.


A highly unstable, toxic, monocyclic organic compound comprised of carcinogenic hydrocarbons that occur as impurities. Dioxins are man-made materials.

Ecological Footprint

The resulting impacts on the environment based on the choices we make (i.e., raw materials selection, energy selection, transportation, etc).

Environmentally Friendly

A general statement often used to designate a product or process that has better health safety and /or a reduced ecological footprint when compared to other products/processes.

Environmentally Preferable

Products, services or systems that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products, services or systems that serve the same purpose.


A toxic chemical used widely in consumer products and building materials. A known carcinogen to negatively impact indoor air quality (IAQ), formaldehyde is on the EPA’s list of pollutants that create indoor air pollution.

HFRs (Halogenated Flame Retardants)

Toxic chemical compounds containing chlorine or bromine bonded to carbon that improve fire resistant properties.

Healthy Building Network

A leading environmental health organization founded in 2000 based on the beliefs of healthier indoor environments for improved public health. Healthy Building Network supports the opportunities to change the building materials market by educating on the negative impacts of PVC and recommending substitute cost-effective, healthier building and interior furnishing materials.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

The air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. IAQ can be affected by microbial contaminants (mold, bacteria), gases (including carbon monoxide, radon, volatile organic compounds-VOC's), particulates, toxic chemicals, or any mass or energy stressor that can induce adverse health conditions. Indoor air is becoming an increasingly more concerning health hazard than outdoor air.

Leather Tannery Toxins

Toxic chemicals commonly used and released into the environment as a result of the tanning process. Tanneries produce thousands of tons of solid waste each day as well as air emissions containing ammonia or hydrogen sulphide. Other toxic substances used in tanneries include mercury, lead and chromium.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)

A series of building rating products developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to provide a standard for what constitutes a “green building” or “high performance” building. The various LEED products are used as design guidelines and third-party certification aiming to improve occupant well-being, environmental performance and economic returns of buildings used to establish and innovative practices, standards and technologies.

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP's)

Organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes. As a result, they have been observed to persist in the environment, to be capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulate in human and animal tissue, biomagnify in food chains, and to have potential significant impacts on human health and the environment.

Phthalate-Free Vinyl

You may run across companies marketing a "Green" vinyl from time to time. Usually they claim they are phthalate-free, making them "greener" by replacing one problem ingredient. However, phthalate-free PVC still isn't a safe plastic because of other harmful chemicals used during production. They typically use an alternative petroleum based plasticizer (trimellitate) to soften the PVC, but it is still PVC.

Studies have shown vinyl (PVC) can have toxic effects throughout its lifecycle. Vinyl is listed on the EPA's warning list of materials that contribute toward poor indoor air quality among other health and safety concerns.

These "green" vinyls still often contain the additives that are toxic and emit hazardous VOCs, such as brominated flame retardants, antimony oxide, heavy metal stabilizers, antimicrobials, organotins, etc.

Phthalate Plasticizers

Or Phthalate esters, are esters of phthalic acid and are mainly used as plasticizers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity). They are primarily used to soften polyvinyl chloride. Phthalates are being phased out of many products in the United States and European Union over health concerns. (wikipedia definition) PBDEs (Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers) - organobromine compounds used as flame retardants in a number of applications, including textiles, plastics, wire insulation, and automobiles.


Perfluorochemicals often used as surface treatments to enhance cleanability and stain resistance. PFCs are toxic and studies show they impair child development and are suspected carcinogens. They also bio-accumulate and have been found in polar bear, dolphin and human blood.

C6 Fluorocarbon Chemistry

In a C6-based fluorocarbon (containing Carbon-Florine bonds) stain-resistant chemistry often used on textiles and coated fabric finishes to impart stain and soiling resistance. The chain length of 6 units has slightly less fluorocarbon. It may breakdown in the environment a little faster than C8 chemistry, but still not readily. Also, a downside of fewer fluorocarbons is that it could render the textile less stain resistant that C8 chemistry and often more of the chemical has to be used to create the same effect as C8 chemistry. Both C-6 and C-8 fluorocarbons are PFCs and therefore both are still toxic and bio-accumulate.

PBDEs (Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers)

Organobromine compounds used as flame retardants in a number of applications, including textiles, plastics, wire insulation, and automobiles.

Proposition 65

A law that requires the State of California to publish a list of chemicals that have been identified to cause cancer or reproductive harm and places an obligation on companies to notify consumers.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

Synthetic resin, an organic polymer made by treating vinyl chloride monomers with a peroxide. PVC is the main ingredient in vinyl upholstery. Studies have shown vinyl (PVC) can have toxic effects throughout its lifecycle. Vinyl is listed on the EPA’s warning list of materials that contribute toward poor indoor air quality among other health and safety concerns.

During manufacture, or disposal, hydrochloric acid and other toxic emissions can be created. Incineration of vinyl can lead to the formation of dioxin which is a known carcinogen and hormone disruptor. 


Thermoplastic Elastomer. A polymer or blend of polymers that exhibit elastic (stretch and recovery) properties


PVC resin mixed with plasticizers, stabilizers, and pigments is made into flexible articles (e.g., raincoats, toys, upholstery fabric). It is often used as a category term for all synthetic leather. This is incorrect. Vinyl is a material made with PVC. Polyurethane and TPE faux leathers are PVC-free and are not vinyl

USGBC (US Green Building Council)

Non-profit organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built, and operated. USGBC is best known for its development of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating systems.

Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs)

Toxic organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary, room temperature conditions. Their high vapor pressure results from a low boiling point, which causes large numbers of molecules to evaporate or sublimate from the liquid or solid form of the compound and enter the surrounding air.