Reflective Fabric: A Guide to its Properties, Uses and Benefits

Tennis shoes, safety jackets, bike wheels, and road signs are just a few places where you can find reflective materials. But you didn’t imagine you’d be wearing reflective tees and shorts, did you?

They are changing how we dress for work and pleasure and are already regular in modern athletic gear.

One of the characteristics of these types of fabric is their propensity to reflect light. It makes the reflective fabric a great option for amateur or professional photographers who don’t want to spend much money on their craft.

What is Reflective Fabric?

Reflective Fabric

Reflective materials have been available for a while. They have a lot of popularity due to their many uses and advantages, especially at night. 

Reflective fabrics are synthetic fabric types produced using Light-emitting diode (LED) coatings which are applied to the material surface to enable its reflectivity. 

Because of their ability to block the sun’s rays, these fabrics are also perfect for year-round wear.

Many thousands of small glass beads are used to reflect light in reflective textiles, films, yarns, and trimmings. These beads function like tiny mirrors, returning reflected light to their source.

Various colors and patterns are used for reflective fabric production; some even have synthetics like spandex in their construction to give it a bit of stretch. However, cotton-made alternatives are rougher and less comfortable.

Reflective fabrics are extensively utilized in various clothing and accessories, including hats, footwear, costumes, helmets, leg and arm bands, and packing cases like backpacks.

These fabrics reflect light using components like metallic threads, polymers, and organic dyes. These metallic threads are woven into the fabric and reflect light into the viewer’s eyes. Reflective fabrics possess a high reflectance value and can serve to insulate against the cold in winter and disperse the heat in summer.

Wide-angle reflectivity, water repellency, and abrasion resistance are just a few of the features of reflective fabrics. As a bonus, all its materials are typically machine-washable, resistant to water, and can maintain shape through repeated washings.

Also, because it is very conspicuous in low-light environments, reflective fabrics can help you stay safe and easily discoverable. 

A Brief Historical Account Of Reflective Fabrics

The United States Army suffered from frequent instances of friendly fire during World War II, particularly in nighttime urban fighting zones. Therefore, the U.S. government saw the need for a strategy that would simultaneously raise a soldier’s profile and lessen the likelihood of friendly fire.

The U.S. military adopted the Switzer brothers‘ reflecting fabrics from the 1930s after one of the brothers was injured while unloading containers in Berkeley, California.

Uniforms and sportswear have been the sole applications of reflective textiles for decades.

Scottish train workers were given the odd uniform in 1964 as an experiment and used it until 1967. The fabric was initially intended to improve drivers’ visibility. 

Since then, numerous people and groups concerned with public safety have employed reflective fabrics to make reflective safety vests and other forms of high-visibility gear.

Reflective Fabric Production Process

Rainbow Reflective Fabric

Reflective fabric production is based on the principle of retroreflection, which is a phenomenon that occurs when a surface reflects a considerable fraction of an incoming light beam toward its source.

The components of reflective fabrics are the base fabric, adhesives, and tiny glass beads. Hot pressing, as well as other processing technologies like coatings and composites, are also essential. To greatly increase the reflecting coefficient, the tiny glass bead used to produce high and silver reflective fabrics is partly coated with aluminum.

Producing reflective fabric can be done in two primary ways. “Glass bead coating” describes the first method, combining a glass bead with an adhesive and then spreading the resulting paste onto a textile.

In the second method, a retro-reflective yarn is spun and used. After the retro-reflective yarn has been put into the garment, it is coated with a transparent reflective ink to boost the garment’s performance and visibility in low light and does not affect its functionality. 

The print that can be seen in many reflective fabrics is silver or grey, making it the least reflective part of the material.

Some Reflective Fabric Types

Various reflective fabrics are commercially available, and some even have elastic support. However, not all of them are elastic. The reflective fabric uses range from fashion and beachwear to those more suited to extreme cold.

They comprise; 

  • Perforated reflective fabric

Firefighter uniforms benefit greatly from the use of perforated reflective fabric. As a result of its perforations, it is both highly visible and breathable. This reflective fabric type may be formed into many different kinds, are easily transportable, and weigh very little.

