Nonwoven fabric is a fabric-like material made from long fibres, bonded together by chemical, mechanical, heat or solvent treatment. The term is used in the textile manufacturing industry to denote fabrics, such as felt, which are neither woven nor knitted. Nonwoven materials typically lack strength unless densified or reinforced by a backing. In recent years, nonwovens have become an alternative to polyurethane foam.
Nonwoven fabrics are broadly defined as sheet or web structures bonded together by entangling fibre or filaments (and by perforating films) mechanically, thermally or chemically. They are flat, porous sheets that are made directly from separate fibres or from molten plastic or plastic film. They are not made by weaving or knitting and do not require converting the fibres to yarn. Typically, a certain percentage of recycled fabrics and oil-based materials are used in nonwoven fabrics. The percentage of recycled fabrics vary based upon the strength of material needed for the specific use. Conversely, some nonwoven fabrics can be recycled after use, given the proper treatment and facilities. For this reason, some consider nonwovens a more ecological fabric for certain applications, especially in fields and industries where disposable or single use products are important, such as hospitals, schools, nursing homes and luxury accommodations.
Nonwoven fabrics are engineered fabrics that may be a limited life, single-use fabric or a very durable fabric. Nonwoven fabrics provide specific functions such as absorbency, liquid repellence, resilience, stretch, softness, strength, flame retardancy, washability, cushioning, filtering, use as a bacterial barrier and sterility. These properties are often combined to create fabrics suited for specific jobs, while achieving a good balance between product use-life and cost. They can mimic the appearance, texture and strength of a woven fabric and can be as bulky as the thickest paddings. In combination with other materials they provide a spectrum of products with diverse properties, and are used alone or as components of apparel, home furnishings, health care, engineering, industrial and consumer goods.
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