Steam in the textile industry
The use of steam in the textile industry is very energy-intensive. Steam is used for almost every step of the process: from pretreatment, cleaning and drying to smoothing textiles. Steam is first used to remove dirt and other impurities. Machines used can also be operated with the help of steam. The following article explains some of the main uses of steam in the textile industry.
When processing textiles, the fibers of the same often lose moisture. Especially in the case of natural fibers, wrinkles and tension quickly appear in the fabric. To prevent this, steam and heat are used to moisten the fibers. This makes the fabric grippy again and gives it an attractive sheen by smoothing it. The machines required for this purpose usually consist of a tunnel with a conveyor belt, with the aid of which the fabric is transported through the steam. Depending on the fabric, a different steam temperature and transport speed is selected.
After the processing of textiles, the last step is usually the drying of the textiles. This is done by so-called roller drying: the finished textiles are passed through several rollers of different sizes. Steam is introduced inside the roller for heating, and the heat-conducting material of the rollers transfers this heat to the products. The remaining moisture in the textiles is thus caused to evaporate.
Steam in laundries
In laundries, steam is mainly used for cleaning textiles. With the help of a steam cleaner, stains and discolorations can be removed from textiles under high pressure. The hot steam gets between the fibers of the textiles and condenses, thereby removing the dirt from the fibers.
Steam in fabric processing
Steam is also used in the processing of textiles, often in combination with heat. By combining the two components, fabrics can be permanently pleated, for example, as in pleating. If textiles are dyed in a dye bath, the excess dye must first be removed with rollers and then fixed with the aid of steam. Only in this way can the dye permanently bond with the textile fibers. The dyeing of fabrics allows a great deal of design freedom in textile production. In the felting of textiles, also known as fulling, steam is responsible for producing the characteristically rough surface. Steam with specific degrees of heat and moisture is also used in textile printing. Steam is also used when fabrics are to be decorated or printed with applications, such as in flock printing. In printing, steam is used in the form of a steam iron to securely attach appliqués to the fabric.
Steam in yarn production
In the manufacture of yarn, fibers are consolidated by warping and twisting. While the spinning wheel was used until a few decades ago, yarn production today is fully automated and many times faster. From animal fibers to plant fibers to synthetic fibers, a wide variety of materials can be spun into yarn today. Steam is often used to add moisture to the yarn. This process is called twisting and increases stability. Steam generators are also often used to drive the spinning machines.