Woven vs. nonwoven geotextiles: What's the difference? Learn about the key differences between woven and nonwoven geotextiles, and which type is best for your project.

Woven Geotextiles vs. Nonwoven Geotextiles: What's the Difference?

Woven Geotextiles vs. Nonwoven Geotextiles: What's the Difference?

Geotextiles are permeable fabrics used in a variety of civil engineering applications such as roads, embankments, retaining structures, drainage systems, and erosion control. They are made from synthetic materials like polypropylene, polyester, polyethylene or polyamide and come in two main types - woven and nonwoven. But what exactly is the difference between woven and nonwoven geotextiles and how do you choose which one is right for your project? This article provides a detailed comparison of woven vs nonwoven geotextiles.

What are Geotextiles and How are They Used?

Geotextiles provide separation, filtration, drainage, and reinforcement functions when used with soil, rock or other geotechnical engineering related materials. Some key applications of geotextiles include:

  • Road Construction: Geotextiles are used below roadways and parking lots to provide separation between the subgrade and aggregate base course layers. This prevents the subgrade from being contaminated by finer particles migrating from the aggregates. Geotextiles also reinforce roadways and increase the bearing capacity.
  • Retaining Walls: Geotextiles are used as reinforcement, drainage and separation behind retaining walls. The geotextile reinforcement helps provide stability to the soil mass behind the wall. Drainage geotextiles prevent buildup of hydrostatic pressure while separation geotextiles keep backfill material from mixing with native soil.
  • Drainage Systems: Geotextiles are used in drainage applications like landfill leachate collection systems, pond liners, and french drains for houses. The geotextile acts as a filter that allows water to pass through while retaining soil particles.
  • Erosion Control: Geotextiles are used to control erosion on slopes and channels. They hold the soil particles in place while allowing water to seep through. This protects the ground surface from the erosive forces of water flow.

Geotextiles perform these vital functions through their porous structure and unique physicochemical properties. But the manufacturing process used gives woven and nonwoven geotextiles very different characteristics.

Woven Geotextiles

Woven geotextiles are created by weaving plastic filaments or tapes together on a loom. The most common materials used are polypropylene, polyester or polyethylene. The weaving patterns can createmonofilament, multifilament or slit film woven geotextiles with different properties.

Properties and Characteristics

Some key properties and characteristics of woven geotextiles include:

  • High tensile strength and low elongation
  • Resistant to tear and puncture forces
  • Less susceptible to UV degradation vs nonwoven geotextiles
  • Less permeable than nonwoven geotextiles
  • Large apparent opening size compared to nonwoven geotextiles
  • Low silt and sand retention capability

The strengths of woven geotextiles make them ideal for reinforcement applications where high tensile modulus and strength are required like in steep reinforced soil slopes. The large openings and lower filtration effectiveness also make them suitable as drainage geotextiles in landfill construction and road underdrains.


Benefits of Woven Geotextiles

  • High tensile strength to act as mechanically stabilizing reinforcement
  • Low elongation provides good dimensional stability under load
  • Durable with high resistance to installation stresses
  • Resists damaging UV exposure better than nonwoven geotextiles


Common Applications of Woven Geotextiles

Some typical uses of woven geotextiles include:

  • Reinforcement of steep soil slopes and earth retaining structures
  • Separation and drainage layers for landfills
  • Filtration and separation in road edge drains and underdrains
  • Reinforcement of weak foundation soils or embankments over soft soils
  • Stabilizing bases and sub-bases under roads and parking lots

In these applications, the high strength at relatively low strains, dimensional stability, tear resistance, and adequate flow capacity of woven geotextiles are required.

Nonwoven Geotextiles

In contrast to woven geotextiles, nonwoven geotextiles are made by bonding, interlocking or interlacing fibers together through mechanical, thermal or chemical means without weaving. This produces geotextiles with high filtration efficiency ideal for drainage and separation functions.


Properties and Characteristics

The properties of nonwoven geotextiles can vary based on the manufacturing method but in general they exhibit:

  • High permeability and small apparent opening size for enhanced filtration
  • Good silt and sand retention ability
  • Low elongation and moderate tensile strength
  • More susceptible to UV damage than woven geotextiles
  • Softer hand and drapability than woven geotextiles

The high filtration effectiveness and permeability of nonwoven geotextiles make them preferred for drainage, separation and filtration applications. The fiber network is ideal for trapping soil particles while allowing water passage.


Benefits of Nonwoven Geotextiles

  • Excellent filtration efficiency for fine soil particles
  • High permeability and flow capacity
  • Softer and more flexible than woven geotextiles
  • Can provide adequate reinforcement for some applications
  • Lower cost than woven geotextiles


Common Applications of Nonwoven Geotextiles

Some typical uses of nonwoven geotextiles are:

  • Filtration and drainage layers in landfill construction
  • Separation of subgrade from base course aggregates in roads
  • Silt fences for sediment control in erosion control applications
  • Trench drains, French drains and leachate collection systems
  • Moderate reinforcement in working platforms over very soft soils

For these applications, the high permeability, fine filtration capability, and adequate strength properties make needle punched and spunbonded nonwovens ideal.


Comparison of Key Properties

To choose the right type of geotextile for your specific project, it is important to compare some of the key property differences between woven and nonwoven geotextiles.


Tensile Strength

The tensile strength represents the maximum resistance of a geotextile to stretching forces before failure.

