Natural Fabric Clothing: The Ultimate Guide

Shopping for new clothes is something that all of us enjoy doing. We usually tend to pay more attention to the color, fit and style while pushing back the fabric’s importance.

Keep aside the fact that natural fabrics are eco-friendly and they decompose early, but it is equally important to understand that it is also help you fight ocean pollution. Confused?


Here is the truth:

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Synthetic fibers not only pollute our environment when they are manufactured, but instead, they keep on polluting our water bodies and our entire food chain to be precise!

Synthetic fabrics release as many as 700,000 microscopic plastic fibers into the environment every time you wash them.

These fibers pollute the ocean, and find their way into aquatic life like fishes, and gradually enter into our food chain, thus disturbing the entire life.

Well, you don’t need to be ignorant any longer.

In here, we have compiled everything that you need to know about natural fabrics and why you must avoid wearing synthetic fabrics, as probably, that’s the only way you can do your little bit towards environment.

About Natural Fibers How Much Do You Know About Natural and Synthetic Fabrics?

About Natural Fibers

This will surprise you:

All the fabric available in the world can be broadly classified under two heads – natural fabrics and synthetic fabrics. It does not matter whether you are considering a dress, a bed sheet, a rug or any other kind of cloth or furnishing.

The basic difference between natural and synthetic fabrics is that natural fabrics are obtained naturally through either plants or animals while synthetic fabrics are completely man-made.

Did you know: The development of weaving and spinning started as early as 3400 B.C in Egypt?

What are Natural Fibers? Natural fabrics can be found in nature through three different ways.

What are Natural Fiber

The first is the most common way i.e. through naturally growing plants. Natural fabrics like cotton, jute, and hemp are produced by growing them on trees to get the raw material which is then spun into threads or ropes which are then given the shape and texture of different kinds of fabrics.

The second way of getting natural fibers is through animals. Animals like sheep and yak are used to produce wool which is sheared off and used to produce fabrics. You will also be surprised to learn that even luxurious fabrics like silk and cashmere are natural fibers and are derived from animals.

The third way in which fibers are found naturally is when they are formed through geological processes. Though this is not a very common way to get natural fibers, you can still find some examples such as when asbestos is converted into the mineral fiber through years of geological process.

Did you know: Natural fibers came into use much before recorded history? Various vegetables fibers were even used by prehistoric people.

What Are Synthetic Fibers? Synthetic fibers are also known as man-made fibers.

What Are Synthetic Fibers

These fabrics are not found naturally in their original form but are rather made by subjecting certain other natural material to chemical processes.

The most popular and well-known synthetic fibers are, of course, polyester and nylon which are used not just for making clothes but are also popular for making several other kinds of materials where fabric is required. For example, nylon ropes, polyester sheets and the like.

There are many other synthetic fibers which are manufactured through different chemical processes. For example, fabrics like viscose and rayon are manufactured by dissolving natural materials like cellulose and then regenerating the material through chemical processes of precipitation and extrusion.

Did you know: Nylon was the first fully synthetic fiber and was developed by Wallace Carothers in 1930s?

Why Do We Need Synthetic Fibers At All? Let’s face it

Synthetic fibers have gained a lot of popularity in the last couple of decades.

Although natural fabrics are definitely considered to be a better choice for all intents and purposes, but synthetic fibers are preferred by those who want something cheaper or something more durable.

Manmade fibers are manufactured through a chemical process which is completely controlled by the production company. Therefore, you can make the necessary changes in the production process to make that fiber as tough as you want. This cannot be done with natural fibers since you cannot control how these fibers develop on the plants or animals.

Synthetic fibers are also much cheaper and can be used in a wider variety of fabrics and materials as compared to natural fibers.

Types of Natural Fabrics


As we mentioned above, natural fabrics can be found in either plants or animals.

We will first cover the natural fabrics that are derived from plants and give you a short informative description of these fabrics and why they are good for you.

Natural Fabrics Obtained From Plants


Natural Fabrics Obtained From Plants - Coir

Coir is a fiber derived from the coconut and is the most popular fabric for designing mats, carpets, baskets and even some variety of furniture.

You will find this surprising.

If you have ever seen a coconut, you would have noticed that the outer part of the coconut is quite fibrous in nature.

Coir is actually the material that is found between the outer husk of the coconut and the inner fruit.

