Textile Testing Terminology

Instructor: Sunday Moulton

Sunday recently earned a PhD in Anthropology and has taught college courses in Anthropology, English, and high school ACT/SAT Prep.

This lesson introduces twenty-five terms relevant to testing in the textile industry. These include fabric qualities, performance claims, sampling and testing, and finally, technical properties measured in testing.

What is Textile Testing?

Before textiles can be sold to clothing makers, industrial equipment manufacturers, or fabric shops, each batch must be tested to ensure that it meets the required standards for the textile industry. It must also comply with the claims made when producers advertise the fabric as waterproof, wrinkle resistant, or flame resistant. To do this, analysts certified by ASTM International, the American Section of the International Association of Testing Material, perform a variety of tests. Let's look at some of the qualities they examine and the tests they use.

Without textile testing, your clothes could look like this.
Zombie Hulk

Fabric Qualities

This is a short list of some of the qualities the textile industry measures when creating various products.

  • Absorbency - This is the degree to which a textile soaks up moisture. This characteristic can affect the fabrics ability to resist water, stains, wrinkles, shrinking, and static.
  • Air Permeability - This refers to how well air can pass through the porous openings in a fabric's weave. This quality influences the warmth of bedding, the usefulness of a sail, or the effectiveness of a parachute.
  • Durability - This refers to how well a fabric can hold up through repeated use.
  • Resiliency - This term examines how close to the original shape and size a fabric can return to after being stretched, pulled, crushed, or wrinkled.
  • Shrinkage - This is the degree to which a fabric loses its size from being washed and dried.
  • Strength - This is how much stress a textile can endure before tearing or permanently losing its original shape.

Performance Claims

Terms in this section refer to terms given to fabrics to label them with specific properties. These are general terms that appear as they might in marketing or on labels. Repellency is a general term that refers to the degree a textile can resist damage from water and stains, as well as how it inhibits other elements like wind and fire.


Some textiles are labeled as flame resistant. Textiles with this quality were treated with a chemical finish to raise the heat required to make them burn. The chemical finish applied is called a flame retardant.

How fire resistant?


Raincoats are waterproof.

When it comes to a fabric's repellency to water, there are three different categories.

  • Water Resistant - Often confused with water-repellent, water resistance refers to fabrics coated with wax or other substances to prevent water from penetrating the fabric.
  • Water Repellent - Water repellent fabrics also resist water penetration, but the finish used in this process allows the textile to shed water while still allowing air to pass through the small openings in the weave.
  • Waterproof - Waterproof fabrics are coated with a solid layer of wax, plastic, rubber, or other substance to seal the small pours in the weave and prevent any degree of water or moisture from penetrating the fabric.


  • Wind Resistant - This quality means a fabric inhibits the amount of air or wind that passes through it, although some will still get through.
  • Windproof - Windproof fabrics do not permit any air to pass through them. Often, these will also be waterproof fabrics.


  • Stain Repellent - While these fabrics can, in fact, be stained, this quality refers to a fabric's ability to avoid stains when subjected to water. Since many staining substances penetrate fibers with water, these fabrics are less likely to be stained by other substances as well.
  • Stain Resistance - These fabrics are treated at the fiber level to resist staining, usually by a thin coating on the fiber itself. These fabrics are easier to clean as most stains wash out without leaving a mark.

Tests and Samples

Time for Science!

These terms discuss actual testing.

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