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Is size important?

Abstract Different size types present different problems for the textile processor. In this article, Alan Milner looks at the importance of pre-treatment in the dyeing and printing of cotton and polyester/cotton, and in particular which methods of size removal give the greatest success. Introduction The role of the pre-treatment stage in the coloration of cotton and polyester/cotton is crucial. It has long been recognised that cotton fibre must be cleansed of natural impurities and processing aids in order to present the dyer or printer with a consistent and well-prepared base. Much time and effort is spent ensuring that fabric is suitable for coloration. Until now, preparation has been carried out in several stages, but recent developments have shown that a more rationalised process can be used to give standards of pre-treatment not before thought possible. During the 1991 ITMA exhibition in Hannover, there was a lot of discussion about singlestage bleaching by various machine manufacturers. The single stage referred to was a combined scour and bleach technique, in general using mechanical means to achieve additions of pre-treatment liquor in excess of 100%. In the UK during the past decade, most work has been dedicated to rationalising pretreatment for cotton and polyester cotton. Our technique now operating is a combined desize scour and bleach process carried out on conventional padding equipment. This method is so well established that here the controlling influences of factors from outside the bleaching stage are examined. The single-stage bleach technique followed on from the establishment of oxidative desizing techniques in the 1970s (figure 1). In the UK, hydrogen peroxide was favoured over the use of persulphates for oxidative desizing. At the same time, the cold pad-batch hydrogen peroxide bleaching process was being refined (figure 2) The success of these two processes led to the development of single-stage pad-steam hydrogen peroxide bleaching process for cotton and polyester/cotton woven fabrics. The reduction from three stages to two, as in oxidative desizing, and then to one, as with the cold pad-batch hydrogen peroxide bleaching, led to the question, what results are possible if a pad-steam process were introduced in place of the cold bleaching stage? Many attempts at such a process had previously been made. Companies with links to sizers and weavers had been producing acceptable results on a limited number of fabrics. However, most textile processors in the UK use many different qualities of fabric from numerous sources worldwide, so the formulation for the pre-treatment process must be sufficiently robust and sophisticated to give good, consistent quality of pre-treatment on this wide spread of raw materials. Quality The criteria which pre-treated fabric quality is assessed are as follows: 1. Seed Removal 2. Desizing 3. Rewettability 4. Whiteness or reflectance 5. Fibre damage The importance of any single factor varies according to the process. Only seed removal is generally considered essential in all textile cases, and fibre damage must be at a minimum in order to fulfil basic textile requirements. Desizing is only felt to be critical when subsequent processes could be adversely affected by residual size content.

The standard of rewettability of the fabric depends on whether the fabric is to be printed or dyed, and the degree of whiteness can be dependant on the shade in which the fabric is to be coloured to. Whiteness adequate for a deep shade may not be suitable for pale or bright shades or full whites. The main task of the pre-treatment process is, however, to produce consistent results without excessive fibre damage. With this need for consistent in mind, Allchems efforts have been directed to producing the highest standard possible over all five criteria rather than trying to achieve specific standards regarding one criterion. This would enable the dyer or printer to set the conditions of their process knowing that that the fabric being presented to them would be within the specifications they themselves had set. Single-stage pad-steam hydrogen peroxide bleaching The basic formulation used for single-stage hydrogen peroxide bleaching is shown in Table 1. Formulations are, expressed in grams of active chemical per kg of fabric rather than the more normal grams per litre because the process is commonly applied wet on wet; in other words, the fabric is wet prior to saturation with pretreatment liquor. From practical experience, the optimum time for steaming is 20 minutes. However, it is possible to use a higher chemical concentration and achieve similar effects in much shorter times. Table 1. Single-stage pad-steam hydrogen peroxide bleaching Hydrogen peroxide 35% Sodium hydroxide 100% Stabiliser Surfactant Steaming time 60 g/kg 20 g/kg 15 g/kg 6 g/kg 20 g/kg

