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Fabric Manufacturing Goes High-Performance and PFAS-Free

Fashion’s finishing industry has a waste and water problem. But there are solutions.


Dry finishing solutions—free of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), fixatives and other harmful chemicals—do exist, but the textile industry must make a decision. Will it turn away from archaic manufacturing methods that prioritize speed over sustainability and don’t take heavy water usage and toxic waste into account? Or will it pivot to cleaner, non-fluorinated solutions that don’t create toxic waste streams?

Man-made chemical PFAS are harmful to both people and planet, and the U.S. government has boosted efforts to keep contaminated water discharge at bay. Just this month, the Biden Administration proposed the first-ever national drinking water standard for six PFAS in the latest action under President Biden’s plan to combat PFAS pollution and Administrator Regan’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap

Brands and mills are accustomed to using toxic chemicals to create performance in textiles such as water-resistance, bug repellency or fire-resistance. Until now, cleaner options like “C0” PFAS-free chemistries have not delivered the same performance levels and brands don’t want to sacrifice performance for sustainability.

Green Theme Technologies (GTT) has found a solution that removes toxic chemistries from fabric manufacturing while achieving long-lasting performance. Their solution is simple: remove water from the process. 

“Going water free has huge benefits,” said Martin Flora, president of global marketing at the Portland, Ore.-based textile innovation company. “If you remove water from the textile finishing process, the apparel and textile products perform at a much higher level for a much longer time.”

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GTT’s proprietary dry-finishing solution EMPEL achieves this without the use of PFAS chemistries. Once the chemistry is applied to the fabric surface, pressure and heat then molecularly bond the attribute to each fiber throughout the material.

Improved efficiencies

In addition to providing a cleaner manufacturing process, going water-free considerably improves manufacturing efficiencies as well. Fabrics not treated with harmful chemicals don’t need to go through the time-consuming, post-finish cleaning and washing processes.

Another type of efficiency comes from the longevity of the applied treatment in question—the key to any sustainable proposal.

The fluorine-free, water-repellent EMPEL creates long-lasting performance. “The best industry standards out there right now are what they call 80/30; which means a treated product remains 80 percent effective after 30 washes,” said Flora. “But EMPEL delivers 100 percent effectiveness after 50 washes. EMPEL outperforms industry standards, without using toxic chemistries or water. All of the added performance simply won’t wash out like other treatments do.”

Because the treatment is molecularly bonded at the fiber level, “all of the added performance simply won’t wash out like other treatments do.” Courtesy

While GTT is targeting “performance and protective fabrics” to start with, it is expanding to luxury fashion materials. Because the treatment is bonded at the fiber level, the wearer can’t see or feel any change to the beauty of the material.  

GTT’s process has been validated by Bureau Veritas for 100 percent PFAS-free chemistry and Oeko-Tex, whose independent tests confirmed EMPEL uses a nontoxic and water-free hydrocarbon monomer solution that is polymerized when applied to fabrics, wrapping each individual yarn with a high-performance finish. Testing reveals EMPEL outperforms existing C0 and C6 fluorocarbon water-repellent options, producing a protective finish that lasts.

The EMPEL product has also caught the attention of The United Nations Environmental Protection Group, which has funded a pilot program with Green Theme Technology to eliminate PFAS in Southeast Asia. “They funded a mill in Southeast Asia to use our technology and show its efficacy,” said Flora. “It’s their goal to demonstrate that going water-free is the future.”

To learn more about Green Theme Technologies and its EMPEL technology platform, you can email Martin Flora at