What is a Fabric Finish?

A fabric finish is applied to a fabric once it has been made to improve its appearence, feel or other properties.
The main types are:
  • Physical
  • Chemical
  • Biological
  • Coated

Why are fabric finishes used?

Fabric Finishes are used to improve the fabric in some way. This could be:
  • improve the appearence - colour, pattern or sheen.
  • change the texture of the fabric - embossing, brushing or smoothing
  • improve the feel - softer, crisper, firmer.
  • improve the drape (how the fabric hangs) - weighted
  • improve wearing qualities - crease resistance, stain resistance, flammability, waterproof etc.
  • modify care requirements - easy wash, quicker drying times, colourfast, less shrinkage.

Fabric Finishes you should know:

Mechanical Finishes

Name of Finish
Fabrics used on
Method, result
Products applied to.
Cotton, wool, nylon, polyester
Fabric passed through wire rollers which brush the fabric to leave it soft and fluffy.
Fabric is weakened, fabric becomes more flammable.
Fleece, nightwear, bedding.
Heated rollers press the surface of the fabric to compact it giving it a shine.
Fabric needs dry cleaning to keep the finish, not a permanent finish.
Furnishing fabric such as Chintz.

Engraved rollers press a relief pattern into the fabric

Dress fabric, furnishing fabrics

Fabric is steamed and placed over a vibrating conveyor belt. Reduces the chances of shrinking later on.

Chemical Finishes

Name of Finish
Fabrics used on
Method, result
Products applied to.
A sodium hydroxide solution is added to fibres whilst they are stretched. This makes the cotton stronger, smoother and shinier. This is a permanent change.
Adds cost to the fabric or yarn mercerised.
Sewing thread, dress fabrics and furnishing fabric.
Flame Proofing
Cotton, linen, rayon
Chemicals are applied to the yarn or fabric to slow down or prevent burning.
Stiffens fabric, needs to be washed carefully.
Furnishing fabric.
Water Proofing
All fabrics
Silicon based chemicals are sprayed onto fabric to give it a waterproof finish. This is renewable
Wears off.
Outdoor products such as tents, jackets
Stain Resistance
All fabrics
A silicon based finish is applied to fabric to stop the absorption of water or dirt. Scotchgard
Often have to pay extra for it to be applied.
Carpets, furniture, shoes.
Easy Care
Cotton, viscose, linen
Chemicals added to fabric to make it easier to wash and iron, make it crease resistant and stop shrinking.
Eventually washes out.
Anti Static
Synthetic fibres, acetate, silk
Chemicals applied to the fabric to stop it clinging and attracting dust.
Eventually washes out.
Carpets and lingerie
Anti Felting
A treatment softens the wool scales to stop them pilling (small balls of fibres)
Moth Proofing
Chemicals applied to the fabric make them inedible to moths.
Eventually washes out.
Blankets, clothing