Natural fibers have many fantastic advantages compared to synthetic fibers. They are among the world's most used fibers for textiles in many growing industries.
Natural and plant-based fibers commonly used for fashion include cotton, hemp, flax and linen, ramie, jute, bamboo, abaca, and pineapple.
Popular animal-based fibers comprise silk fibers and wool or hairs such as angora, cashmere, alpaca, and mohair.
Here are some advantages and disadvantages natural fibers have over synthetic fibers.
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Natural fibers are soft, comfortable, durable, and lightweight. They are easy to wear and care for and offer a pleasant hand-feel. They generally feel softer to the touch compared to synthetic fabrics.
Natural fibers have a luxurious, smooth, sheen appearance. They drape and hang well, have good resistance to wrinkling and pilling, multiple sheens, and color options.
Organic fibers are naturally breathable and refreshing. They are well-known to be exceptionally cool in hot weather. They help with body temperature regulation when worn close to the skin.
Natural fibers are very pleasant to the touch and gentle on the skin. They are long-lasting, high-quality, water-absorbent, quick-drying, supporting the body's natural thermal regulation.
Natural fibers are very absorbent with high moisture retention. They help wick sweat away in warm and humid weather conditions. Contrary to synthetic fibers, they absorb water effectively to keep the skin dry.
Natural fibers are flexible, breathable, easy to wear, and versatile. They make ideal fabrics for everyday clothing, sportswear, underwear, and many other consumer applications.
Natural fibers have extraordinary qualities that push consumers to favor them over synthetic fibers. They symbolized luxury, preciousness, extravagance and have become increasingly popular.
The market for natural fibers will slightly rise in the coming years as new apparel plus home furnishing applications will develop, especially in rapidly developing countries like China.
Natural fibers have been used for a very long time to make clothing. They are old materials, much more ancient than synthetic fabrics. In today's market, natural fibers are readily available on all continents.
They make knitwear, dresses, shirts, sportswear, sweaters, pajamas, undergarments, hats, gloves, scarves, accessories, blouses, coats, and jackets, outerwear, and more.
You can also find natural fibers in furniture, upholstery, drapes, bed sheets, curtains, carpets, bathrobes, towels, home decor, and in many soft and luxurious fabrics.
Organic fibers are much much healthier and safer to wear close to the skin than synthetic fibers. They are also less likely to catch fire and don't release any toxic gas when burned.
Natural fibers are 100% bio-based and made with raw materials originating from plant-based, animal-based, or mineral-based resources. When grown organically, they are kind to the skin and the planet.
Natural fibers generally require fewer chemicals in production than synthetic fibers. They use less hazardous substances and protect human health and biodiversity.
Many synthetic fibers available on the market are less respectful toward the environment. They require toxic chemicals, additives, and solvents, whereas organic fibers maintain a low environmental impact.
Natural fibers consume less energy and therefore emit fewer greenhouse gases over one production cycle. They have a lower impact on global warming and protect the planet with lower electricity requirements.
Natural fabric production isn't as energy and chemically intensive as synthetics. It keeps an overall lower carbon footprint using rainwater and solar power.
Farmers can produce natural fibers organically to limit their impact on the environment. They preserve biodiversity and soil fertility by avoiding harsh chemicals and saving natural resources.
Organic production is crucial to ensure that manufacturers use sustainable processes to produce fabrics under environmentally friendly and socially responsible conditions.
Natural fibers are more biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable than synthetic fibers. They don't create any toxic waste at the end of their lifecycle and are generally less harmful to the environment and human health.
Organic fibers are fully compostable and biodegradable in natural and industrial environments, including soil, compost, fresh, and marine water.
They guarantee that textile production has the least possible impact on people, the environment, animals, and responsible resource usage.
Disadvantages of natural fibers
Natural fibers can be damaging to the environment. Regular cotton production isn't ecological, ethical, or sustainable. But the cotton plant requires tons of water, pesticides, and fertilizers to grow.
Conventional cotton production drains resources, generates waste, involves harmful substances that ruin biodiversity and soil fertility, and endanger human health.
Many intensive farming operations genetically modify cotton fibers to increase their productivity and resist pests.
Animal-based fibers like wool have a disastrous impact on the environment. The farming and processing of wool pollute the air, soil, and water, producing greenhouse gases and wastes.
More than 95% of all wool comes from mass production globally. And mass production isn't ethical or sustainable. Wool fiber is one of the five most environmentally damaging fibers worldwide.
Animals used for wool farming are enslaved, exploited, subjected to painful treatments, and exposed to dangerous substances with long-term disastrous effects on ecosystems and human health.
Even though silk is luxurious, natural, and considered one of the finest fibers worldwide, it comes from caterpillar cocoons killed in boiling water during their pupal stage to preserve material quality, thread length, and value.
Natural plant-based fibers are also more expensive than synthetic fibers because of their costly manufacturing. They are extracted from the plant, spun into yarn, then woven into fabrics. They are resource-, time-, and labor-intensive.
Linen is expensive because it's hard to weave. Its manufacturing is a laborious and timely process. Since natural flax fibers easily break, the machinery must run very slow.
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About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.