Manmade vs. Natural Textile Fibres/Fabrics/Textiles : A Fair Comparison

All textiles are made from fibre, which can be either natural or manmade.
As the name suggests, natural fibres are sourced from plants and animals which naturally thrive in our environment. On the other hand, manmade fibres require human effort to create and are manufactured using chemical processes in factories.

Examples of natural fibres

  • Cotton- from the cotton plant
  • Wool- from domestic sheep and other animals
  • Linen- produced from the flax plant
  • Silk- from the silkworm cocoon

Examples of manmade/synthetic fibres

  • Polyester
  • Nylon
  • Acrylic
  • Rayon

Textiles with vary in characteristics depending on the fibres used to make them. If you look at the label of any finished garment, you can tell whether natural or synthetic fibres were used to make it.
A textile’s level of comfort, color-fastness, wear and tear, absorbency, ability to resist wrinkles and ease of care is dependent on the percentages of natural and/or synthetic fibre used.

What are the pros and cons of using natural or synthetic textiles?

Textiles made from natural and manmade fibres both have advantages and disadvantages:

 

MANMADE/SYNTHETIC FIBRES

NATURAL FIBRES

PROS

CONS

PROS

CONS

1

Strength and endurance. This makes them suitable for weaving heavy items such as parachutes or tents.

They have poor absorbency. This makes them unsuitable to wear on hot days, or for making undergarments.

Soft and absorbent. Natural fibres such as cotton are more comfortable next to the skin due to their high absorbency and softness.

They cost more to produce and buy. Textiles made from natural fibres tend to be more expensive.

2

Don’t distort when washed. This makes their care regimen cheap and easy to manage.

They are not naturally soft to the body. This makes them uncomfortable when used on intimate clothing such as pajamas, bedsheets or undergarments.

Eco-friendlier. Since they are naturally occurring, their production is less harmful to the environment.

Experience higher levels of wear and tear. Since their natural state is not compromised during production, this means natural fibres they have lesser endurance and strength than synthetic fibres.

3

Ability to shed water easily. Owing to the smoothness of synthetic fibres which reduces surface tension, they dry faster after washing.

They are not bleach resistant. Bleach can damage some synthetic fibres such as spandex.

High endurance to heat. Whereas synthetic fibres will melt when exposed to fire, natural fibres will endure high heat.

You have to pay more attention to care instructions. Poor care regimen will ruin the textiles. For instance:

– Wool, cotton and linen shrink if not washed as per fabric direction.

– Wools are prone to moth attacks

-Silk will get damaged when exposed to sunlight.

4

Highly elastic and easy to blend with other fibres. Fabrics such as spandex are very elastic and are often blended with other natural fibres such as cotton to make exercise wear and other stretchy cotton garments.

Water weakens some synthetic fibres. Fibres such as acetate and rayon get weak when wet and also retain wrinkles.

A great choice for making luxury clothing. Textiles made of silk are lightweight, luxurious and comfortable.

Dyed natural textiles tend to run. Though they can be dyed for more colour varieties, they are not as colour-fast as synthetic fibres.

5

Soft and luxurious. Acetate is very soft, making it a suitable substitute for silk.

Their production is not eco-friendly. The chemical processes involved in producing synthetic fibres results in environmental pollution.

Good to wear during cold weather. Natural fibres such as wool, cotton and linen are warm.

They have limited uses. Natural fibres can only be used for what their natural state allows for, unlike synthetic fibres which are altered in the laboratory to achieve wider usage.

6

Fabrics come in a multitude of colors. The color variety of synthetic fibres ensures they cater for different preferences.

They are harder to dye using natural dyes. This is because natural dyes, which are plant-based, have a harder time adhering to synthetic surfaces.

7

Cheaper than natural fibres. This is owing to the fact that they can be manufactured on a large scale.

8

The structure of the fibres can be controlled and changed. This means that manufacturers can vary formulas to achieve different levels of fabric quality and consistency.


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