Fibers are natural or chemical structures that can be spun into yarns.
Yarns then can be weaved, knitted, or bonded into fabrics. Fiber properties
and behavior are directly related to fabric performance and care. Learning
about fibers and their characteristics will help you to understand fabrics
Four major natural fibers and 23 man-made fibers are available. Natural
fibers come from plants and animals. The plant fibers---cotton and linen---are
made of cellulose. Animal fibers, silk and wool, are made of protein.
Two classes of man-made fibers are those adapted from cellulose (cellulosic)
and those made entirely of chemicals (noncellulosic). Noncellulosic man-made
fibers often are called synthetics.
Each fiber is identified by a generic name. The Textile Fiber Products
Identification Act that officially established the generic fiber classifications
became effective in 1960. All fibers (natural or man-made), yarns, fabrics,
and household textile articles (includes articles of wearing apparel,
draperies, floorcoverings, furnishings, beddings, and other textiles customarily
used in a household), are covered by this Act.
Generic names are assigned by the Federal Trade Commission and are used
to classify fibers according to their organic composition. The generic
or official name is the key word you need to know and understand.
The Identification Act also stipulates that the product must be labeled.
The label must name the manufacturer, the country where processed or manufactured,
and the generic names and percentages of all fibers in the product in
amounts of five percent or more listed in order of predominance by weight.
Fibers present to the extent of less than five percent may be listed as
"other fiber" or "other fibers."
Some fabrics are made from a blend of two or more fibers. The fiber making
up at least 50 percent of the blend will most influence fabric characteristics.
In addition to generic names, there are hundreds of trade names or trademarks.
A trade name or trademark is the word or symbol used by fiber producers
to distinguish their products from the products of other manufacturers.
The trademark is registered with the U.S. Patent Office, and the fiber
manufacturer who produced that fiber is the only one allowed to use the
registered name. For examples, polyester is the fiber or generic name,
and Dacron is a company trademark for polyester; acrylic is the fiber
or generic name, and Orlon is a company trademark for acrylic.
A basic understanding of fibers, in terms of their characteristics, uses,
and care requirements will help you make wise choices when purchasing
textile and clothing products.
|Cotton, Linen, Silk, and Wool
||Strong, absorbent, comfortable, and versatile. Wrinkles easily.
May shrink unless treated. Sensitive to mildew and to silverfish.
||Blouses, dresses, shirts, sportswear, underwear, diapers, towels,
curtains, and upholstery. Found in fabrics such as broadcloth,
poplin, terry, corduroy, seersucker, and denim. Found in fabric
blends with man-made and other natural fibers.
||Machine wash in hot water for white and warm water for colored
fabrics. Many brightly colored cottons have dyes that may bleed
in wash water or rub off during wearing. To help control dye loss,
wash separately. Press at high temperature while damp.
||Very absorbent, strong, and durable. Sometimes stiff and wrinkles
easily. Generally resists insects. Sensitive to mildew.
||Blouses, dresses, suits, draperies, and table linens. Found
in light-, medium-, and heavy-weight woven fabrics.
||Most must be dry-cleaned. If preshrunk, can be laundered in
hot water; press at high temperature while very damp.
||Strong, absorbent, soft, and lightweight. Resists soil and wrinkling.
Sensitive to perspiration, moths, and beetles. Some silks may
||Blouses, dresses, suits, scarves, and lingerie. Found in fabrics
such as crepe, brocade, satin, and taffeta.
||Most must be dry-cleaned. If washable, use cool temperatures
and mild detergent. Press on wrong side while damp, using cool
temperature. Do not use chlorine bleach.
||A natural insulator, can be easily molded and shaped, absorbent,
resilient, and wrinkle-resistant. Sensitive to mildew, moths,
||Sweaters, socks, sportswear, dresses, suits, blankets, and carpets.
Found in light-, medium-, and heavy-weight, woven, nonwoven, and
||Most must be dry-cleaned. If machine washable, use warm water
and tumble dry. If hand washable, use mild suds and cool water;
block flat to dry. Do not use chlorine bleach.
Trademark names: Airloft, Celebrate, Chromspun, Estron
|Silk-like, soft, and drapable. Relatively fast drying. Shrink
and moth resistant. Sensitive to heat, silverfish, mildew, and
acetone (nail polish remover).
||Blouses, dresses, foundation garments, lingerie, linings, shirts,
slacks, and sportswear. Found in fabrics such as brocade, crepe,
double knit, faille, jersey, lace, satin, taffeta, tricot, and
in blends with other man-made fibers.
||Most must be dry-cleaned. If washable, use gentle cycle, mild
detergent, and warm water. Drip dry and press with low temperature
on wrong side while damp. Use a fabric softener to reduce static
cling. Can lose body during laundering process.