A single coconut is constituted of about 75% coir raw material. As you can guess, coir is manufactured in countries which have an abundance of palm trees. Much of the coir of the world is produced and exported by a clutch of Asian countries like Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia. Coconut Coir

Coir is not used for manufacturing clothes. However, the mats, baskets, and furniture made from coir are considered not just durable but also environment-friendly.


Natural Fabrics Obtained From Plants - Cotton

Derived from the fluffy white boll around the seeds of the cotton plant, this is one fabric which is popular across the world.

The simple reason behind its popularity is its breathable fabric which is super comfortable for everyday wear.

Cotton is great for use in other kinds of furnishings too such as mattresses and comforters. Cotton is also a fairly versatile material and can be converted into other kinds of fabrics such as corduroy and lace.

A big advantage to using cotton clothes is that they are very low-maintenance. You can throw them in the washing machine and they never require any special precautions or care while washing, drying or ironing

Ironing guidelines: To iron cotton clothes, you can use any steam iron with a temperature of about 204 degrees C (400 F).

Decomposition time: 3 to 6 months


Natural Fabrics Obtained From Plants - Hemp

Hemp fabric is named after the plant from which it is derived and was once the most prominent material used for creating fabrics. Though its popularity took a beating due to the introduction of synthetic fibers, it has now made a comeback and is once again one of the best materials for constructing heavy fabrics like boat sails and other types of canvas.

You might not have seen this coming, but…

Hemp is also one of the preferred materials for constructing industrial materials such as high-quality ropes. Though hemp is not a very common material for manufacturing daily wear fabrics, its versatility has proved that it can definitely be used in many articles of clothing as well as shoes, bags, accessories, and homeware.

However, if you do own an article of clothing or a pair of shoes made of hemp, you have to be very careful about washing and ironing them.

Such clothes should always be washed separately by hand in cold water only. For ironing hemp, you must never use a heavy iron and keep the temperature setting at low.

Ironing guidelines: Generally, there is no need to iron hemp if you dry it flat. However, if at all, you need to do, it is highly recommended to iron when the hemp is damp.

Decomposition time: 3 to 6 months


Natural Fabrics Obtained From Plants - Jute

Jute is a fiber derived from a plant and is widely used in the textile industry. Jute fibers are originally about 1 to 4 meters in length when they are separated from the bark of the jute tree.

Their main use is in the production of sacks but these fibers have also been used in many different ways. They are used as the backing of carpets, chair coverings, curtains, and the likes.

In fact, jute is such an amazing fiber that it can even be separated out into fine threads and mixed with other kinds of natural fabrics such as cotton or silk. It is completely biodegradable.

However, you should know that jute is weakened by water and therefore any jute furnishing you own should not be cleaned with water too frequently. You can instead try cleaning it with caustic soda which will also improve its appearance.

Ironing guidelines: Use a high steam or heat setting to iron the jute. It is even better if you could cover it with a t-shirt or towel before applying heat. Keep checking the progress such that you don’t end up applying more heat than what is necessary.

Decomposition time: within few weeks to months


Natural Fabrics Obtained From Plants - Flax Linen

Linen is quite similar to cotton in its texture and composition but with some very subtle differences. For one, it is derived from the flax plant instead of the cotton plant which automatically means that its fibers are much stronger as compared to the delicate and fluffy cotton.

Linen is used to produce all kinds of clothing as well as furnishings like bed linen, towels, table runners and the likes.

Linen is also extremely comfortable for use in daily wear clothing and prevents you from feeling itchy or irritable even in the warm summer months.

Washing linen does not require any special precautions and can be easily done so in a washing machine and at any kind of water temperature.

Ironing guidelines: For ironing linen, you will need a heavy iron that can achieve the temperature of up to 230 C (445F).

Decomposition time: in a few weeks


Natural Fabrics Obtained From Plants - Chinese Nettle

Ramie is a fiber which is derived from a plant called the Chinese Nettle and is fairly similar to linen in terms of strength and durability. However, unlike linen, it has a shiny luster which makes it great for being used as a blend fabric with other natural fabrics like cotton, silk and the likes.

Ramie also has some very unique properties that make it a favorite among household fabrics. It is highly resistant to bacteria and mildew and it will not shrink even after it is washed repeatedly.

