At Milliken, performance goes beyond water repellency and stain resistance – performance matters for improving air quality, renewing a workspace and establishing sustainable solutions for a stronger future. When selecting residential or commercial furnishings, we recommend keeping four key considerations in mind. 

Less is More 

Performance from materials used for task seating or privacy curtains is a given. They must pass rub tests and effectively absorb sound. But the right material is about more than cost or performance. And it is about more than VOC numbers or responsibly sourced wood; it is also about choosing materials that employ processes or designs that require less material. 

In other words, opting for a chair design that meets performance requirements with less wood, plastic or fabric or perhaps selecting a theater curtain that meets opacity requirements while using less polyester to do it. For flooring, that might mean using carpet tiles, which can be easily replaced in smaller areas and overall produce less waste than many other flooring options. This isn’t about cutting corners; it’s about cutting waste.  

Take a Deep Breath 

Many organizations know comfortable, inviting spaces can make longer hours in the office much more tolerable. Additionally, those spaces can be used as a tool for attracting and retaining talent. But it’s not just the look of those spaces or the feel of the fabric on the seating, it’s things like formaldehyde-free materials used for vertical surfaces and fluorine-free fabrics used on the seating in lounge areas, both of which help contribute to better indoor air quality. 

Studies suggest improved indoor air quality can lead to greater productivity, less absenteeism and increased worker satisfaction. Some textile manufacturers have addressed these findings by introducing solutions that, for one, produce lower levels of VOCs. For example, Breathe by Milliken™ fabric repels stains and water without the use of fluorine, a well-known VOC culprit, and EnviroPanel,® Milliken’s polyester fiberboard used in vertical panel and wall systems, is made without the use of formaldehyde.


Durable is Sustainable 

Choosing fabrics and materials that are more durable can save money and reduce waste. For fabrics, that means undergoing the Wyzenbeek Test. This “double rub” test may consist of a piece of heavy canvas or wire that’s repeatedly rubbed over the test fabric using a mechanized arm. The action simulates the abrasive effects of normal use and the friction that occurs when you sit and stand. Every back-and-forth motion counts as one “double rub.” 

According to the guidelines, approximately 3,000 double rubs is the equivalent of one year of use. However, that refers to one year of use in a residential setting. In commercial settings, the thresholds are higher because furniture is used more often and with less care. The only real trade-offs are price and feel. Typically, if a material is extremely durable it’s unlikely to have a soft hand. But given advances in textile developments, it’s becoming more likely you can get both attributes in the same fabric. Regardless, when your materials last longer, whether wood, molded plastic or fabric, you’re using fewer chemicals over time and those products remain in use rather than in a landfill. 


Life After Death 

Opting for materials that either consist of recycled or reused materials and/or that can be recycled easily and effectively can help contribute to sustainability initiatives and will likely appeal more to end users. For instance, LEED certification takes into account furniture that’s reused or repurposed, encouraging alternatives to manufacturing new products. 

Also, REPREVE™ yarn, used in many Milliken fabrics, like Breathe by Milliken, is made from recycled materials, including polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, as well as other post-industrial recycled materials. It offers a sustainable product without sacrificing appearance, performance or durability — and it was even awarded the SCS Global Services SCS Responsible Source™ seal of approval for providing a transparent delivery and manufacturing chain. It is also important to consider how easy it is for products to be recycled. Products made from one fiber type, such as 100% polyester or 100% olefin, are easier to recycle than mixed-content products.

A lot of hard work, intention and ingenuity goes into the production and selection of quality products. Furniture is a fundamental component of our daily lives as it is present in our workplaces, our restaurants and our homes. The makeup of these familiar products is always an important consideration when selecting furniture for these frequented spaces. Materiality offers a deeper look into the impact our products have on the comfort of a living room, the productivity of a workplace, and the future of our planet. 

These and more industry insights are available in our recently published “Materials Matter” paper. Download the full piece at