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Fading: what are the Causes?

We all love the sun and the phrase “natural light” is bandied about every home improvement show and most real estate listings that can, make mention of it. Sunlight is super important to our health and wellbeing, but it does have its downsides. And one of them is that prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays leads to fading.

You’ve spent a lot of time and energy making your home a sanctuary. And you’ve probably also invested a good amount in furniture, wood floors, rugs, and artwork. Or maybe you are the next caretaker of family heirlooms that you want to pass on to your children. Whatever the situation, you’ll want to protect your valuables from fading.

And the first step is to understand what causes fading. All light causes something called photodegradation which is a process where materials break down (degrade) due to exposure to light, particularly ultraviolet (UV) radiation but also visible light and infrared radiation to varying degrees. And it is photodegradation that causes fading in your furnishings, art and keepsakes.

UV Rays

UV light is by far the biggest culprit in fading causing about 40% of fading. It does this by a process called photodegradation:

Breaking of Chemical Bonds:

When UV light, which is a component of sunlight, falls onto the surface of the furniture, it can break the chemical bonds in the dyes or pigments used in the furniture’s fabric or material.


UV light can also accelerate oxidation processes which can lead to fading. Oxidation affects the chemical structure of the pigments, altering their colors.

Polymer Degradation:

Many furniture materials, including plastics and fabrics, are based on polymers. UV light can break down these polymers over time, leading to changes in the material’s structure and color.

Solar Heat Energy

Solar heat energy or infrared radiation is a type of radiant energy that’s invisible to the human eye and is generally associated with heat. It does not cause fading in the same direct way that UV radiation does. However, it can indirectly contribute to the fading of furniture over time through several mechanisms:

Heat-induced Degradation

Accelerated Oxidation:

Infrared radiation can raise the temperature of the furniture’s surface, accelerating the oxidation process of the materials, which can lead to fading.

Drying Out Materials:

Increased temperatures can dry out materials like wood, causing them to become brittle and potentially fade over time.

Interaction with Other Radiations

Synergistic Effect:

In many real-world situations, infrared radiation is accompanied by UV radiation. The heat generated by infrared radiation can sometimes enhance the deleterious effects of UV radiation, leading to more rapid fading.

Physical Changes

Thermal Expansion:

Infrared radiation can cause materials to expand due to increased temperatures. This repeated expansion and contraction can lead to physical changes in materials, including cracking and fading.

Altering Material Properties:

Long-term exposure to heat can alter the physical properties of some materials, leading to discoloration and fading.

Chemical Changes

Breaking Down of Chemical Compounds:

High temperatures can lead to the breakdown of chemical compounds in the dyes or finishes used in furniture, resulting in fading over time.

Prolonged Exposure


Prolonged exposure to infrared radiation can cause the materials to age prematurely, leading to fading and other forms of degradation.


In summary, while infrared radiation primarily affects furniture through heat-induced mechanisms, it can indirectly contribute to fading over time. It is usually in conjunction with other factors such as UV radiation and humidity fluctuations that you see significant fading occurring. To protect furniture from fading due to various types of radiation, it is beneficial to control the environment in which the furniture is kept, possibly by using window treatments that block harmful rays or by maintaining a consistent level of humidity.

Visible Light

Visible light, which encompasses the range of light wavelengths that can be detected by the human eye, can indeed contribute to the fading of materials, including furniture, though to a lesser extent compared to UV radiation. Here is how it contributes to fading:



Visible light can cause photooxidation, a process where light accelerates the oxidative degradation of materials, leading to fading and discoloration.


Photobleaching is a phenomenon where the color of a material fades due to prolonged exposure to light. This process is driven by the absorption of photons, which can break the chemical bonds in the dyes or pigments, leading to a change or loss of color.

Chromophore Alterations

Destruction of Chromophores:

Chromophores are parts of a molecule responsible for its color. Prolonged exposure to visible light can alter or destroy chromophores in the materials’ dye or pigment, leading to fading.


Visible light can lead to the discoloration of materials through chemical reactions that alter the structure of the molecules responsible for color.

Accelerated Aging

Over time, exposure to visible light can cause materials to degrade, leading to fading and other signs of aging.

Interaction with Other Factors

Visible light often acts in combination with UV and IR radiation, contributing to the fading and degradation processes driven by these other forms of radiation.

Material Specific Reactions

The extent to which visible light causes fading can vary greatly depending on the specific materials involved and the particular dyes or pigments used in the furniture.

Miscellaneous Fading Causes

The miscellaneous 10% of the problem consists of things that don’t involve your windows.  For instance, light fixtures can emit heat, UV and visible light.  And the heat from your body and friction from movement when you sit on your sofa can eventually cause fading as well.

Other miscellaneous causes of fading include exposure to air pollutants or chemical cleaners. Abrasion from scrubbing the material or from repetitive movements on the material can also cause fading. Finally, the quality of the material also plays a role in how easily it will fade.

Window Film to Reduce Fading

While there is no “one solution” to the many causes of fading – UV-blocking and heat rejecting window film can go a long way to help preserve your investments.

The right window film will block UV rays from hitting your floors and will reduce the amount of light and heat that your floors are exposed to. All without compromising your views. ComforTech™ Ceramic Series from Concord Window Film is an excellent choice to protect your wood floors. Every ComforTech™ shade blocks >99% of UV rays and all offer a measure of visible light and heat rejection. You can choose a shade with our product simulator or order a sample kit to see the film in your own space.

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