Ramie is strong even when wet and is also fairly wrinkle-proof. Washing Ramie does not require any special precautions while washing or ironing unless it has been blended with delicate fabrics like silk.

Ironing guidelines: Ramie fabrics can withstand 400 to 450 degrees F easily.



The abaca fiber which is also known as Manila Hemp is one of the strongest natural fiber. It has high tensile strength and an in-built water resistance. It is also completely biodegradable and has a longer elongation even when compared to synthetic fibers like nylon or rayon.

Abaca is produced only in humid climates such as what is found in South East Asian countries. It is no surprise, therefore, that the world’s 85% abaca supply comes from the Philippines.

Abaca is generally not used to produce clothes but it is a preferred natural fiber for manufacturing ropes, woven fabrics, tea bags, and other similar products.

Natural Fabrics Obtained From Animals Moving on, we will now introduce you to some of the best natural fabrics that are derived from animals such as sheep, silkworm and more.


Natural Fabrics Obtained From Animals - Silk Worm

You might find it a bit gross

The mulberry silk worm is the animal or rather the insect from which the best quality pure silk is produced.

Silk is a protein fiber which is obtained from the cocoons of the silkworm’s larvae. Its use in producing fabric was first discovered in China as far back as the 3rd millennium BC.

The rearing of silkworms for the purpose of extracting silk is known as Sericulture and is done both as a hobby as well as a profession by silkworm enthusiasts.

Silk is considered to be a luxury fabric and is used in high fashion clothes including party dresses, ties, dress shirts and more.

However, what people do not appreciate is the fact that silk’s properties are such that they make it an extremely comfortable fabric to wear. Its absorption capacity is such that it keeps you cool in summers. Moreover, it also stays close to the skin so that it protects your body from the cold air in the winters. Silk is, therefore, an all-season kind of fabric.

Washing and ironing silk require a lot of care as even a bit of a rough wash or a high temperature in ironing can completely ruin the cloth. Pure silk is very delicate and should be handled with extreme caution. Even silk blended with other natural fabrics is also costly and requires care.

Ironing guidelines: Since silk fabric is delicate, it must only be dry cleaned and ironed at 148 C.

Decomposition time: 6-8 months


Natural Fabrics Obtained From Animals - Sheep Wool

Wool is taken by shearing it off the backs of some specific animals like sheep, goats, camel, and llamas. All these animals have coats of thick hair strands which can easily be sheared off and then processed into thick threads of fiber. Wool is first spun into yarn which is then used to manufacture fabric.

It is the most preferred natural fiber for manufacturing warm clothes such as coats, jackets, sweaters, socks, and caps. What’s more, it is also not very expensive and is therefore available in a wide variety of styles which are used in all corners of the world.

Additionally, wool clothes do not require regular washing. However, they should always be washed in cold water with a mild liquid detergent.

Ironing guidelines: It is not necessary to iron wool unless it has developed deep wrinkles in which case you should turn the garment inside out before putting it on the ironing board at 148 C.

Decomposition time: 1 – 5 years


Lyocell is a fabric made from regenerated cellulose fibers and has a composition quite similar to rayon. However, it is not considered to be a synthetic fabric since no chemical processes are used to produce the fabric.

Moreover, the raw material from which lyocell is derived is also completely biodegradable and therefore this fabric is also considered to be eco-friendly.

Primarily, lyocell is used as a blend-in fabric with other fabrics like cotton or wool. However, what sets lyocell apart is that it can completely change the texture and feel of other fabrics when it is blended in.

It can be mixed with cotton to give a silky finish to the cloth. Similarly, it can also be mixed with wool to get a suede-like finish.

Ironing guidelines:As far as the precautions regarding washing and ironing are concerned, it all depends on what fabric it has been mixed with.


Natural Fabrics Obtained From Animals - Cashmere Goat

Cashmere is a kind of wool which gets its name from the geographical area where it comes from. This wool is derived from a special type of goat called the cashmere goats which are found in the northern most part of India.

Though it is a type of wool but it is much warmer and finer and softer than a regular sheep’s wool.

Cashmere wool is so highly valued that garments made from virgin wool are some of the most expensive pieces of clothing that you will come across in a store. In fact, cashmere is also recycled to produce new garments from old used ones.