This process has given satisfactory results on a commercial scale for many years now. It has been noticed that certain fabric qualities are more difficult to deal with than others. Apparently, the same fabric construction from one source will give slightly different results from a similar fabric from another. Could the reasons for these differences be factors such as cotton type and a variation in base colour, together with the natural impurities in the fibre itself? But what are the other impurities? Spinning lubricants are added to the yarn during processing, but only at very low level. Warp sizing is the first aqueous process to which the yarn is subjected, during which, depending on the size used, up to 20% size is added to the warp. Again, certain companies with particular types of equipment have less trouble than others. The machines used fall into three main categories:

Pretreatment machines where there is no pre-washing of the fabric prior to saturation with the pretreatment liquor; these machines also tend to have pick-ups in the region of 65-85% Machines with no pre-washing prior to saturation but with pick-ups averaging between 90 and 100%. Machines with pre-washing or pre-wetting with a pick-up around 100%.

Three different sets of conditions were investigated in an attempt to determine which of the range of size products had the most influence over fabric quality during the single stage pretreatment process. These were:

Applied 65% wet on dry Applied 100% wet on dry Applied 100% wet on wet

In order to establish the influence of the size, standard fabric was produced by desizing a grey 20s/20s English cotton (count 60 square) fabric using enzyme with no added emulsifier or surfactant, drying the fabric and then padding on the following size recipes: 1. 6% natural starch + 0.2% tallow 2. 6% modified starch + 0.2% tallow 3. 3.5% carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) + 0.1% paraffin wax 4. 3.5% low viscosity poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVOH) + 0.1 % paraffin wax 5. 3.5% medium viscosity PVOH+ 0.1% paraffiin wax 6. 2.5% acrylate + 0.1 % paraffin wax 7. 2.5% polyester resjn + 0.1 % paraffin wax The amount of the differing size types added to the fabric was based on our experience of the amount of these types of size normally found on warps. Because these solutions were padded onto the fabric over both the warp and the weft, the strength of the solution used was calculated as half the strength normally found on the warp. So in recipe 1 where natural starch is added at 6% with 0.2% tallow wax, this equates to 12% starch plus 0.4% tallow on the warp. Padding of the sizes was aided by the inclusion of isopropanol to ensure even penetration; isopropanol was used as it has no residual surfactant effect. The fabric was then dried at 135C for 2 min, imitating the more extreme drying conditions found with certain types of size range. The fabrics were then padded using the three bleaching formulations and conditions already described. The following criteria were examined: Seed removal Seed removal was assessed visually. Any residual seed on the sample fabric was considered a failure. At 65% pick-up applied wet on dry, the seed removal was only complete in the case of the fabric sized with PVOH In all other cases, some residual seed was noted. Complete seed removal was obtained on all fabrics under both the 100% pick-up wet on dry and 100% pick-up wet on wet conditions. Desizing Desizing was assessed by an extraction technique. The fabric was conditioned far 24 h to 7% moisture content. The sample was then desized at 95C using a solution containing 0.2% Hostapal SF (nonylphenol ethoxylate) and 0.2% Biolase PCL20 (bacterial amylase), with a liquor ratio of 15:1. The percentage of size removed is calculated as (weight of fabric before/weight after) x 100%. As can be seen from Figure 1, the two grades of PVOH are completely removed, and the removal of natural starch is least effective at 65%. This improves to 82% with 100% wet on dry, but again the only sizes removed completely are the two PVAs. With 100% wet on wet, all but the two starches are removed totally. Rewettability This was determined by using the Linra wipe tester [3]. In this test, the length of trace left in a test paper after it has been drawn underneath the fabric sample is used to estimate the rewettability characteristics of the sample. The longer the trace, the poorer the rewettability. As can be seen from Figure 2, the rewettability of the fabric is in general reasonably good, with the exception of the two forms of starch.

