Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Rational design of perfluorocarbon-free oleophobic textiles


Water- and oil-repellent fabrics have global application within the textile industry and as technical apparel. Fabric finishes utilizing perfluoro compounds (PFCs) are known to uniquely render textiles both water and oil repellent. However, PFC-based finishes are not sustainable because they compromise environmental and human health, and garment factories have accordingly begun to phase out PFC usage. This is problematic, as all previous studies on fabric finishes indicate that oil repellency cannot be achieved without perfluorination. Here we develop design parameters for fabricating oil-repellent textile finishes using PFC-free surface chemistries. By adding a secondary, smaller length-scale texture to each fibre of a given weave, robust oil repellency is achievable when the texture size, spacing and surface chemistry are properly controlled. For example, a PFC-free, oil-repellent jacket fabric is fabricated that exhibits oleophobicity towards canola, olive and castor oil in addition to synthetic sweat. The textile remains non-wetted for liquids with surface tension as low as 23.9 mN m−1. The equations developed in this work allow for the rational design of oil-repellent textile finishes that do not utilize perfluorinated substances.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Contact angle of wetted fabrics.
Fig. 2: Wettability of non-wetted fibres, particles and particles decorating fibres.
Fig. 3: Design of robust, oil-repellent fabrics.
Fig. 4: Oleophobic metal meshes.
Fig. 5: Oleophobic fabrics.
Fig. 6: Predicting fabric oleophobicity.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.


  1. 1.

    Choudhury, A. K. R. Principles of Textile Finishing (Woodhead, 2017).

  2. 2.

    Shrivastava, A. Introduction to Plastics Engineering (William Andrew, 2018).

  3. 3.

    Zahid, M., Mazzon, G., Athanassiou, A. & Bayer, I. S. Environmentally benign non-wettable textile treatments: a review of recent state-of-the-art. Adv. Colloid Interface Sci. 270, 216–250 (2019).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Williams, J. T. Waterproof and Water Repellent Textiles and Clothing (Woodhead, 2017).

  5. 5.

    Ma, M. & Hill, R. M. Superhydrophobic surfaces. Curr. Opin. Colloid Interface Sci. 11, 193–202 (2006).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Parsons, J. R., Sáez, M., Dolfing, J. & de Voogt, P. Biodegradation of perfluorinated compounds. Rev. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 196, 53–71 (2008).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Ganesan, S. & Vasudevan, N. Impacts of perfluorinated compounds on human health. Bull. Environ. Pharmacol. Life Sci. 4, 183–191 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Rayne, S. & Forest, K. Perfluoroalkyl sulfonic and carboxylic acids: a critical review of physicochemical properties, levels and patterns in waters and wastewaters, and treatment methods. J. Environ. Sci. Health A 44, 1145–1199 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Mota, J., Fierro, J. & Martinez, C. Report on the State of the Art Technical and Environmental Data of the Selected Conventional and Alternative DWOR (European Commission, 2016).

  10. 10.

    Guo, N., Chen, Y., Rao, Q., Yin, Y. & Wang, C. Fabrication of durable hydrophobic cellulose surface from silane-functionalized silica hydrosol via electrochemically assisted deposition. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 132, 42733 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Manatunga, D. C., de Silva, R. M. & de Silva, K. M. N. Double layer approach to create durable superhydrophobicity on cotton fabric using nano silica and auxiliary non fluorinated materials. Appl. Surf. Sci. 360, 777–788 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Zhu, T., Li, S., Huang, J., Mihailiasa, M. & Lai, Y. Rational design of multi-layered superhydrophobic coating on cotton fabrics for UV shielding, self-cleaning and oil–water separation. Mater. Des. 134, 342–351 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Zhi, J. & Zhang, L.-Z. Durable superhydrophobic surfaces made by intensely connecting a bipolar top layer to the substrate with a middle connecting layer. Sci. Rep. 7, 9946 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Li, J. et al. One-step fabrication of robust fabrics with both-faced superhydrophobicity for the separation and capture of oil from water. Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 17, 6451–6457 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Cao, C. et al. Robust fluorine-free superhydrophobic PDMS–ormosil@fabrics for highly effective self-cleaning and efficient oil–water separation. J. Mater. Chem. A 4, 12179–12187 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Su, X. et al. Vapor–liquid sol–gel approach to fabricating highly durable and robust superhydrophobic polydimethylsiloxane@silica surface on polyester textile for oil–water separation. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 9, 28089–28099 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Zhang, Z. et al. One-step fabrication of robust superhydrophobic and superoleophilic surfaces with self-cleaning and oil/water separation function. Sci. Rep. 8, 3869 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Zhao, Y. et al. Superhydrophobic PDMS/wax coated polyester textiles with self-healing ability via inlaying method. Prog. Org. Coat. 132, 100–107 (2019).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Singh, A. K. & Singh, J. K. Fabrication of durable superhydrophobic coatings on cotton fabrics with photocatalytic activity by fluorine-free chemical modification for dual-functional water purification. New J. Chem. 41, 4618–4628 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Tuteja, A., Choi, W., Mabry, J. M., McKinley, G. H. & Cohen, R. E. Robust omniphobic surfaces. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 105, 18200–18205 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Kleingartner, J. A. et al. Designing robust hierarchically textured oleophobic fabrics. Langmuir 31, 13201–13213 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Li, X., Li, Y., Guan, T., Xu, F. & Sun, J. Durable, highly electrically conductive cotton fabrics with healable superamphiphobicity. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 10, 12042–12050 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Liu, H. et al. Multifunctional superamphiphobic fabrics with asymmetric wettability for one-way fluid transport and templated patterning. Cellulose 24, 1129–1141 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Bahners, T., Mölter-Siemens, W., Haep, S. & Gutmann, J. S. Control of oil-wetting on technical textiles by means of photo-chemical surface modification and its relevance to the performance of compressed air filters. Appl. Surf. Sci. 313, 93–101 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Artus, G. R. J., Zimmermann, J., Reifler, F. A., Brewer, S. A. & Seeger, S. A superoleophobic textile repellent towards impacting drops of alkanes. Appl. Surf. Sci. 258, 3835–3840 (2012).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Leng, B., Shao, Z., De With, G. & Ming, W. Superoleophobic cotton textiles. Langmuir 25, 2456–2460 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Santen, M., Brigden, K. & Cobbing, M. Leaving Traces (Greenpeace e.V., 2016).