It is really pricey and therefore you would want to take good care of those beautiful pieces of clothes. You should always wash cashmere with a gentle liquid detergent and never ever throw it in a washer or dryer unless you want to see it completely ruined.

Ironing guidelines: While ironing cashmere, you should keep the iron settings at the lowest temperature. And, use a pressing cloth between the iron and cashmere cloth for the best results.


Natural Fabrics Obtained From Animals - alpaca

Alpaca is the name of the animal from which the alpaca wool is taken. It belongs to the same family as the sheep and goat and is most commonly found in northern America.

The wool produced by the alpaca is extremely soft and luxurious. It also has a very silky texture and is highly durable, especially when compared to other kinds of wool like sheep’s wool or cashmere.

The alpaca wool can be spun into fabric quite easily. In fact, the heaviness of the fabric can be determined simply by the technique used in spinning the wool into fabric.

The wool requires some care and attention while washing and ironing. It should be soaked in gentle detergent or shampoo for cleaning before being rinsed gently. It should not be scrubbed or washed in a washing machine. It is also susceptible to moths if not being used regularly, so, you will need to take special precautions while storing it too.

Ironing guidelines: To have the best results, avoid ironing as it will crush or flatten the natural yarn pile. Steaming using a garment steamer is the better option.

Angora Wool

Natural Fabrics Obtained From Animals - Angora Rabbits

Angora wool refers to the wool that is derived from the angora rabbit. Angora wool is known for its softness and is one of the rarest and more prized wools in the world. Moreover, it is also known for its fluffy and silky texture which gives you the feeling as if you are floating. It is extremely light in weight too.

However, its lightness and fluffiness does not mean that it is not warm. Sweaters, shawls, and coats made of angora wool are the warmest that you can find and are best suited for extremely cold climates.

Angora wool is often mixed with sheep’s wool or cashmere to ensure that it is more durable and stronger.

Generally, an angora wool garment would have anywhere between a 30 to 50% mix of regular wool. Angora wool clothes should be washed by hand only. They should not be tumble dried.

Ironing guidelines: They do not require any ironing as any creases will be straightened if the garment is laid out flat to dry.


Natural Fabrics Obtained From Animals - Angora Goat

Mohair is similar to angora wool and people often tend to confuse one with the other. The most distinguishing point between the two is that while angora wool is taken from the angora rabbit, the mohair wool is taken from the angora goat.

Mohair is known for its high luster and sheen while being extremely durable and strong in composition. It is not as soft as angora wool but still makes for some of the warmest winter clothes that you can have in your wardrobe.

The hair taken from the young mohair goats is used to produce fine pieces of clothing. On the other hand, the hair taken from older goats is coarser and thicker and is used for manufacturing heavy outer clothing or other furnishings like carpets.

Washing mohair clothes require much the same precautions as those followed for any delicate fabric like silk or angora wool.

Ironing guidelines: Avoid ironing. However, you can use your iron at ‘steam settings’ to get rid of minor wrinkles and irregularities.

Benefits of using natural fiber clothing Make a Switch to Natural Fiber Clothing


Synthetic fibers may be cheaper than natural fibers but they should be avoided at any cost, especially for your daily clothing requirements. Below are the top reasons why you should immediately switch to natural fiber clothing.

Natural fibers are good for sensitive skin. Since they are manufactured by spinning naturally occurring fibers, they are free from any kind of chemical process. As a result, they cause no harm to skin. On the other hand, synthetic fibers can cause itchiness, rashes and more skin problems, especially if you already have sensitive skin. Natural fibers are good for sensitive skin

Natural fibers are less toxic for the simple reason that they do not contain any chemical in them. Fabrics like nylon and polyester are manufactured from petroleum by-products, so you can well imagine how toxic they can turn out to be for your health. Natural fibers are less toxic

When it comes to sustainability, natural fibers obviously take precedence over synthetic fibers. Since these fibers are found naturally in the environment, they are very much eco-friendly and most of these fibers are either biodegradable or recyclable. Natural Fibers are Biodegradable

The bottom line here is that the natural fibers also prove to be a better investment because they tend to last much longer without getting worn out. Synthetic fibers are cheaper but most of those fabrics are not durable and do not give you good value for your money.