Figure 1. Size removal



Size Removed (%)



60 65% WD 100% WD 100% WW

Nat. starch Med. Visc. PVOH

Mod. Starch Acrylate

CMC Polyester

Low visc. PVOH Unsized

65% WD = 65% pick-up wet on dry 100% WD = 100% pick-up wet on dry 100% WW = 100% pick-up wet on wet Whiteness Whiteness or reflectance was assessed against the standard white tile on the ICS 8000 reflectance spectrometer, and the results are shown in Figure 3. Fibre damage The test procedure specified in BS2610 (Shirley fluidity method with cuproammonium hydroxide) was used to assess fibre damage. Figure 4 shows that the fluidities generally decrease from 65% wet on dry to 100% wet on wet. What conclusions can be drawn from this work? Firstly, much of it confirms many observations made over the past few years on the single-stage bleaching process. The main points are as follows. The total liquor add-on and therefore water content in each experiment has a great effect. Though the active chemicals used in each experiment are the same, raising the water content of the fibre, by increasing the pick-up with or without pre-wetting, has a beneficial effect on the quality of pretreatment achieved; seed removal, size removal and rewettability are all improved. The fluidity snows a marked decrease and the reflectance values become more consistent with the increase in water content. Size types have changed considerably in the recent past, but fabrics sized with starch or formulations containing starch predominant. The results above indicate that it is the most difficult size to remove, and that if the fabric is pre-wet prior to saturation with peroxide liquor and the pick-up is high, acceptable removal of even native starch can be achieved. What are the practical implications and what steps must be taken to overcome any adverse influences? The single pad-steam process is operated on a single commercial scale. In the UK, many millions of metres of woven cotton and polyester/cotton fabrics are pretreated for full white, for dyes and for printing. Many and various machines are used, with steaming times varying from 5 to 35 minutes. Most UK finishers have little or no control over the size types presented. Where they do, then obviously cooperation between the sizer, the weaver and the


Rewettability, Linra Trace



65% WD 100% WD 100% WW

Figure 2. Rewettability (see Figure 1 for key)


Reflectance (%)



65% WD 100% WD 100% WW

Figure 3. Reflectance (see Figure 1 for key)

2 0
65% WD 100% WD 100% WW

Figure 4. Fluidity (see Figure 1 for key)

finisher can lead to a standard fabric being used and therefore standard results always being achieved. Where the finisher does not have this influence, steps can be taken to produce consistent results. The influence of water content and pick-up is significant and is a crucial factor in the effectiveness of the process; clearly, where the hydrogen peroxide formulation is padded wet on wet, the results are more consistent in all aspects. This means that the optimum conditions would be to have a number of pre-washes before saturation with the pretreatment liquid. Given that these are the conditions, below is a series of guidelines, which should be applied to the single-stage process but are equally applicable to all pretreatment processes. 1. 2. 3. The pick-up should be as near as 80 possible to 100% .The more water available, the more the fibre and the sizes on it can swell, adding to the ease of removal of the size. The hydrogen peroxide content should be sufficient so that it is not consumed by the impurities of the fabric and will be available for the bleaching of cotton itself. The stabiliser chosen should be of sufficient power to withstand the contaminants, which build up in the bleach bath during running. It should also be able to give the correct bleaching characteristics over the chosen reaction period. The surfactant used should be one, which would give very rapid wetting out and penetration of the fibre and the size with the bleach liquor. When this is achieved, the active chemicals are able to do their work more effectively. The surfactant should also be an aid in the suspension of the soils in the washing-off process. The washing-off should be sufficient in relation to the amount of water, the temperature and the mechanical agitation to remove all impurities and soils still on the fibre after bleaching.



If these. guidelines are followed, the single-stage pad-steam hydrogen peroxide bleaching process will enable most companies to achieve good pretreatment results. References 1. K Dickinson J.S.D.C., 95 (1979) 119 2. 2. A.J Milner, Aust. Text., 12 (1992) 33. 3. Linen Research, 17 (1957) 98.

Allchem International Ltd., TEXTILES Division Broadway House, 21 Broadway, Maidenhead, Berks. SL6 1NJ, United Kingdom Tel: +44 (0) 1753 44 33 55 Fax: +44 (0) 1753 44 33 56