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Soft furnishings in the home

How to ensure that soft furnishings are safe and fit-for-purpose.

Image © Baloncici | Dreamstime.com

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 – ‘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 – ‘Colour fastness to water’, this replicates what would happen to the dye if the material became wet. Testing to EN ISO 105-E04:2013 – ‘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. EN 14215:2013 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, 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.

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 to determine the change in dimensions of the product, and EN ISO 3759:2011 to measure and mark the product. A wash and a drying procedure from EN ISO 6330:2012 is used to launder the samples. 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. SATRA uses EN ISO 13935-2:2014 to carry out the testing.

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, 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.

How can we help?

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