  28. 28.

    Cobbing, M., Jacobson, T. & Santen, M. Footprints in the Snow (Greenpeace e.V., 2015).

  29. 29.

    Sonne, C. Health effects from long-range transported contaminants in Arctic top predators: an integrated review based on studies of polar bears and relevant model species. Environ. Int. 36, 461–491 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Pereira, C. et al. Designing novel hybrid materials by one-pot co-condensation: from hydrophobic mesoporous silica nanoparticles to superamphiphobic cotton textiles. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 3, 2289–2299 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Jiang, J. et al. Novel fluorinated polymers containing short perfluorobutyl side chains and their super wetting performance on diverse substrates. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 8, 10513–10523 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Ahmad, N., Kamal, S., Raza, Z. A., Hussain, T. & Anwar, F. Multi-response optimization in the development of oleo-hydrophobic cotton fabric using Taguchi based grey relational analysis. Appl. Surf. Sci. 367, 370–381 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Moiz, A., Padhye, R. & Wang, X. Durable superomniphobic surface on cotton fabrics via coating of silicone rubber and fluoropolymers. Coatings 8, 104 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health ANNEX XV RESTRICTION REPORT – Undecafluorohexanoic Acid, Its Salts And Related Substances (European Chemicals Agency, 2019);

  35. 35.

    Gore Fabrics’ Goal And Roadmap To Eliminate PFCs Of Environmental Concern (W. L. Gore and Associates, 2017).

  36. 36.

    Michielsen, S. & Lee, H. J. Design of a superhydrophobic surface using woven structures. Langmuir 23, 6004–6010 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Kota, A. K., Li, Y., Mabry, J. M. & Tuteja, A. Hierarchically structured superoleophobic surfaces with ultralow contact angle hysteresis. Adv. Mater. 24, 5838–5843 (2012).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Tingyi, L. L. & Chang-Jin, C. J. K. Turning a surface superrepellent even to completely wetting liquids. Science 346, 1096–1100 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Domingues, E. M., Arunachalam, S. & Mishra, H. Doubly reentrant cavities prevent catastrophic wetting transitions on intrinsically wetting surfaces. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 9, 21532–21538 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Young, T. III. An essay on the cohesion of fluids. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 95, 65–87 (1805).

    Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Wenzel, R. N. Resistance of solid surfaces to wetting by water. Ind. Eng. Chem. 28, 988–994 (1936).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Jasper, J. J. The surface tension of pure liquid compounds. J. Phys. Chem. Ref. Data 1, 841–1009 (1972).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Choi, W. et al. Fabrics with tunable oleophobicity. Adv. Mater. 21, 2190–2195 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Wang, W., Vahabi, H., Movafaghi, S. & Kota, A. K. Superomniphobic surfaces with improved mechanical durability: synergy of hierarchical texture and mechanical interlocking. Adv. Mater. Interfaces 6, 1900538 (2019).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Shafrin, E. G. & Zisman, W. A. in Contact Angle, Wettability, and Adhesion Vol. 43 (ed. Fowkes, F. M.) 145–157 (American Chemical Society, 1964).

  46. 46.

    Sahasrabudhe, S. N., Rodriguez-Martinez, V., O’Meara, M. & Farkas, B. E. Density, viscosity, and surface tension of five vegetable oils at elevated temperatures: measurement and modeling. Int. J. Food Prop. 20, 1965–1981 (2017).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Cassie, A. B. D. & Baxter, S. Wettability of porous surfaces. Trans. Faraday Soc. 40, 546–551 (1944).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Gokarneshan, N. Fabric Structure and Design (New Age International, 2004).

