72 interiors+sources june2018 interiorsandsources.com
By Kadie Yale | Photography courtesy of Southern Cross Pictures
There are a lot of concerns these days about what comprises the items we use every day. As con- sumers become more educated about the ways in which products are made and manufacturers
look at the effects of chemicals, more and more often natural
solutions are requested.
Enter Breathe by Milliken. The new performance fabric
provides exceptional stain resistance as naturally as possible.
According to LeAnne Flack, marketing manager at Milliken,
“The importance of Breathe is to [perform] with a minimal
amount of chemistry—really getting back to nature and creat-
ing [a fabric that is] fiber-forward.”
Spearheaded by Flack and Dr. Emily W. Michaels, Ph.D.,
research manager of engineered performance products at
Milliken, the two moms aimed to create a product that could
withstand the wear and tear of kids, pets, and other everyday
use without harming indoor air quality.
“There’s such a trend in the marketplace of regulatory
knowledge and being socially responsible with the materials
that we use,” Michaels said. “That’s something that Milliken
has always taken very seriously as long as the company has
been in existence. One of the primary founding principles has
been to be a good environmental partner and a good social
partner with all of the consumers that we work with.”
Here, i+s helps explain the more scientific language used
to detail the inner workings of Breathe by Milliken.
WHAT IS IT?
Breathe is a performance fabric that is free of fluorine and
added formaldehydes. It doesn’t emit VOCs which can harm
indoor air quality. Made of natural or recycled fibers and a
plant-based water repellent, it can repel or make many everyday stains easily cleanable.
HOW DID IT COME ABOUT?
Noticing a hole in the market for products that are both high-performing and sustainable, Flack and Michaels decided to
head to the lab to create a new line for Milliken. “It was a lot
of lab work,” Flack noted. “We didn’t really see something
[on the market] that you could have on cotton as well as
thick polyesters that was fluorine-free.”
WHAT’S THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING
While fluorine is a naturally occurring element that has benefits to humans in small amounts, the types of fluorine that are
found in commercial products aren’t the same as what one
would find in their toothpaste. (Fluoride found in toothpaste is
made up of fluorine compounds.)
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are stain-, water-, and
grease-repellent compounds. While manmade and found
in a wide range of consumer products, they are made up
of carbon-fluorine bonds which are among the strongest
chemical bonds found and have a high half-life in the human
body. There has been growing concern about our exposure
to VOCs like PFCs and in November 2017 perfluorooctanoic
acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfate (PFOS) were added
to California’s proposition 65—the Safe Drinking Water and
Toxic Enforcement Act which makes consumers aware of
chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other
Because of the concern for exposure to VOCs such as
PFCs, Breathe was engineered to resist most stains without
their inclusion. (Due to the nature of oils, only PFCs are found
to resist oil-based stains at the moment. Many oil stains can
be cleaned off of Breathe.)
FOR WHICH MARKETS IS IT IDEAL?
Milliken created Breathe for the residential market.
However, it is a performance fabric, so it can withstand wear
and tear and repels both water and non-oil-based stains
without the use of fluorine and fluorine derivatives. Therefore,
it can be used in additional markets such as low-impact
hospitality or office spaces. It is not intended for outdoor use.
HOW WAS IT MADE?
This collection was created by looking for a natural
solution to high-performance fabrics, right down to the yarn
fibers. From there, a wide variety of compounds were tested
to discover the best repellency solution.
“There are different classes of chemistry that provide
repellency,” Michaels explained. “There is the fluorine class
which are heavily scrutinized; there are waxes and hydrophobic
emulsions that provide repellency. It’s all about putting the
chemistry down that can provide the right chain length so
that the water can bead up and roll off. Those are the things
we look at in the lab. We’ll look at surface tension and
contact angles. So when you think about things that will
provide repellency, you think about things that are naturally
anti-water, like a wax. It will lead you down to different
categories of compounds.”
From there, the Milliken team tested hundreds of combi-
nations before arriving at their final plant-based solution.
WHAT CERTIFICATIONS DOES IT PASS?
Every product in the Breathe collection has been
GREENGUARD GOLD certified. Additionally, they pass
all third-party industry protocols for water repellency, soil
release, spot cleaning, colorfastness, abrasion resistance,
and piling, as well as CAL117 (CA TB 117-2013: Cover
fabric flammability) requirements without flame-retardant
Milliken has released a
high-performance fabric that
uses natural alternatives to
fluorine and formaldehyde
finishes. Here, i+s dives in
deep to the material science
that made it possible.