Learn About: Natural Fabrics

In the journey towards a more sustainable wardrobe, I came across to the topic of fabrics. A topic I never cared, until I started to learn more about the problem that synthetic fabrics bring to our oceans. The production of garments whether from natural or synthetic fabrics cost a lot of resources. But natural fibers have a better impact on the environment than synthetic ones. Natural fibers are better for the skin and kinder on the environment. Today, I am explaining to you the advantages and disadvantages of the most common natural fibers.

Cotton

is one of the most common natural fibers in the market. It comes from a plant.
Cotton is:

  • Soft
  • Easy to wash
  • Breathable – Great option for hot weather and for baby clothing
  • Hypoallergenic – Does not irritate the skin
  • Absorbent – It works great as cloth diapers
  • Organic cotton is free of chemicals and is biodegradable

The disadvantages of Cotton are:

  • The color fades over time
  • It wrinkles very fast
  • It can shrink
  • The crops use a lot of water
  • It uses pesticides
  • Most of the regular cotton crops are GMO
  • There might be toxic dyes and bleach in the production process.

Organic cotton is characterized by a production process without the use of pesticides, synthetic growth regulators and the seeds are not genetically modified. There is also often a natural rotation of crops in the fields which helps to maintain a healthy soil.

Cotton Natural Fabric

Wool

is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and other animals, including cashmere and mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, angora from rabbits, and other types of wool from camels. Wool mainly consists of protein together with a few percent lipids.
Wool is:

  • Waterproof
  • Fire resistant
  • Holds air
  • Durable – Clothes can last a very long time
  • It has the ability to regulate body temperature
  • It is crimped and elastic
  • Absorb moisture – it can absorb almost one-third of its own weight in water
  • Easy to dye
  • Biodegradable

The disadvantages of wool:

  • It involves animal cruelty issues
  • Shrinks in hot water
  • It can peel
  • Needs special care to wash
  • Causes an allergic reaction in some people
  • Toxic pesticides and chemicals might be used. You can avoid this by purchasing only organic wool.

Some fashion brands are starting to use recycled wool. The process demands less energy and less landfill required for sheep grazing. It saves raw materials and brings new life to old garments.

Linen

is a natural fiber that it’s made from the flax plant.
Linen is:

  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Soft and smooth – It gets softer the more it is washed
  • Cool and absorbent- Perfect for hot weather
  • The production uses less water than cotton
  • Biodegradable

The disadvantages of linen are:

  • It has a poor elasticity
  • It wrinkles easily
  • Might need special care to wash
  • Can be dyed with toxic chemicals

Linen Natural Fabric

 

Hemp

is a natural fiber that is made from the cannabis plant.
Hemp is:

  • Strong
  • Durable
  • Becomes softer over time
  • Resistant to mold and ultraviolet light
  • Absorbent
  • Breathable
  • When dye it retains its color better than any other fabric
  • No pesticides needed
  • It doesn’t damage the soil
  • The crops don’t need much water
  • Biodegradable

The disadvantages of hemp are:

  • It wrinkles
  • Not legally easy to grow for fabric production in some countries

Silk

is a natural protein fiber made from the cocoon of the silkworms.
Silk is:

  • Smooth
  • Soft
  • Lightweight
  • Natural shiny
  • Absorbent
  • Comfortable
  • Its low conductivity keeps warm air close to the skin during cold weather
  • Easy to dye
  • Biodegradable

The disadvantages of silk are:

  • Animal cruelty issues – The silkworms are killed in the production
  • Needs special care to wash
  • Expensive
  • Can change color from sunlight and perspiration
  • Not durable

Silk

Rayon

is a fiber that is extracted or fabricated from wood pulp. Note: Rayon is considered a semisynthetic fiber.  It comes from wood but in order to make the fibers, it is combined with synthetic materials. Types of rayon include viscose, modal, and lyocell.
Rayon is:

  • Versatile – It can imitate the feel and texture of silk, wool, cotton, and linen
  • Easy to dye
  • Soft
  • Smooth
  • Comfortable
  • Highly absorbent
  • Cheap

The disadvantages of rayon are:

  • Bad quality
  • Pills easily
  • Wrinkles
  • Shrinks
  • Loses appearance and shape when wet
  • There are toxic dyes and bleach in the production process
  • Workers can be seriously harmed by the carbon disulfide used in the production
  • Because it comes from trees, it might contribute to deforestation problems

Bamboo

is a fiber that is extracted or fabricated from natural bamboo. The production is similar to the one of rayon, but instead of using wood pulp, it uses bamboo. This fiber is also considered semisynthetic.
Bamboo is:

  • Anti-static
  • Easy to dye
  • Soft – With a texture similar to silk
  • Breathable and absorbent – It keeps the skin dry and odor free
  • It has the ability to regulate body temperature
  • The production doesn’t need pesticides or fertilizers
  • The plant grows very fast – It regenerates after being cut without the need of replanting (similar to lawn)
  • Biodegradable

The disadvantages of bamboo are:

  • Pills very easy
  • There are toxic chemicals in the production process
  • The fibers absorb a lot of sweat and can encourage microbial growth.

As you can see, all of the fibers have advantages and disadvantages. There is no perfect fiber. But there are fibers less harmful to the environment than others. I hope you find this information useful and it helps you to become more conscious about natural fabrics.

With Love,

Alisson

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