  49. 49.

    AATCC 118: Oil Repellency: Hydrocarbon Resistance Test (AATCC, 1997).

  50. 50.

    Khatir, B., Shabanian, S. & Golovin, K. Design and high-resolution characterization of silicon wafer-like omniphobic liquid layers applicable to any substrate. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 12, 31933–31939 (2020).

  51. 51.

    Washburn, E. W. International Critical Tables of Numerical Data, Physics, Chemistry and Technology (Knovel, 1926).

Download references


We thank the Syilx Okanagan Nation for use of their unceded territory, the land on which the research was conducted. We acknowledge the support of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), through grants CRDPJ 531817–18 and EGP 532173–18, as well as support from Arc’teryx Equipment Inc. and lululemon athletica.

Author information




S.S. designed and conducted all experiments, derived the theoretical framework and wrote the manuscript. B.K. helped with surface modification. A.N. measured weave porosity and wrote the manuscript. K.G. conceived the research, designed the experiments, derived the theoretical framework and wrote the manuscript. All authors edited the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kevin Golovin.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Contact angle of wetted fabrics for decane and tert-butylnaphthalene.

Apparent contact angles of decane (D), γLV = 23.8 mN m−1 42, and tert-butylnaphthalene (tBN), γLV = 33.7 mN m−1 45, on rough surfaces in terms of their Wenzel roughness, for four different surface chemistries: perfluorinated (-CF3), fluorinated (-CF2), alkyl (-CH3), and polydimthylsiloxane (PDMS). The values for the Young’s contact angles of these two liquids on the four surface chemistries are found in45.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Wettability of non-wetted fibers and particles.

a, Decane and b, tert-butylnaphthalene apparent contact angles on fibers, \(\theta _{{\mathrm{fiber}}}^ \ast\), considering four possible surface chemistries, against the porosity of the fibers, \(D_{{\mathrm{fiber}}}^ \ast\). c, Decane and d, tert-butylnaphthalene apparent contact angles on particles, \(\theta _{{\mathrm{particle}}}^ \ast\), considering four possible surface chemistries, against the porosity of the particles, \(D_{{\mathrm{particle}}}^ \ast\).

Extended Data Fig. 3 Robustness of fabrics.

The robustness parameter (solid lines), \(A_{{\mathrm{fiber}}}^ \ast\), and apparent contact angle (dashed lines), \(\theta _{{\mathrm{fiber}}}^ \ast\), of a, decane and b, tert-butylnaphthalene on fibers against the porosity of the fibers, \(D_{{\mathrm{fiber}}}^ \ast\), considering four possible surface chemistries.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Design of robust, oil-repellent fabrics for other liquids.

Design diagrams for oleophobic fabrics considering a, decane (D) and b, tert-butylnaphthalene (tBN) as the low surface tension liquids. Design diagrams for superoleophobic fabrics considering c, decane (D) and d, tert-butylnaphthalene as the low surface tension liquids. In ad, the porosity of the fabric, \(D_{{\mathrm{fiber}}}^ \ast\), is plotted against the porosity of the particles, \(D_{{\mathrm{particle}}}^ \ast\), for four possible surface chemistries. The assumed fiber diameter was R = 10 µm.

Extended Data Fig. 5 Meniscus position on hierarchical textures.

Schematic of a low surface tension liquid on fibers decorated with particles with the liquid meniscus sitting at a, the fibers (θ=θY) and b, the particles \(\left( {\theta = \theta _{{\mathrm{particle}}}^ \ast } \right)\). c, The robustness parameter of fibers decorated by particles as a function of the assumed contact angle observed on the fibers. In Equation 5 we assume \(\theta = \theta _{{\mathrm{particle}}}^ \ast\) but previously θ=θY has been assumed37.

Extended Data Fig. 6 Design of robust, oil-repellent fabrics of different radii.

Hexadecane design diagrams for oleophobic fabrics with a, R = 1 µm and b, R = 50 µm. Hexadecane design diagrams for superoleophobic fabrics with c, R = 1 µm and d, R = 50 µm. In ad the porosity of the fabric, \(D_{{\mathrm{fiber}}}^ \ast\), is plotted against the porosity of the particles, \(D_{{\mathrm{particle}}}^ \ast\), for four possible surface chemistries.

Extended Data Fig. 7 Geometric schematics of fibers.

a, A schematic of the woven metal meshes used in this work. b, SEM image of the nylon jacket fabric (D* ≈ 1.5) indicating a unit cell of yarns and open area. c, Schematic diagram of the wire cross-section touching the liquid meniscus.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Tables 1–2, Notes 1–4 and references.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Shabanian, S., Khatir, B., Nisar, A. et al. Rational design of perfluorocarbon-free oleophobic textiles. Nat Sustain 3, 1059–1066 (2020).

Download citation

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing