Cotton Inc.'s New Anti-Wrinkle Technology

To meet consumer demand for apparel that fits within a modern lifestyle, Cotton Incorporated recently introduced its patent-pending Purepress resin finish. The technology affords a wrinkle-free appearance on fabric without the presence of formaldehyde, which has been a byproduct of traditional resin finishes.

“We are using a different kind of cross-linking mechanism,” said Mary Ankeny, vice president of product development and implementation operations for Cotton Incorporated, based in Cary, N.C. “We’ve worked with this type of technology throughout the years, and we’re very familiar with its performance and behavior.” The chemistry used to create the Purepress resin finish generates the same anti-wrinkle behavior of the traditional resins that prevent the breaking of hydrogen bonds, which results from drying wet cotton fabrics and causes creases.

“When you look at a durable-press technology, you’re trying to keep the cotton’s cellulose chains locked in place to prevent the wrinkling that may occur,” Ankeny explained. “We know how the current, widely used technology behaves, and we looked for a replacement technology that has the same mechanisms but does not contain or release formaldehyde.”

In addition to being recognized as a potential health threat to the workers who manufacture apparel, consumers have also been known to report ailments they believe are a result of skin against fabrics, which exposes the wearer to formaldehyde. Certain apparel watchdog organizations and independent brands from around the world are putting formaldehyde on their lists of potentially dangerous chemicals.

After formaldehyde was added to a list of chemicals of concern by REACH—a regulatory association comprising companies within the European Union—Cotton Incorporated wanted to find a solution to ease the transition toward a safer wrinkle-free fabric.

“In the spirit of trying to help companies move away from utilizing some of these chemicals of concern, we tried to formulate formaldehyde out of the technology,” Ankeny said.

Creating a formaldehyde-free product wasn’t the only result of Cotton Incorporated’s discovery. Locking a fabric’s cellulose chains typically creates a rigid fabric that is more susceptible to wear, according to Ankeny. During Cotton Incorporated’s development of this technology, the company was able to create a durable-press finish that maintains the integrity of fabric better than traditional methods that weaken the strength of textiles.

“This technology really enhances the abrasion resistance and improves the strength, so your durable-press fabrics will last longer,” Ankeny said. “One area that I am most excited about is how well it does on finer, lighter-weight fabrics.”

This technology fits in well with a Cotton Incorporated survey that showed that 77 percent of the U.S. consumers questioned believed that clothing manufactured with all-natural fibers was of a higher quality. This Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor study also showed that 56 percent of those surveyed would consider paying more money for wrinkle-resistant clothing.