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Artificially green – independent findings of bamboo and cotton sateen fabrics

Before coming to India this time I was asked to investigate some other natural fabrics, bamboo and cotton sateen, for other companies in Europe where I am based. I love natural fabrics so took up this challenge with great pleasure. Both these fabrics are incredibly soft and pliable and I was looking forward to using them myself. However upon my findings have decided to touch neither as although made from natural materials at the start, the process they both go through to become so soft and pliable is another environmental disaster.

Bamboo, mostly known as bamboo rayon, goes through the viscose process, another fabric that I thought was natural as it’s made from wood pulp. In this process the bamboo is first purified and bleached before being soaked in sodium hydroxide and then treated with carbon disulphide and spun in a solution of sulphuric acid, sodium sulphate, zinc sulphate and glucose. The toxicity of viscose water has high levels of bio-chemically degradable substances, organic matter, nitrates, phosphates, zinc, iron, oil and grease making the effluent completely devoid of micro organisms and oxygen.

While bamboo is a sustainable raw product, processing it into a fabric for clothing involves so many chemicals in order to get a continuous filament with desired qualities for it’s use as a fabric I have decided it’s not something I want to use.

So on to the other fabric cotton sateen. Sateen is made using the the satin weave structure and made with spun yarns instead of filaments. The sheen and softer feel of sateen is produced through the satin weave structure where the warp yarns are floated over the weft yarns and a high thread count. It’s almost as popular as Egyptian cotton and apparently sells nearly at the same price. All sounds great so far?

The problem though, unlike typical cotton, cotton sateen is treated using a chemical process called mercerisation, it’s where the threads have a sodium hydroxide bath that is then neutralised with an acid bath which strips of the outer layer of the fabric leaving it with a sheen and texture similar to satin and making it more porous for the colourful dyes which are often of the chemIcal sort.

Where do all these chemicals end up? Usually in someone’s water supply and I can hear some of you say, India is a long way from us but no think about it. We live on a globe with countries and continents all surrounded by sea and oceans with different names but they all join up somewhere along the line. There is only one planet for us to live on and it really is time to make a conscious choice of what we use and each individual has the responsibility and the power to change this by refusing to consume such falsely named eco-friendly materials.

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