Fabric Fading

One of the questions I often get asked is about fabric fading. In New Zealand’s harsh sunlight, and our propensity for north facing living areas, fading is often a large factor when choosing fabric for furnishings.

The short answer to the question do organic fabrics fade faster? is ….no they do not fade any faster than conventional.

Most printed organic fabrics won’t fade any faster than conventional fabrics. 

Inks used for printed fabrics are still usually chemically based. The difference with organic fabrics is the chemicals are non harmful. The Global Organic Textile Standard have strict criteria for the chemicals that can be used through the entire textile production. Their list of prohibited chemicals is far longer and even stricter than Greenpeace’s Detox list.

Most printed fabrics used for soft furnishings have been tested for fading on what is called the Blue Wool Scale. Sitting at 1 are usually silks. These fade and rot very quickly in the sunlight. Sitting at 8 are solution dyed fabrics for outdoor use that are always synthetic.

Explaining Blue Wool Scale

To make fade proof fabrics; synthetic dyes are added to a plastic chemical soup, before it is then extruded through tiny nozzles to make a fibre. The dyes become an intrinsic part of the synthetic fibre, so fading is unlikely to happen quickly or at all. These types of fabrics will never be approved by GOTS due to the chemicals involved and the crude oil origin of these fibres.

In the colouring of natural fabrics; the dye coats the outside of the fibre cells, which is why eventually most fabrics will fade over time. In printed fabrics using ink, the ink sits on top of the fabric, meaning rubbing is more likely to cause noticeable fading rather than sunlight.

Most of our Ink & Spindle range of printed fabrics have been tested on the Blue Wool scale to be around 5. This is also where most conventional soft furnishings fabric sit. Very rarely do I see anything at 6-7 unless it was a light coloured natural fabric or a lower quality outdoor solution dyed fabric.

Dyed natural fabrics, whether they are conventionally grown or organically grown, will generally fade faster than printed fabrics. Conventional and organic fabrics depending on their quality won’t fade any differently, its all in the way they are dyed and what is used to fix the dyes to the fabric. I have also seen synthetic polyester fabrics fade quickly too, so it is not just natural ones.

If you are concerned about fading remember this general rule:

The darker the shades,

the quicker it fades.

Pick a light coloured fabric or one that has been printed with inks rather than dyes. Better still, choose a cream 100% Hemp which is UV resistant and will not rot in the sunlight.