Natural vs. Synthetic fibers

I have this theory that the invention of polyester coincided with the invention of strong deodorants.  I’ve never really researched it, but if you use natural deodorant (or none at all) but have worn polyester, you know the combination can be, well, rather stinky.  Natural fibers have so many benefits over synthetics. Not only can they be made from sustainable, renewable materials, rather than petroleum or chemicals, but they also are breathable, soft, biodegradable, and they don’t cling to the body.

Natural fibers include ones derived from plants or animals, for example:

Wool-The hair of sheep.

Silk-From the threads of silkworms.

Mohair-The hair of Angora Goats.

Angora-The hair of Angora Rabbits.

Alpaca-The hair of Alpacas.

Avian Fibre-Made from bird feathers.

Cotton (Gossypium sp.)-Soft silky fibers around the seeds of the cotton plant.

Jute (Corchorus sp.)-Long soft, shiny vegetable fiber that is very strong. Different parts of the plant are used for different grades of fiber, from coarse to silk-like.

Hemp (Cannibis )-Soft and durable fiber.  Illegal to grow in the U.S, though hemp for fiber is not the same as Cannibis for medicinal uses.

Flax (Linum usitatissimum)-An ancient fiber plant.  Fibers are from the skin of the stem.

Pita fiber (Agave americana)- is from the leaves of the Agave plant.

Ramie fiber (Bohemia nivea)- is an ancient fiber plant from East Asia.

Synthetic fibers have become extremely prolific.  It has been suggested that some synthetics, such as polyester, might be linked to a host of ailments, including cancer.  Some of the common synthetic fibers include:

Polyester-There are actually several types of polyester, but most commonly it refers to polyethylene terephthalate, derived from coal, air, water, and petroleum.

Acrylic- Made from the polymer polyacrylonitrile, which is made from made from mixtures of monomers with acrylonitrile (derived from petroleum).

Nylon- A thermoplastic  made through a complex chemical reaction known as ring opening polymerization, ultimately derived from hydrocarbons.

Spandex (Lycra)- Is apolyurethanepolyurea copolymer that was invented in 1959 by chemists at Dupont.

To find natural products, locally, visit!

Written by Emma O’Connell, founder of Photo is of The Dutch Landrace goat breed, one of the original breeds found in the Netherlands and, as such, is related to other northwest European landraces.

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