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7 things you should know about VISCOSE – is it natural or not?

I’ve done a lot of research when deciding on the most ethical and sustainable choice of fabric to make your clothes out of. Can you believe there are pros and cons of each option? There is seriously no clear answer to the question “what is the most ethical fabric?’ especially when you also consider accessibility, affordability and function.

I have certainly yo-yoed in regards to viscose. I have summarised my findings for you.

  1. Viscose (also known as rayon) is fabric that has been manufactured using natural materials – usually wood pulp, and often from sustainable sources like fast growing eucalypt trees or bamboo.
  2. The first patent for synthetic fibre was in 1884; but the first commercially viable fabric wasn’t produced until 1905.
  3. A chemical process is required to produce viscose. This includes using caustic soda and carbon disulfide to dissolve the fibre. And Sulfuric acid to then harden it to create a yarn.
  4. Caustic soda is approved for use even in producing organic cotton. But carbon disulphide is dangerous to the workers using it and the local environment; and the huge problem with viscose production comes when all of these chemicals are not disposed of correctly, polluting the environment, the air around factories and waterways and risking the health of local people.
  5. Very little or none of these chemicals remain on the finished fabric that most viscose is tested and certified safe for use. Look for an Oeko-Tex certification to be sure that the fabric has been tested safe from chemical residue.
  6. More modern technology has evolved and a better version of this process produces a fabric called Lyocell (also known by their brand names Tencell or Modal). This process is closed loop so those chemicals used are recycled back into the process, and is considered far more environmentally friendly.
  7. Fabrics made from recycled materials – whether it is used cotton/viscose or plastic bottles – are produced using a viscose method. Plastic bottles are crushed, broken into tiny pieces, melted and pushed through a device to make yarn. Recycling some of the 20,000 plastic bottles humans produce every single second of the day – that’s got to be a good thing right?

So, in trying to come to a conclusion, I have personally decided to avoid viscose in MAMAKU breastfeeding garments until I have the time to properly research and find the best supplier. So that I can be 100% certain that no being, no waterway or air was harmed in the process to manufacture.

Also, I feel the pull of nature and I love fibres that still have the energy and vitality of something that came from the earth. And I don’t get that feeling from viscose. It is so far removed from its natural form – bamboo or wood – so manipulated with substances I wouldn’t want to be exposed to.

I am excited to follow the technology of recycled materials, and I think if we as consumers continue to ask the hard questions and demand better processes that use less energy and create no pollution – then suppliers will catch up. Also – lets stop being a world that produces 20,000 plastic bottles per second! Don’t get me started! That’s a blog for another day!

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