Facts and figures: In 2016,45 million households produced cotton, 6 million produced jute and other similar fibers, around 5 million produced wool, while 1 million produced coir and other natural fibers such as Silk, Sisal, Hemp and others?

Here is the Important Part: How to Clean/Wash Natural Fabrics


Natural fabrics require special attention while cleaning which can make them last much longer while retaining their original luster and quality. Although each kind of natural fabric has its own set of special precautions to be followed, the following are some of the more general tips that you must follow while cleaning any kind of natural fabric from wool to silk to cotton.

1. Restrict the use of washing machines

Restrict the use of washing machines

Washing machines are time saving and efficient. However, delicate fabrics like silk and angora wool should never be put into a washing machine but should always be rinsed gently with hand. You can, of course, use the washing machine to wash stronger fabrics like cotton or linen.

2. Learn how to dry the clothes

Learn how to dry the clothes

Each kind of fabric requires a different drying technique. Cotton clothes can be dried by using the machine tumble dryer. However, delicate fabrics like silk should always be hung up to dry using a drying stand or a cloth line and should not be wrung. Any woolen clothes, irrespective of the kind of wool used, should always be laid out flat to dry instead of being hung up

3. Use a gentle or mild soap

Use a gentle or mild soap

Make sure that you do not use a powerful detergent to wash natural fiber clothes such as silk, wool or cashmere. Liquid detergents are always the more preferred option. You can also go for regular or baby shampoos for washing natural fiber fabrics.

4. When in doubt, dry-clean


If you own a really costly piece of natural fiber clothing such as an angora wool coat, it is always a good idea to get it cleaned at a professional dry cleaner rather than experimenting with the cleaning process at home. For expensive silk items too, the rule should be dry-cleaning only.

5. Limit exposure to the sun

Limit exposure to the sun

Hanging out clothes to dry in the sun may seem like a good idea when you cannot tumble dry them. However, over-exposure to the sun will also harm the natural fibers and strip away their quality. Make sure that you hang out the clothes in a shaded area so that they are dried by the wind rather than the sun.

Fabrics That You Should Avoid Wearing


Now that you know how beneficial it is to wear only natural fabrics, it is also a good idea to know which fabrics you should avoid buying or wearing.



Manufactured through the chemical processing of petroleum products, polyester is one of the most harmful fabrics that you can use. Not only should polyester clothes be avoided at all costs, it is also recommended that you do not use any polyester blend items either whether it bed sheets or any other kind of furnishing that comes in direct contact with your skin.



Another fabric that is manufactured by using petroleum products, nylon is one of the most toxic fabrics as it is loaded with chemicals. It should particularly be avoided around babies and toddlers as well as those who are sensitive to skin infections.



Acrylic fibers are polyacrylonitriles which is one of the major cancer-causing agents according to EPA. Imagine how horrible it would be if you were to contract this life-threatening disease just because you did not switch your acrylic sweater for a natural wool one.



Though rayon is not as toxic as nylon and acrylic, it is still a synthetically produced fabric made from recycled wood pulp. It is more sustainable than other man-made fabrics but is still a far cry from the pure natural fiber fabrics like cotton, silk, and cashmere.

Acetate and Triacetate


These fibers are generally used as a blend with natural fibers to bring down the overall cost of the final product. However, they too are produced through recycled wood cellulose and can be harmful to the skin as well as to the environment.

How to Pick the Right Fabric for Your Garment?


It takes some practice and an experienced hand to recognize the difference between a pure natural fiber fabric and a synthetic or blended fabric. However, you can start off by keeping in mind the following tips which are sure to guide you in picking out the right fabric for your wardrobe:

When shopping for knitwear, go for lamb’s wool, angora wool or alpaca sweaters and jackets as they are bound to look good and keep you really warm. Avoid the polyester or acrylic woolens as they shrink on wash and are not as warm.
Silk clothes look good and feel great against your skin. However, they do tend to crease up really quickly, so make sure you keep that in mind before picking out a selection of silk blouses or dresses.
Cotton should always be preferred for any kind of day wear as it keeps you cool and lets your skin breathe.
If you are going for a linen fabric, make sure that it is nothing less than 100% linen as even a slight blend of another fabric takes away many of the advantages of pure linen fabric.
Go for a woven fabric where the threads go from left to right and up to down. This kind of fabric is much more durable and does not shrink on a wash.