What is Textile Testing? - Methods & Importance

Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Have you ever had a favorite shirt fade in the wash? How do we know our clothes are safe to wear? In this lesson, explore methods of textile testing and learn why they're important.

What is Textile Testing?

When you put on clothing, you want it to feel good against your skin. And you don't want it to contain harmful substances. But how to we ensure textiles are safe? Textile companies and consumer agencies conduct many kinds of analyses to make sure our clothes and the fabrics we use in our homes won't harm us, will be comfortable and will stay colorful for a long time. These processes are called textile testing.

Textile testing is the term for a whole series of tests that examine the physical, mechanical and chemical properties of textiles. These tests are sometimes done before a textile goes into widespread use, or they're done on textiles arriving from other countries for sale in US markets. Countries like the United States have established standards for what should and should not be in textile products. Tests can show whether companies making textiles are in compliance or not.

Why do such tests? They can ensure that a given textile is what a manufacturer or importer says it is. Sometimes, testing is done while textiles are being manufactured, to identify problems or faults in the machinery making them, and to double-check that materials being used for a specific textile are appropriate.

Methods of Textile Testing

There are many textile tests. Some of them are physical tests, in which a sample of textile material is examined closely for feel and appearance. Such tests are done on individual fibers or strands of material and on yarns, threads made of several fibers twisted together. Textiles are also subjected to light and other elements to see how they react. Some of these tests are done in a weather-ometer, a machine that tests for weathering and lightfastness of textiles. It's basically an enclosed box. Textiles are placed inside and subjected to conditions replicated from the natural environment.

Mechanical tests are those in which textiles are subjected to different pressure and stressors, usually in specialized testing machines. These include tests to measure breaking strength, the force needed to break a fabric under tension. Such tests can ensure fabrics are strong enough to maintain integrity even when under great stress. Other tests gauge tearing strength, or the strength required to make an already existing rip or tear worse. And abrasion tests determine how quickly a textile wears out when it's rubbed against another surface. Such tests make sure that fabrics used in products like parachutes and car seat belts won't break when needed most to keep the user safe.

Textile testing can ensure that fabric like that used in parachutes will be able to withstand extreme stress

Still other tests are chemical tests, in which a textile is analyzed through chemical means to determine what it contains. These tests are often done in laboratories, and they're important to determine whether textiles might have harmful substances in them like lead or other heavy metals, banned chemical dyes or pesticides that could possibly endanger the consumer.

Specialized textile testing is also done to test for flammability, or how quickly a given textile burns. Various methods of performance testing are done on textiles that must possess special qualities, like be effectively bulletproof or provide a layer of filtering on construction projects. In short, there are as many ways to test textiles as there are uses for textile products in our world.

Importance of Textile Testing

So, why is textile testing important? The most obvious reason is that it allows companies, consumer groups and the government to make sure textiles are safe, of good quality, and that the customer is getting what they are paying for. Textile products are made around the world, and sent to markets around the world. Testing ensures that something harmful or illegal isn't slipping through the regulatory cracks.

Textile testing ensures that textiles coming from other places are safe for consumers
textile dyeing

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