  • Woven geotextiles typically have tensile strengths from 15-200 kN/m
  • Nonwoven geotextile tensile strengths range from 5-40 kN/m

The high tensile strength of woven geotextiles makes them suitable for reinforcement applications.



Elongation measures how much a geotextile stretches as tension is applied.

  • Woven geotextiles generally have less than 15% elongation at failure.
  • Nonwovens exhibit 40-100% elongation at failure.

The low elongation of woven geotextiles provides better dimensional stability under loads.


Puncture Resistance

Puncture resistance indicates the ability of a geotextile to withstand being pierced by a small probe simulating angular soil particles.

  • Woven geotextiles typically have puncture resistance from 500-4000 N
  • Nonwovens have lower puncture resistance around 150-800 N

Woven geotextiles have superior resistance to penetration forces.


UV Resistance

Ultraviolet light degradation affects the long term performance of geotextiles.

  • Woven geotextiles retain 50-100% of their tensile strength after UV exposure.
  • Nonwoven geotextiles may retain only 30-70% of their original tensile strength.

Woven geotextiles are more resistant to damaging UV effects.


Chemical Resistance

Geotextiles must withstand installation exposure to salts, acids, alkalies and fuels.

  • Woven and nonwoven geotextiles made from polypropylene and polyester generally have good chemical resistance.
  • Polyethylene geotextiles can be affected by oils and solvents.

Both woven and nonwoven geotextiles offer adequate chemical resistance for most applications.



Permeability measures the rate of water flow through the geotextile.

  • Nonwoven geotextiles typically have higher permeability values from 0.5 to 4 gal/min/ft2.
  • Woven geotextiles range from 0.1 to 1.5 gal/min/ft2.

Nonwoven geotextiles provide superior drainage capacity.



In general, nonwoven geotextiles have a lower cost per square yard compared to woven geotextiles. This can be an important consideration for larger project areas.


In summary, the main differences between woven and nonwoven geotextiles are:

  • Woven geotextiles have high tensile strength and puncture resistance while nonwovens have higher permeability and filtration efficiency.
  • Woven geotextiles perform better for reinforcement applications while nonwoven geotextiles are preferred for drainage and separation functions.
  • Woven geotextiles provide better dimensional stability under load while nonwovens are more flexible.
  • Nonwoven geotextiles are more susceptible to UV degradation.
  • Nonwoven geotextiles typically have a lower cost than woven materials.

The table below compares the key characteristics:

ParameterWoven GeotextilesNonwoven Geotextiles
Manufacturing ProcessWeaving of yarnsBonding of fibers
Raw MaterialsPP tapes/yarnsPP staple fibers
StructureUniform and ordered arrangement of tapesRandom arrangement of entangled fibers
DurabilityHighMedium to high
Tensile StrengthVery high due to tape structureMedium to high depending on bonding
ElongationLow elongationHigh elongation
PermeabilityLower due to dense uniform structureHigh permeability due to porous random fiber arrangement
UV ResistanceHigh if using stabilized yarnsLower inherently but can be improved through additives/stabilization
CBR Puncture ResistanceMedium to highHigh due to fiber entanglement
ApplicationsReinforcement, separationFiltration, drainage, separation
CostHigher due to manufacturing processLower due to simpler production process
InstallationUsually requires sewing or bondingThermal or resin bonding rarely required

When selecting a geotextile, it is important to consider the primary functions required. Reinforcement applications demand high strength woven geotextiles. Drainage and filtration projects require permeable nonwovens with good filtration properties. With their different characteristics and capabilities, woven and nonwoven geotextiles both serve vital roles in geotechnical engineering construction projects.


Choosing the Right Geotextile

When choosing a geotextile, here are some key tips:

  • Analyze site conditions and project requirements to determine the primary geotextile functions needed - filtration, separation, reinforcement or drainage.
  • Select a geotextile type suitable for the main function based on the properties comparison above.
  • Check that the geotextile meets the minimum strength, elongation, permeability, and filtration properties recommended for the specific application. These values are provided in design standards like AASHTO M288.
  • Make sure the geotextile has adequate resistance to installation stresses, weathering and chemicals present on site.
  • Review manufacturer data sheets to compare properties of different geotextile products of the required type.
  • Consider cost differences but avoid choosing geotextiles solely on cost at the expense of meeting functional requirements.

With the range of geotextile types and products available, there is a suitable material for any civil engineering need. By understanding your project goals and properly evaluating woven vs nonwoven geotextile capabilities, you can be confident in selecting the right geotextile to enhance performance and durability.

Related Products

I hope this article has provided a helpful overview of the key differences between woven and nonwoven geotextiles. Our company manufactures a full range of geotextile products for drainage, separation, reinforcement and filtration functions. Browse our website to find the ideal product for your next project:

Non Woven Geotextiles - We offer a range of durable needle punched and spunbonded nonwoven geotextiles with excellent filtration performance and mechanical properties.

Woven Geotextiles - Our woven geotextiles provide high strength reinforcement for steep slopes, retaining walls, roadways and other structures.

Pavement Fabrics - Keep your paved surfaces in top condition with our pavement geotextiles for separation, drainage and reflection cracking prevention.

GeoDrains - Our prefabricated geotextile drains provide quick drainage for landfills, roadways and other sites with high flows.

GeoBags - We offer versatile geotextile bags for applications like retaining walls, culverts and temporary structures.

Browse our full products catalog to find the right geotextile solution. Please reach out if you need any guidance selecting the perfect product for your next civil engineering project.

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