What are Synthetic Fibers?
Le synthetic fibers are those fibers produced using materials derived from petroleum. They are often confused with artificial fibers, which are however created in the laboratory like the synthetic ones, but using one or more materials of natural origin.
In the last few years synthetic fibers they have conquered a large slice of the global fashion market, above all thanks to the low cost of production and the possibility of “donating” unique qualities to garments.
For example, if we want to create a waterproof fiber, if we want to make it more breathable, or increase its thermoregulation, we can do it thanks to chemistry, creating a fiber that has exactly the required characteristics.
Something not always possible with natural fibers, which have had the same characteristics for millennia. Unless they are mixed with synthetic fibers, or with the aid of Nanotechnology, operations that allow natural fibers to obtain nuove peculiar characteristics, in addition to those already provided by mother nature.
What are Synthetic Fibers?
Le synthetic fibers they derive mostly from oil, or rather from by-products of this terrestrial resource. They exist in many variations and with different names, but the thing that unites most of them is the damage caused to our ecosystem.
These are the best known synthetic fibers, to have a complete list (including their suppliers) Access the Course on Sustainable Fashion.
Ecological Synthetic Fibers
There are synthetic fibers that contribute to environmental pollution (most of them) and what we define instead ecological synthetic fibers, as Econyl e Newlife, or other forms of nylon e recycled polyester. But when can we define a synthetic fiber as ecological?
There is no rule about it, but from our point of view the ecological synthetic fibers derive 100% from recycled plastic materials, fishing nets, plastic bottles, discarded carpets, industrial waste. Unless we're talking about BioPlastics, but we talk about these materials on the dedicated page.
Le textile certifications however, they remain the starting point for talking about ecological fabrics, regardless of the material used. A ecological synthetic fiber it must be produced in Europe, which implies compliance with the regulations REACH, and must be certified Oeko-Tex, which guarantees that no chemicals that are toxic to the environment or dangerous to human health are used during production.
Certification PSV Plastic Second Life and that GRS Global Recycle Standard are an added value to ecological synthetic fibers, since these guarantee that the material used to produce the synthetic fiber is at least partly of recycled origin (circular fashion).
If on the one hand we can consider the recycled synthetic fibers more ecological, and also more ethical since low-cost labor is not used (unlike cotton, for example). On the other hand these fibers release microplastics with each wash.
Elastic Synthetic Fibers
Le elastic synthetic fibers on the market they are called Elastam, Lycra and Spandex, clearly all synonyms of a synthetic textile fiber with elastic properties. These are the most used synthetic fibers, which man can hardly give up as there are no natural fibers with similar characteristics.
Forces make things move, but they can also stretch things, squeeze them and change their shape. A rubber ball changes shape when force is used to squeeze it, but returns to its original shape when you stop squeezing.
The materials that allow this action have the famous "elastic properties". They are made up of molecules that can detach from each other. Other materials, such as plasticine, change shape easily when a force is applied, but do not revert to their original shape when the force is no longer applied. In this case we are talking about plastic and non-elastic materials.
Hence, the elastic synthetic fibers refer to textile fibers which can stretch without breaking the fabric, easily returning to its original shape. These provide clothing and accessories with the comfort and fitting much in demand in fashion.
The elasticity of the fabrics depends on the percentage of elastic fiber used during weaving. The higher the percentage of elastic fiber used, the greater the elasticity of an item of clothing.
In fact, elastic fibers are used to give elastic properties to rigid fabrics, even to fabrics of natural origin such as linen, hemp, ramia, etc, mixing them with variable percentages that usually range from 2% to 15% of elastic fiber.
How Synthetic Fibers are born
Le synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyester are by-products of the oil industry, unlike natural textile fibers such as cotton, hemp, silk and wool, which are extracted from plants, or taken from animals. Or unlike artificial textile fibers, which are produced using a natural raw material such as cellulose.
Synthetic textile fibers are useful, as they offer different and improvable properties compared to natural fibers. Plastic raincoats, for example, or elastic fibers such as Lycra and Elastam, cannot be made with natural fibers.
The starting point, for most of the synthetic fibers, is a liquid made from by-products of coal, oil or natural gas. The liquid is forced through the thin holes of a nozzle called a spinneret. When the liquid emerges from the holes it is cooled so that it solidifies to form thin threads. These are spun together to make a 100% synthetic fiber, or blended with other fibers to make blended fabrics.
La first synthetic fiber in the world, nylon, was developed in 1938. Long chains of molecules, called polyamides, are created by heating a polymer solution to 260 ° C. The liquid is forced through a spinneret and threads are treated in a cooling bath. Subsequently, the Nylon threads are intertwined to make fabrics for dresses and other applications, even outside of fashion.
Synthetic Fiber Clothing
THEsynthetic fiber clothing it is mainly composed of polyester and microfibers of various kinds. Let's talk about polyester clothing, as it is certainly the most popular synthetic fabric.
Polyester is the result of a chemical reaction between acid and alcohol. The manufacturing process varies greatly depending on the manufacturer, and specifications are often kept secret due to competition between different multinationals.
Polyester is stronger and more durable than many natural fibers on the market. Polyester is resistant to stretch, shrinkage and wrinkles. Unfortunately, it also maintains the "typical" characteristics of plastic, it is not breathable and is not suitable for the summer months.
However, science has patented very breathable technical microfibre fabrics.
Le synthetic fibers they are easily "treatable" and keep their shapes well even after several washes, as well as drying quickly. Since they are chemically created, the toxic substances used during the various manufacturing processes can cause irritation and become a cause of discomfort for the skin.
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