Mercerization

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The treatment of cellulosic textiles in yam or fabric form with a concentrated solution of caustic alkali whereby the fibres are swollen, the strength and dye affinity of the materials are increased, and the handle is modified. The process takes its name from its discoverer, John Mercer (1844). The additional effect of enhancing the lustre by stretching the swollen materials while wet with caustic alkali and then washing off was discovered by Horace Lowe (1889). The modern process of mercerization involves both swelling in caustic alkalis and stretching, to enhance the lustre, to increase colour yield, to improve dyeability of dead cotton and to improve the strength of the cotton. A related process, liquid ammonia treatment produces some of the effects of mercerization. In chain mercerizing, shrinkage in fabric width is allowed, followed by re-stretching and washing on a clip-stenter. In chainless mercerizing, the fabric is effectively prevented from shrinking by transporting over rotating drums

Textile Resource (http://www.textile.org.uk)

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