By the 1950s, synthetic fabrics - often wrinkle resistant and flame retardant - began to overtake cotton as the dominant U.S. textile fiber. To reverse this trend chemists and chemical engineers at the Southern Regional Research Center initiated research to modify cotton chemically. Their efforts in developing agents that crosslinked the cellulose fibers and in establishing crosslinking mechanisms led to improved durable press fabrics. SRRC studies also developed new agents that improved the durability of flame retardant cotton to laundering. These significant advances in the properties of cotton enabled this natural fiber to remain a highly competitive textile.
Southern Regional Research Center
1100 Robert E Lee Blvd
Easy care cotton fabrics are now common. Much of the research in developing processes that led to and improved the quality of durable press fabrics was carried out at the Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans. Scientists at this U.S. Department of Agriculture facility have provided the understanding of the mechanisms that impart durable press to cotton.
Photo courtesy National Archives and Records Administration. (CC BY 2.0)