What Is a Geotextile?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A geotextile is a type of fabric used to control rock and soil in projects ranging from home construction to pollution prevention. Geotextiles are typically made from polymers and may be knitted, woven, or heat-bonded, depending on the application. They are extremely strong and durable, and also have permeable traits to allow water to pass through while stopping soil and rock particles. The rugged design is important, as these textiles are often buried or partially covered in use.

Scientist with beakers
Scientist with beakers

One application for geotextiles is in filtering, often used to control pollution. At a construction site, for example, considerable mud and dust are churned up during work. When it rains or the site is sluiced down, this soil can enter storm drains, clogging them. A geotextile may be mounted around the site to trap soil in water runoff, preserving it for use on the site and keeping storm drains clear. Filtration can also be useful for water processing, where geotextiles are sometimes used as liners for buried tanks and reservoirs.

These textiles can also be used for separation of different rock and soil types, as well as reinforcement. On a project like an embankment or berm, the soil and rock could have a tendency to slide while work is in progress, or in harsh weather. Personnel can use a sheet of geotextile to hold the rock and soil in place for protection. They may plant over it to create a permanently reinforced embankment supported by the root systems of plants to trap soil and keep it in place.

For some applications, the use of a geotextile may be required for health and safety reasons, as when environmental agencies want to prevent soil in water runoff from a site. In others, it can be useful, and may be recommended for applications like digging pits, establishing foundations, and so forth. Geotextile products can also make useful barriers to limit the growth of weeds, which can help protect foundations and other environments. A construction crew can decide if a textile would be useful, and which kind would be most appropriate.

Hardware and construction suppliers typically carry a range of geotextiles for their customers and can order more by request. Contractors and other construction professionals can also contract directly with a manufacturer if they need a specialty product or a lot of material. These companies often have new fibers and material in development, in order to offer a broader range of services to their customers.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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