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High-Performance Silicone is Here to Stay

June 28, 2018

i+s breaks down what you need to know about the innovative new use of high-performance silicone.

While the Sta-Kleen line has existed as part of The Mitchell Group (TMG) performance products, the company upped the ante in May 2018 when it released its latest: a high-performance silicone-coated fabric. Recognized primarily for its use in kitchen goods, TMG approached the idea of creating a silicone product because of its sustainability story. Unlike products that are treated with a coating that releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs), silicone is high-performance on its own, enabling the new Sta-Kleen Silicone to be 100-percent silicone on a 100-percent polyester double-knit substrate.

While silicone may be a known term, the science behind it and what makes this pliable product sustainable is less clear. i+s spoke with Jim Blesius, director of marketing for The Mitchell Group, to gain a better understanding of the material and what readers need to know.

What is silicone?

Silicone is a human-made material created by combining the same proportion of elements of different molecular weights, better known as a synthetic polymer. The prefix comes from the base element of the polymer: sand (silica). Sand is mixed with oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen to create a pliable, rubber-like material, which is able to withstand extreme temperatures and heavy use.

On a chemical level, the sand is an organosilicon monomer—or an organic molecule which makes up sand. When mixed with oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen, the molecules of each bond together to create a high-performance silicone polymer.

How can Sta-Kleen High-Performance Silicone be considered “green”?

“The green story is really what this product is all about,” Blesius said. Unlike high-performance fabrics which are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethanes, the lifecycle of high-performance silicone has many healthy and sustainable properties. The most noticeable is that silicone doesn’t release VOCs so that indoor air quality doesn’t suffer.

Another major aspect of the Sta-Kleen Silicone sustainability story is how water is used or retained during the manufacturing process.

“Although there’s a range of how clean [PVCs and Pus] can be made, because they take solvents and chemicals, the manufacturing process isn’t ideal,” Blesius explained. “They often use a lot of water that, in many cases, isn’t reclaimed, and it gets dirty in the process. [Sta-Kleen Silicone] uses almost no water. The process itself is as environmentally green as you’re going to get with a coated fabric.”

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Lastly, there’s the durability aspect of high-performance silicone. The material is known to be resilient—not just from everyday use, but in relation to extreme temperatures and UV exposure, as well as being easily pliable with a soft hand. Because of these properties, many baking and cooling products are made from silicone as it will withstand being moved from the oven directly to the refrigerator.

Blesius explained that while polyurethanes can sometimes perform up to half-a-million double rubs, silicone’s 200,000 factory-tested double rubs—four times the industry standard—is nothing to snub your nose at. Less wear and tear means less replacement and material which ends up in landfills.

Ideal markets for High-Performance Silicone

Coated and high-performance fabrics aren’t necessary for every project, but particular spaces, such as those in hospitals, hospitality, and contract interiors, benefit for the increased durability. Because silicone doesn’t off-gas, Sta-Kleen Silicone is compliant with the Healthier Hospitals Initiative standards, making it ideal for healthcare.

Additionally, Blesius pointed out that because of high-performance silicone’s resistance to water and oxidization and that it contains high colorfastness in light and water, Sta-Kleen Silicone is already being introduced within the automobile and marine industries.

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What certifications does Sta-Kleen Silicone pass?

Beyond technical and performance specifications, Sta-Kleen Silicone is compliant with the following environmental, green building, and material reporting standards:

  • RoHS 2.0
  • LEED v4
  • LEED MR Credit 5
  • CA Section 01350 VOC emissions
  • Health Product Declaration (HPD)
  • Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI)

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About the Author

Kadie Yale | Former Editor-in-Chief

Kadie Yale holds a BA in Industrial Design from San Francisco State University and a MA in Decorative Art History and Theory from Parsons the New School. In her role as editor-in-chief from 2015-2018, she led the interiors+sources team in creating relevant content that touches on sustainability, universal design, science, and the role of design in society.

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