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Soft furnishings in the home

How to ensure that soft furnishings such as rugs, throws and textile cushions are fit for purpose.

Image © CreativaStudio | iStockPhoto

Soft furnishings in the home have always had a practical and/or decorative use, and add the finishing touches to a room. However, as with any item, it is important to ensure that they are fit-for-purpose. In this respect, SATRA can help you to ensure that your products are going to be suitable for the market.

Cushions, throws and rugs tend to be in prolonged contact with another piece of furniture or flooring, which is usually much more expensive or difficult to replace. For this reason, it is important that these items are colourfast.

SATRA recommends testing to a number of different colour fastness standards, to ensure that the dye is fast. EN ISO 105-X12:2016 – ‘Textiles – Tests for colour fastness – Part X12: Colour fastness to rubbing’ is the method we use to simulate the product rubbing against another material, such as the sofa fabric or the carpet. We would also recommend testing to EN ISO 105-E01:2013 – ‘Textiles – Tests for colour fastness – Part E01: Colour fastness to water’, which replicates what would happen to the dye if the material became wet. Testing to EN ISO 105-E04:2013 – ‘Textiles – Tests for colour fastness –Part E04: Colour fastness to perspiration’ should also be carried out, as this will replicate the level of colour change and staining caused by contact with human perspiration. In each of these tests, the level of staining is measured, as is the level of colour change to the test sample. The scale used is called the ‘Grey Scale’, and provides a comparison by which an assessment can be made.

Rugs should also be tested for their suitability for use in the home. BS EN 14215:2018 – 'Textile floor coverings – Classification of machine-made rugs and runners' provides information on how to classify rugs, and covers aspects such as colourfastness to light, rubbing and water, anchorage of the loops, the mass of pile per unit area (g/m2) above the substrate to achieve particular classes. It also highlights change in appearance after being tested in accordance with ISO 10361:2015 – 'Textile floor coverings – Production of changes in appearance by means of Vettermann drum and hexapod tumbler tester' using either the Vettermann drum tester or the Hexapod tumbler tester.

‘Foreseeable use of rugs’ means that these products are likely to come into contact with the skin from time to time, and it is important that they are free from restricted substances. When supplied in Europe, dyed textiles such as these should be tested for compliance to REACH Annex XVII entry number 43, which restricts the presence of 22 aromatic amines produced by the breakdown of azo dyes.

Textiles which come into contact with the skin must also comply with the requirements of REACH Annex XVII entry number 72, which restricts a range of substances that are carcionogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction. Examples of substances restricted within this entry include formaldehyde, disperse dyes and extractable metals.

Textiles which are intended to be washed, such as cushion covers or throws, will need to comply with REACH Annex XVII entry 46a for nonyl phenol ethoxylates. Suppliers should also be aware of any treatments applied to their products. Any products that have been treated using a flame retardant should be assessed to ensure compliance with REACH Annex XVII entry numbers 8, 45 and 67, and coated textiles with water- or stain-resistant properties must comply with REACH Annex XVII entry number 68 for perfluorocarboxylic acids (PFCAs).

Other items

Other soft furnishings – such as curtains and blinds – should be tested for their colourfastness to light, as dyes which fade may cause customer dissatisfaction. Another aspect to consider with relation to fabric items that are intended to be washed would be their stability to washing. SATRA uses ISO 5077:2007 – 'Textiles – Determination of dimensional change in washing and drying' to determine the change in dimensions of the product, and EN ISO 3759:2011 – 'Textiles – Preparation, marking and measuring of fabric specimens and garments in tests for determination of dimensional change' to measure and mark the product. A wash and a drying procedure from EN ISO 6330:2021 – 'Textiles – Domestic washing and drying procedures for textile testing' is used to launder the specimens. Many products are selected to fit a specific use. Therefore, if they were to change dimensions after washing and drying by a considerable amount, customers are likely to notice and possibly complain to the retailer/manufacturer.

If metal is present on the outside of the product (and direct contact with the skin could occur) nickel release should be measured, as a proportion of the population have an allergy to nickel. This will show conformity to REACH Annex XVII entry number 27 (nickel allergy).

Bean bags and other items with structural seams should be tested for seam strength. On bean bags, this should be done on both the inner bag (if present) and the outer surface, to determine the maximum loads which can be placed onto the bag before these fail and spill the filling material. To carry out the testing, SATRA uses EN ISO 13935-2:2014 – 'Textiles – Seam tensile properties of fabrics and made-up textile articles – Part 2: Determiniation of maximum force to seam rupture using the grab method'.

Flammability testing should be carried out on bean bags to ensure that they meet the requirements of the national legislation. In the UK, this is the UK Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. Curtains and blinds are not covered by these regulations, but may be tested to BS 5867-2:2008 – Fabrics for curtains, drapes and window blinds. Flammability requirements. Specification', which specifically covers curtains, blinds and drapes.

As well as routine testing, SATRA often carries out bespoke testing on new and innovative products. Thus, if a product does not fit neatly into a category, we can work with the supplier to offer testing which has been selected, modified or in some cases created specifically. This will enable the production or supply of products which meet both specific legislation and the General Product Safety Directive.

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Please email for further information on soft furnishings in the home. Click here for details of SATRA's furniture testing services.