Fabrics, especially those for furniture, and carpets are typically treated for soil, stain, and water resistance with per and poly fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Scotchguard is one well-known brand.
But many people have health concerns and environmental concerns with these “forever chemicals”.
Some companies make stain-resistant upholstery fabrics and carpets that are free of PFAS, but they do not list which chemicals they have used to replace them. One branded fabric line is Crypton, which explicitly states they are free of PFAS and PFCs, a related chemical class.
A review of the literature shows that non-fluorinated stain guard treatments are most likely acrylic, polyurethane, or silicone-based coatings.
Acrylic and Polyurethane Alternatives
A 2015 patent describes the current common non-per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (non-PFAS) used as water and dirt repellant fabric treatments are made mainly of copolymers based on polyacrylates or urethanes. (ie. acrylic or polyurethane plastic coatings). (source)
Another 2015 patent that is active and was filed in many countries outlines a stain-resistant coating for carpets based on nanoparticulate silicate clay and an acrylic-based copolymer. (source)
In an overview of the industry written by DuPont they outline the preferred non-fluorinated (non-PFAS) soil resistant agents, which include:
- polymethylmethacrylate (acrylic)
- methyl methacrylate/ethyl methacrylate copolymer (acrylic)
- an alkali metal salt of a hydrolyzed styrene maleic anhydride copolymer or of a hydrolyzed styrene/maleic anhydride/cumene terpolymer
- an ammonium salt of a hydrolyzed styrene/maleic anhydride copolymer or of a hydrolyzed styrene-maleic anhydride/cumene terpolymer
- amorphous silicon dioxide
- colloidal silica and amorphous silica
A 2014 patent that pertains to non-fluorinated stain guard carpet coatings describes a textile treatment made of silicone and quaternary ammonia. The patent is active and was filed in many countries around the world and so I would assume that this is in production. (source)
Based on the reading of all the patents I could find on this topic:
- I would expect the main PFAS-free stain and water resistant coatings to be based on acrylic, polyurethane or silicone
- I would not expect non-flourinated stain resistant coatings to contain bisphenols like BPA
- I would not expect non-flourinated stain resistant coatings to contain phthalates
- It is possible for stain resistant coatings to contain formaldehyde
- It is possible that stain resistant coatings can contain soy protien as just one component. If they claim that they use a “soy-based” or “bio-based” stain resistant coating I would not expect that to be wholey accurate to explain the entire coating
Non-Toxic Brands to Look for:
For sofa brands free of PFAS see my post on non-toxic sofas.
For carpet brands free of PFAS see my review of non-toxic carpet types and brands.
For rug brands free of PFAS see my post on non-toxic rug options.
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 7 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.
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