A complex time-dependent deformation and damage behaviour in polymer-based nonwovens are analysed under conditions of multi-stage uniaxial loading. Elastic-plastic and viscous properties of a polypropylene-based fabric are obtained by series of tensile, creep and relaxation tests performed on single fibres extracted from the studied fabric. These properties are implemented in a finite-element (FE) model of nonwoven with direct introduction of fibres according to their actual orientation distribution in order to simulate the rate-dependent deformation up to the onset of damage in thermally bonded nonwovens. The predictions of FE simulations are compared with the experimental data of multi-stage deformation tensile tests and a good agreement is obtained including the mechanisms of deformation. Due to direct modelling of fibres based on their actual orientation distribution and implementation of viscous properties, the model could be extended to other types of polymer-based random fibrous networks. (c) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.