Trademark names: Acrilan, Creslan, Orlon, Remember, Zefran
|Soft, warm, bulky properties resembling wool. Retains shape,
dries quickly, and is wrinkle-resistant. Resists sunlight, mildew,
and insects. Sometimes has the tendency to pill. Sensitive to
||Dresses, infant wear, knitted garments, skirts, ski wear, socks,
sportswear, sweaters, and work clothes. Found in fabrics such
as fleece, pile, simulated fur, sweater knit, and in blends with
natural and other man-made fibers.
||Usually machine washable and dryable at medium to low temperatures.
Dries quickly and needs little or no pressing. Oily stains need
pretreatment before washing. When pressing, use warm (not hot)
Trademark names: Kevlar, Nomex.
|Highly flame-resistant, high strength, and maintains shape.
||Protective clothing, military helmets, bullet-proof vests, and
applications where fire-resistance is important.
Trademark name: SEF
|Soft, resilient, quick-drying, and flame-resistant. Resists
mildew and moths. Sensitive to heat and acetone (nail polish remover),
collects static electricity, may pill excessively, and is nonabsorbent.
||Children's sleepwear, blankets, deep-pile coats, linings, simulated
fur, wigs, and hair pieces. Found in industrial, deep-pile, fleece,
and fur-like fabrics.
||Use low temperatures for washing and pressing.
Trademark names: Anso, Antron, Cantrece, Shareen, Tolaram,
|Exceptionally strong and durable. Abrasion resistant, retains
shape, and is resistant to moths and mildew. Absorbs and holds
body oils, collects static electricity, tends to yellow, may pill,
and has low moisture absorbency. Sensitive to some insects (ants,
crickets, and roaches).
||Blouses, dresses, foundation garments, hosiery, lingerie, underwear,
raincoats, ski and snow apparel, suits, windbreakers, bedspreads,
curtains, and upholstery. Found in a range of woven and knitted
fabrics. Also found in blends with natural and other man-made
||Machine washable and dryable at medium to low temperatures.
Hang promptly. Wash whites separately because they tend to pick
up colors from other fabrics. Pretreat oil stains. Rinse with
cold water to minimize wrinkling. Use fabric softener to reduce
Trademark names: Avtex, Herculon, Marvess, Spectra, Tolaram
|Strong, lightweight, comfortable, and good insulator. Abrasion-resistant
and quick-drying. Resistant to mildew, insects, soils, and stains.
Sensitive to heat, and may pill.
||Pantyhose, underwear, knitted sportswear, hosiery, sweaters,
upholstery, and hunting apparel. Found in industrial apparel and
home furnishing fabrics.
||Machine washable and dryable at low temperatures. Do not iron.
Blot stains with absorbent tissue. Rinse in cold water to minimize
wrinkling. Use fabric softener to reduce static cling.
Trademark names: PBI, Arozole
|Highly flame-resistant and comfortable.
||Suitable for high performance, protective apparel such as fireman's
coats, astronaut's space suits, and applications where fire-resistance
Trademark names: Dacron, Fortrel, Kodel, Silky Touch, Trevira
|Strong and resists wrinkling, abrasion, shrinking, stretching,
and mildew. Generally insect-resistant. Collects static electricity,
sensitive to heat, absorbs and holds body oils, and may pill.
||Blouses, shirts, dresses, children's wear, hosiery, insulated
garments, ties, lingerie, underwear, permanent press garments,
slacks, and suits. Found in a range of woven and knitted fabrics.
Also found in blends with natural and other man-made fibers.
||Superior wash and wear performance. Machine wash and dry at
medium to low temperatures. Hang promptly; press only if necessary.
Pretreat oily stains. Rinse in cold water to minimize wrinkling.
Use fabric softener to reduce static cling.
Trademark names: Avril, Beau-Grip, Courcel, Durvil, Zantrel
|Highly absorbent, soft, comfortable, and drapable. Some rayons
wrinkle easily and become weak when wet. Sensitive to mildew and
||Blouses, coats, dresses, jackets, lingerie, linings, millinery,
draperies, rainwear, slacks, sport shirts, sportswear, suits,
ties, work clothes, and upholstery. Found in a range of woven
and nonwoven apparel and home furnishing fabrics.
||Follow care label instructions precisely. Some rayons may need
to be dry-cleaned. Some are washable but do not wring or twist.
Drip dry and press on wrong side while damp.
Trademark name: Lycra
|Strong, durable, lightweight, and high degree of stretch. Resists
wrinkling, abrasion, and body oils. Tends to yellow with time.
||Athletic apparel, bathing suits, foundation garments, golf jackets,
ski pants, slacks, support and surgical hose, and any fabric or
garment where elasticity is desired.
||Machine wash and dry at low temperatures. Wash whites separately.
Drip dry or machine dry at low temperature. Do not use chlorine
Trademark name: Arnel
|Drapable. Resists shrinking, stretching, and wrinkling. Low
strength. Sensitive to heat, mildew, silverfish, and acetone (nail
||Dresses, skirts, sportswear, draperies, and upholstery. Also,
found in blends with other man-made fibers.
||Machine wash using gentle cycle, mild detergent, and warm water.
Drip dry or machine dry at low temperature.
By Beth Duncan, Extension Clothing Specialist Mississippi State University