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What is fabric protection

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Fabric protection is a form of treatment designed to prevent the fabric from suffering from contaminants. This could be in the form of liquids, dust, oil and other forms of unwanted particles that could get absorbed into the fibers of the fabric.

Why fabric protection

Several types of fabrics are made from fibers that have the property to absorb liquids and get contaminated by liquids or solid forms of particles. Water is one of those particles. The fibers absorb the water, and also the trace elements inside the water. This makes the fibers “dirty”, and requires the detailer or valeter to use cleaning tools and products to release the dirt from the fiber, and remove it in a safe way. Although it is not impossible to clean most types of dirt from fabric, it would be very handy if this could be prevented. Fabric protection helps to fabric to repel dirt, meaning it needs less cleaning to keep it clean.

Types of fabric protection

There are several types of fabric protection:

  • Fabric coating that seals in the fibers
  • Fabric coating that penetrates the fiber

These can be better understood as a form of protection that either lies on top of the fabric, or saturates the fabric itself. The advantage of sealing in the fibers, is that the contaminant need to penetrate the form of protection completely to reach the fabric. The downside is that this form of protection is often expensive and not always very stable. It can also pose certain problems on fabrics that have to be very flexibel.
The advantage of penetrating the fiber is that the fiber itself will be protection from outside and inside. This means that any contaminants are less likely to penetrate the fiber when it penetrates the surface of the protection. The downside is that you might need more product to saturate the fiber, and removal of the product is more labor intensive when it needs to be re-applied.

Examples for fabric protection

There are different places and fabrics that benefit from being well protected. Either simply to conserve the fabric itself, or to prevent it from causing problems like moisture.

  • The top from a convertible car
  • Seats inside the car
  • Floormats
  • Carpet inside the car
  • Carpet in the boot
  • Any fabric that might be on the outside of the car

Advantages of using fabric protection

A well impregnated soft-top should leak, or get moist from the inside. When water just beads off the fabric, and doesn’t penetrate the fibers, the water repelling property will be much better. The water will just roll over the fabric just like it would on a waxed bodypanel. Spilled drinks inside the car won’t penetrate the fibers, and won’t create dirty spots in the fabric. In some cases the fabric protection is good enough to even prevent oils and chemical from staining the fabric. Removal can be as simply of letting the dirt roll off the fabric, or putting a piece of towel over it, to soak it up. Cleaning the fabric will be needed much less frequently, and it will also be much more easy.

Realistic durability

There is a major difference in quality between product A and product B. Most of the times, this is reflected in the price of the product. Certain product are very cheap and easy to apply, and will last weeks with general use. Other products are more expensive, require a lot of preparation and need experience to apply successfully, but will also last much longer.
The durability of the product is also greatly affected by the type of wear and tear. The soft-top of a convertible car will experience a totally different form of wear and tear then the seats inside the car. One needs much more chemical durability and resistance, the other will need to me more mechanically durable (because you’ll be rubbing the fabric while sitting on the seat). It is important to consult the manufacturer in order to know how well the product performs under the conditions you are aiming to use it for. A fabric sealant that is designed to impregnate the top of a convertible, might not work properly on floormats. In some cases the manufacturer won’t know, and you’ll need to try out what works.

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