The brand reformulated its products to reduce their environmental impact without sacrificing their signature toughness.

Crypton fabrics shed oil- and water-based stains, making them extra durable for many years of use. Courtesy Crypton

With a major breakthrough in materials science, Crypton Fabrics, known for its high-performance fabrics since 1993, has demonstrated that sustainability doesn’t have to mean sacrificing durability. Their signature product, Crypton, is an extremely durable, stain-resistant fabric that architects and designers have specified for high-traffic uses for decades. Like many high-performance fabrics, it’s made with compounds containing fluorine, the only known substance that repels oil, making the fabric impervious to stains.

Crypton recently took a major step to improve their core product’s sustainability, finding a way to deliver the same performance while reducing the product’s overall fluorine content to 0.1%. Using less chemistry to deliver the same oil-resistance and extremely long life for which designers prize Crypton was a driving motivator of the R&D team, according to a company spokesperson.

But chemicals are only one factor that specifiers need to consider when selecting materials; architects and designers must regularly weigh a product’s environmental risk with its durability. “It often gets forgotten that that durability is extremely important [to sustainability],” says Michael Grigat, vice president and lead chemist in Crypton’s North Carolina lab. The minute quantity of fluorine that remains in Crypton’s signature product is necessary to extend the product’s useful life, a sustainability win. In fact, studies show that eliminating stain resistance shortens fabric’s lifespan, and replacing stain-resistant fabrics with traditional fabrics would increase carbon emissions by 40%.

While fluorine-free C-Zero resists water-based stains, only products containing small amounts of fluorine, like Crypton, repel oils. Crypton has reformulated their product to use only the smallest amount of fluorine possible. Courtesy Crypton

In Crypton’s manufacturing process, fluorine is bound to the fibers of the fabric, forming a bond that does not break down into harmful byproducts over time. Despite the safety of their product, Crypton strove to reduce the total amount of fluorine in their product out of caution for the long-term health of the environment. These chemicals are extremely stable, that’s what makes the fabric last so long, but that durability could be perceived negatively in the long term. Crypton’s move to reduce the amount of fluorine in their product shows their commitment to using chemicals as efficiently as possible.

For applications where Crypton’s oil-resistant qualities are unnecessary, Crypton has pioneered C-Zero, a fluorine-free option. While it doesn’t resist oil-based stains, water-based stains roll right off, and it can withstand the same amount of wear and tear as Crypton. Clients can count on stain-resistant technology, including an integrated moisture barrier to stop stains from penetrating, and GREENGUARD Gold Certifications for both Crypton and C-Zero fabrics.

For applications that will experience heavy use and be exposed to oil-based stains, Crypton is the sustainable choice because it extends the life of the product. Courtesy Crypton

“Since the inception of Crypton we always looked at sustainability,” says Grigat. “Because our technology protects the fabric, furniture does’t need to be replaced as often, extending the useful life. And we minimize the use of harsh cleaning products because the products stay cleaner longer.”

It’s just not sustainable to use a product that you will need to replace every few years, Grigat tells Metropolis, especially in high-use areas that require a lot of durability not only from a cleaning side but also from a fiber side. Products with a long life are crucial in the contract markets and places with frequent traffic, like hotels, airports, and healthcare facilities. He explains that in applications where the fabric may be exposed to oil-based stains, extra-durable Crypton makes environmental sense, despite the fluorine because it reduces how frequently the product will need to be cleaned, repaired, or replaced. All of which have far more negative environmental implications. Crypton’s planned longevity is the opposite of ‘fast fashion’.

When looking to optimize the eco-friendliness of their signature product, Crypton knew that they needed to prioritize both durability and sustainability. In seeking to reduce the amount of fluorine in their product, they could not sacrifice the high-performance qualities that make Crypton last so long. The balance they struck means that Crypton is just as strong, and more sustainable than ever.