Thick clothing like windbreakers and motorcycle jackets can benefit from its use in piping and other details. You can also use perforated reflective fabric for nighttime outdoor illumination and other purposes in the great outdoors because of its high reflectivity. 

Reflective fabrics have great durability, and it also offers high levels of both security and transparency. The fabric is available in many hues and designs, expanding its potential applications.

  • Rainbow reflective fabric

This reflective fabric type is sometimes known as iridescent or neon-reflecting fabric. It has a black appearance in natural light but reflects various colors in the dark.

The fabric can use the whole spectrum of colors in the design of many kinds of reflective apparel. This innovative fabric comes in the color of your choice and features high-visibility reflective technology.

  • Outdoor shell reflective fabric

The Outdoor shell reflective fabric is a premium material whose reflecting surface is achieved by adhering optical-grade glass beads with an aluminum coating on one side.

This reflective fabric type has a luxuriously smooth feel thanks to spandex, nylon, or chiffon as the base fabric.

Many types of reflecting materials were used to create the fabric. Some varieties are only slightly reflective, while others reflect a little more light. 

It is a sustainable fabric that holds well in all climates, and that’s why it is used in producing some kinds of parkas, jackets, and other weather clothing. 

Purchasing Reflective Fabric Types By The Yard

It’s not easy to give an accurate price for reflective fabrics without first knowing the total cost of its production, which includes everything from raw materials to labor.

The production phase is where the majority of variables influence the final price, including the cost of raw materials, the size of the finished product, the beneficial chemicals used, the cost of the machinery used, etc.

The yard price for reflective fabrics like Rainbow holographic fabric is between $18 and $24. The price of the Rainbow Stretch reflective fabric is $27 a yard, while the price of the High visibility silver reflective fabric is between $25 and $31.

Blackout drapery shade reflective cloth costs around $38, while the price per yard of reflective heat transfer vinyl fabric is between $16 and $19.

How Reflective Fabric Is Used

Clothing, car parts & accessories, and outdoor and indoor signs are some of the many potential uses for reflective fabric. In low-light or nighttime settings or when there is a glow from other light sources, the reflective fabric can be used to increase the visibility of persons and objects.

Some of its uses include; 

  • Reflective Uniforms

Clothing made from reflective material is an excellent option for those who need to be noticed in broad daylight.

For instance, law enforcement officers, uniforms can benefit from using reflective fabric because of the ease with which it makes police personnel spotted during daylight hours.

  • Sports and athletic wear

Besides being common in reflective fashion apparel and rainbow bags, reflective fabrics are frequently utilized in producing high-performance clothing, such as colorful or holographic fabric. It’s also used in sports and outdoor pursuits like cycling and hiking.

  • Medical uses

In addition to their usage in fashion, reflective fabrics are finding new life in the medical field. A good example is a medical diagnosis, where reflective fabric is used to diagnose retinal issues in the eye. 

  • Advertising and publicity

Advertisements can benefit from the reflective properties of these fabrics by having the surface they are shown on reflect light and drawing more attention to the ad.

This is an important feature for advertisements displayed on mobile devices, as their use is becoming more commonplace in public settings.

Some Care Tips For Your Reflective Fabric

Fabrics with reflective properties are frequently utilized in the clothing industry due to their resilience and lifespan. Consequently, they need special care to remain in good condition.

  • Firstly, one must learn to interpret the symbols for the laundering guidelines. You can look at the accompanying icons to find out how to properly clean your reflective safety gear.
  • You should machine-wash your reflective fabric in cold water (20-40 degrees Celsius) with like colors using a gentle cycle and a moderate detergent. Do not include bleach or softener.
  • Do not wash your reflective gear with your work jeans or anything else that could snag on the cloth. Or else, they could scratch the tiny glass beads on the retro reflective heat transfer film with some rubbing action from a rough surface.
  • Air-drying the fabric after a wash is required to maintain your reflective fabric for a long time. If you want to use a dryer, get the fabric out as soon as the clothing is dry. Higher temperatures may cause damage to the reflecting heat transfer film.
  • Always keep the reflective fabric away from the iron. Or you can put some cotton layers or parchment paper between the fabric and the iron.
  • Folding fabrics for storage is not usually recommended since it leaves unsightly wrinkles in the reflective fabric. Instead, you can wind the roll-up.

Leave a comment