Soft and gentle but still absorbent

The capillary rise test is used to determine the absorbency of textiles. Here, the laboratory assistant dips test strips that were treated with silicone fluid emulsions into water that has been dyed blue. The fibers’ capillary effects suck in the water, which then travels vertically along the strip as a column. This test method, known as “wicking,” makes it possible to easily quantify the absorbency of different materials.

Regardless of whether a fabric consists of natural, synthetic or blended fibers – before it is sewn, the manufacturer dyes or prints the fabric and then “finishes” it. This technical term refers to a treatment of the fabric with surface-active substances that give it certain beneficial properties. WACKER is among the world’s leading manufacturers of products for factory textile finishing. They improve textiles or impart specific properties that are desirable for the respective product group. For example, they render woolen sweaters particularly fluffy and non-scratch, and coats or jackets water- and dirt-repellent; they ensure color fastness and, by optimal moisture management, reduce body odor. Textile auxiliaries make undershirts particularly soft and towels soft and hydrophilic – allowing them to absorb water better.

WACKER does not supply its auxiliaries directly to the textile industry, but to so-called "formulators." These manufacturers of individually adapted textile auxiliaries are familiar with their customers’ specific requirements and, in addition, are based in the same locations as the big (contract) manufacturers of the international textile industry: Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Southeast Asia and Turkey.

The traditional bases of the European textile industry – Italy and Germany – still play their part in the international market, too. Italian weavers have specialized in particularly high-value materials, e.g. for men’s suits, while Germany is a market leader in technical textiles. These types of materials find use in car seats, airbags, reinforcement fabrics or filters, for example.

Padding on a laboratory scale: the fabric sample that is saturated with silicone is squeezed between two rollers to regulate the uptake of the active ingredient.

WACKER’s textile auxiliaries are based on silicone fluids. Since these substances are not water-soluble, formulators must emulsify them before use. There are essentially two techniques for applying the emulsion to the textiles. The fabric is either immersed in a bath containing the emulsion and pulled out again (exhausting) or the entire width of material is saturated with the emulsion and excess liquid is subsequently squeezed out between rollers (padding). For this process, there are high-performance machines that can finish 30 to 80 meters of textile width per minute, depending on the material and plant properties. Here, for every 100 grams of fabric, manufacturers apply around 0.3 to a maximum of 1 gram of auxiliary.

„WETSOFT® NE 750 combines the advantages of a macroemulsion and a microemulsion perfectly – it makes textiles soft, both on the outside and the inside, while at the same time increasing the fabric’s water absorption.”

Dr. Thomas Lehotkay Head of Technical Marketing, Performance Silicones

The textile market is constantly changing – and not only with regard to product design. In terms of surface treatments, demands are increasing, too. Bath towels, for example, are expected to be fluffy and soft, yet absorb a lot of moisture. We want our underwear, too, to be pleasantly soft and water-absorbent, and to dry quickly. This wouldn't be impossible without textile auxiliaries. With its WETSOFT® products, WACKER covers a wide range here. The soft feel is provided by silicone fluids that consist of long, chain-like molecules. Anchor groups are incorporated at regular intervals. They allow the chains to electrostaticly and chemically bond to the fibers. The original, entangled silicone molecule is thus strung-out; loops form at regular intervals and project out and away from the textile surface. These loops are flexible, reducing the friction between the fibers. The textile thus feels pleasantly soft and can be ironed with ease. “It is often this soft feel that ultimately makes the end customer decide on a certain product,” says Thomas Funke, marketing manager for Performance Silicones at WACKER.