Non woven wallpaper was introduced to the marketplace in the mid-2000s and quickly established itself as the preferred substrate (aka material or finish) for many wallcovering collections. In fact, at least half of all new wallpaper collections that have come out in the past five years have been primarily non woven.
Cheaper patterns will have a vinyl backing of but most medium to higher end designs will be made from non woven materials.
So, what exactly is non woven?
Frankly, its inventor couldn't have come up with a worse name to describe it. How they named this material "non woven" is still a mystery to everyone in the wallpaper industry.
But here goes! In a nutshell, it’s a combination of both natural and synthetic fibers. It's the same material that is used to make coffee filters, gauze pads, masks and teabags.
And notwithstanding the name, this natural and synthetic fiber blend has almost single handedly contributed to the revival of the wallpaper industry as we know it today. You could say it pulled us from the Dark Ages into the Renaissance.
Non woven is a light paper backing that is easy to hang and easy to remove.
You also don’t need to worry about the material contracting or expanding too much over time.
Installers like it because it means they don’t have to book the wallpaper (let the paper sit after wetting or gluing it) for long periods of time before hanging it.
Although lightweight, non woven wallpaper is designed to go up and come down in long flowing strips.
You can imagine how important that is if you’ve ever had the pleasure of removing old wallpaper. The whole process quickly turns into a nightmare when the paper substrate starts to break apart and you have to peel and scrape it off your wall, inch by inch.
Non woven was specifically made because the public was demanding a new kind of wallpaper that would be very easy to remove from walls once it has reached the end of its life.
See Also: Is Wallpaper Removable?
Non-vinyl wallpaper is better for the environment since no vinyl is used to make it. Solid vinyl wallpaper has its benefits, the major one being its durability, but the vinyl (also known as PVC) manufacturing process is very hard on Mother Earth due to the chemicals released in the atmosphere.
The manufacturing process for non woven paper produces no such chemicals meaning an overall significantly lower carbon footprint. Non woven is not 100% natural since a good amount of its material are synthetic but even these synthetic materials are far less taxing on the environment than any vinyl product.
The special blend of natural and synthetic fibers makes non woven wallpaper strong enough to be washable.
Now, a newbie to wallpaper might not think these two features are a big deal but any older person in this industry would quickly beg to differ.
Wallpaper wasn’t always as easily washable as it is now. Well, vinyl was, but not some of the other paper based patterns.
We take for granted that you can spill someone on your kitchen wallpaper and simple wash it off with a damp sponge. In the past, that spill would leave a mark that you couldn’t easily get off. You would either have to replace that section of the wall or live with it. Non woven wallpaper is remarkably easy to keep looking clean.
The wallpaper industry took a nose dive in the 90s due to the mold scare. During that decade mold became a hot button word and wallpaper was one of the scapegoats.
Hint: it wasn’t the cause of mold but nevertheless the industry got attacked for it.
Non woven fibers addressed this problem because the material is made to breath. This means moisture isn’t locked between the paper and the wall, thus eliminating the problem of mold and mildew.
While not as durable as some of the other vinyl based products, non woven wallpaper is perfect for many different uses. It gives you the best aspects of all worlds.
Another way to explain it is by using "The Story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears."
The first bear is vinyl wallpaper. It's what most people tend to think about because it's been used for a good part of the 20th century. For a long time it was the new kid on the block. It's was and still is heralded has being durable, long lasting, highly cleanable and highly scrubbable.
However, there are drawbacks. It's hard on the environment and some people debate its side effects, health wise. It should be noted that vinyl is made differently now than how it was made in the 60s and 70s, but many people still don't trust it. Vinyl wallpaper got a bad rap in the 90s that some people never forgot.
The second bear is paper wallpaper. This is the oldest substrate. Nothing remotely toxic about it whatsoever, and as long as you make it out of recycled paper products or re-planted trees, its fine on the environment. It also looks great.
However, there are drawbacks. It's weak, tears and rips easily and you might has well replace it if you spill anything on it because that stain is not coming out. The thought that comes to mind with paper wallpaper is delicate.
The third bear is non woven wallpaper. This one is just right.
Is it as strong as vinyl wallpaper?
No, oh course not, but it's strong enough for what most people need it to be.
Is it as cleanable, washable and scrubbable as vinyl wallpaper?
No, oh course not, one is plastic based and the latter is made from a mix of fibers. Cleaning solid vinyl is like cleaning the linoleum floor in your kitchen. But, non woven is as cleanable, washable and scrubbable as most people need it to be.
Is it as light and easy to hang as paper wallpaper?
Yes, just about, and it doesn't expand a lot like the other two once it's hung on the wall.
By now, you should see what we mean. It's not as strong as vinyl but also doesn't come with all its drawbacks. And, it's stronger and more durable than just paper.