Touch fasteners are easy to use, safe, and maintenance free. There is only a minimal decline in effectiveness even after many fastenings and unfastenings. The tearing noise it makes can also be useful against pickpockets.
There are also some deficiencies: it tends to accumulate hair, dust, and fur in its hooks after a few months of regular use. The loops can become elongated or broken after extended use. The hooks often become attached to articles of clothing, especially loosely woven items like sweaters. This clothing may be damaged when one attempts to remove the hook-and-loop, even if the sides are separated slowly. The tearing noise made by unfastening hook-and-loop fasteners make it inappropriate for some applications. For example, a soldier in hiding would not want to alert the enemy to his position by opening a pocket.It also absorbs moisture and perspiration when worn next to the skin, which means it will smell if not washed.
Textiles can contain chemicals or compounds, such as dyes, that may be allergenic to sensitive people. Some products have been tested according to the Oeko-tex certification standard, which imposes limits on the chemical content of textiles to address the issue of human ecological safety.
Because their ease of use, hook-and-loop fasteners have been used for a wide variety of applications where a temporary bond is required. It is especially popular in clothing where it replaces buttons or zippers, and as a shoe fastener for children who have not yet learned to tie shoelaces. Touch fasteners are used in adaptive clothing, which is designed for people with physical disabilities, the elderly, and the infirm, who may experience difficulty dressing themselves due to an inability to manipulate closures such as buttons and zippers.
Touch fasteners held together a human heart during the first artificial heart surgery, and it is used in nuclear power plants and army tanks to hold flashlights to walls. Cars use it to bond headliners, floor mats and speaker covers. It is used in the home when pleating draperies, holding carpets in place and attaching upholstery. It closes backpacks, briefcases and notebooks, secures pockets, and holds disposable diapers, and diaper covers for cloth diapers, on babies. It is an integral part of games such as tag rugby and flag football, and is used in surfboard leashes and orthopaedic braces.
NASA makes significant use of touch fasteners. Each space shuttle flew equipped with ten thousand inches of a special fastener made of Teflon loops, polyester hooks, and glass backing. Touch fasteners are widely used, from the astronauts' suits, to anchoring equipment. In the near weightless conditions in orbit, hook-and-loop fasteners are used to temporarily hold objects and keep them from floating away. A patch is used inside astronauts' helmets where it serves as a nose scratcher.During mealtimes astronauts use trays that attach to their thighs using springs and fasteners. Touch fasteners are also used aboard the International Space Station.