22 03 2019
Guide to Natural Fabrics: Fabric Fundamentals and how to care for them
We look at natural fabrics and the best way to care for them so it lasts and grows with you for as long as possible.
Sourced from plants or animals, natural fabrics are known for its breathability, renewable and biodegradable properties and in most cases, its softness and comfort on the skin. These reasons align closely with our sustainability values, which is why we have opted to use natural fibres in our collection.
When it comes to fabric care, you first need to understand your fibres. It is important to read the care label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions before washing your clothing items, since clothes can include a blend of materials and have different care requirements.
Wrinkling and shrinking are not uncommon occurrences when washing and drying clothing made from natural fabrics. As a rule of thumb, do not expose these fabrics to high heat, therefore no hot water or dryers, this reduces the likelihood of clothing shrinkage. However in the instance that fabrics require ironing, such as cotton, silk and linen outfits, it is advisable to use a steam iron. Silk should be ironed on the lowest heat setting, while cotton and linen requires higher heat and plenty of steam.
Here is a list of commonly used natural fabrics and its behaviours.
In the life cycle of clothing, it is normal to go through wear and tear and begin exhibiting signs of shrinkage, wrinkling, yellowing and pilling. With adequate care, we can prolong the onset of fibre degradation and extend the life span of our favourite clothes. However, it is also important to purchase clothing of good quality to begin with.
At twopluso®, we only partner fabric companies with a set of quality control processes in place. In addition, we have our own internal processes to ensure our clothing is up to our quality standards before we proceed with final production. Starting with the basics, we determine that the fabric selected is highly suitable to the type of clothing we have designed. Next, we get a sample produced and put it through rigorous testing in the areas of shrinkage, colour fastness, pilling and importantly, check that the seams are intact. Actual production only takes place when we are satisfied that it meets our personal standards.
So why do fabrics shrink, wrinkle, yellow and pill?
Why Do Clothes Shrink?
Progressive shrinkage takes place when the fibres shrink, while relaxation occurs when the fabric shrinks. Wool is an example of progressive shrinkage, where its fibres shrink each time it is washed. Hence it is often advised that wool is dry cleaned. Relaxation shrinkage happens when tension in the fibres are released and straightened as it is washed. In the case of cotton, most shrinkage comes about in the first wash. Shrinkage can refer to both expansion and contraction of clothing dimensions.
Owing to differing fabric structures and its moisture content, the amount of shrinkage can differ. If the fabric is tightly woven, there is little room for fibres to shrink, therefore looser knits are more susceptible to shrinkage. In addition, evaporation of moisture content in the fabric in the drying process can also result in dimensional shrinkage.
When choosing a dry cleaner, we recommend opting for one which does not use toxic substances such as Perchloroethylene (PERC), a commonly used chemical in dry cleaning shops.
Why Clothes Wrinkle
Wrinkling takes place in plant-based fabrics at molecular level when our clothes go from wet to dry. These molecules are connected through hydrogen bonds, which loosen when wet, and reform when dry, and creases appear when these molecules loosen and become misaligned. This process is reversed when we steam iron our clothes.
Why Does White Cotton Turn Yellow?
Yellowing can occur after cotton fabric is weakened from continuous use of chlorine bleach or extensive use of the dryer. Discolouration can also result from body oils, sweat, and perfume stains, when dirt gets embedded in the fabric. In addition, yellowing can happen when soap residues are left on clothing to dry. Can these yellow stains be cleaned? Most likely, if it is a stain and not fabric discolouration, as the latter is irreversible. To whiten cotton clothing, consider washing with a chlorine-free bleach such as hydrogen peroxide.
Why Pilling Happens
Fabrics with loose or short fibres are prone to pilling because when enough friction is applied, its ends can easily get tangled together to create tiny balls, known as pills. Clothing with multiple fibres are also susceptible, where the weaker fibre may wear down to form pills, and remains bound to the cloth by the stronger fibre, one such example includes silk blends. Furthermore, loosely woven clothing are more likely to pile, as the fibres of tightly woven fabrics are more tightly held together. In order to avoid pilling, hand wash your clothes or turn it inside out when laundering in a washing machine. If you are looking to get rid of pills, consider investing in a fabric comb.
When we begin to understand fabrics and how they behave, we can offer better care to our clothing. We recommend quality over quantity, and choosing natural, breathable fabrics for our wellbeing. In a follow-up post, we will explore clothing quality and why it matters. Please subscribe to our newsletter to be updated on the latest twopluso® announcements and articles.