things to pay attention to when buying clothes

What should you pay attention to when purchasing clothing? What are common types of fabric materials? (Part 1)

What are the common types of fabric materials?


When you buy clothes, you only look at the style and price? After you go home, you just put the clothes into the washing machine and then find that it has shrunk or transferred color to other clothes? When buying clothes, you can’t just look at the style. Find the comfortable material and fabric that suits you, and check the recommended washing instruction on the label before laundering. This can prevent the washing machine from becoming a big dyeing vat! This article will teach you how to buy comfortable clothes, and tell you how to wash clothes to prolong the life of clothes!


1. Check the fiber composition of clothing and distinguish the material

Thanks to advanced technology, some fabrics feel as comfortable as wool, but they are actually made of acrylic fiber, a synthetic fiber that will cause static electricity in winter, or make your skin too dry and itchy . When buying clothes, you should check the composition label first and choose the fabric that suits your skin.

The higher the proportion of synthetic fibers, the lower the price of clothing will be, but the clothing made of synthetic fibers is not as comfortable as pure cotton. We recommend you to choose a fabric that suits your skin type to avoid irritating your skin.


Common fabric materials

Fabrics can be simply classified as natural fiber fabrics and synthetic fiber fabrics; Below we will introduce many types of fibers under these two classifications.


Natural fiber fabric

As the saying goes: Natural is the best. In today’s society, apparel industry care more and more about sustainability and eco-friendly. People are aware now that fast fashion has significant harm to the environment and prefer to buy clothes made of traditional natural fiber that are not chemically processed, harmless to the skin, and recyclable. Generally natural fibers can be subdivided into three types: animal fibers, plant fibers, and mineral fibers:


1. Animal Fiber fabrics

Animal fibers are fibers obtained from animals or secreted by insect silk glands, which belong to natural protein fibers. This kind of protein fiber has excellent water absorption/hygroscopicity, and the clothes made of it have a good thermal effect; it is soft and comfortable to touch, light and not easy to generate static electricity, and has good dyeability, which is suitable for making various dyed fabrics. Wool and silk fiber are two common types of animal fibers.


  • Wool

Wool is the fine, soft curly or wavy hair forming the coat of a sheep, goat, or similar animal, especially when shorn and prepared for use in making cloth or yarn. It’s usually collected by herdsmen in spring and autumn. The space between the wool fibers helps control and regulate body temperature, which means that it’ll keep you warm when you feel cold and keep you cool when you feel hot. Wool has excellent heat retention, moisture absorption and wrinkle resistance after being made into fabric. The surface layer of sheep is usually thick and dull, so the clothing made with this kind of wool is usually rough and itchy. People with sensitive skin should try it on first to confirm whether it is acceptable. Merino wool is the finest wool fiber grown by Merino sheep and it has become the world’s most recognized wool. In 1797, the first Merino sheep, derived from the famed Royal Merino Flocks of Spain, were introduced into Australia. At present, Australian Merino has played a significant role in fashion. Merino wool has better perspiration effect than ordinary wool, and is often used for outdoor clothing which requires excellent wicking function. Cashmere wool is also famous in the world. It’s actually not the hair of sheep but the hair of certain goats (e.g. Cashmere goats and Pashmina goats). Cashmere wool is collected during moulting season in spring when the goats shed their winter coat naturally. The herdsmen in some countries remove the wool by hand with a coarse comb which helps collecting a higher yield of pure cashmere. Others shear the goats which results in a higher coarse hair content and lower pure cashmere yield. Pure cashmere is rare and expensive and is usually used for making smaller garments like scarves, socks and shawls.



<Wool is soft and fluffy>


  • Silk

Silk is the thinnest long fiber among natural fibers. It is produced by silkworms and certain insect larvae when secreting to make cocoons. In ancient times, only members of the royal family or rich men could wear silk. Silk is very soft and shiny. Due to small output, it has always been a high-priced textile material in the market. With good air permeability and high heat retention, silk can be worn either in winter or summer. Compared with wool, silk is not easy to pill, but it has poor elasticity and is easy to wrinkle. It can’t return to its original shape after being stretched or crumpled. Silk is often used in luxury textile products such as pajamas, bed sheets or silk scarves that have close contact with the skin.


silk pillowcase and cover

<Silk products wrinkle easily>


The disadvantage of animal fiber fabrics is that the price is usually high; and because of its hygroscopic property, animal fiber can be degraded by bacteria or be eaten by insect if not properly stored. Wool or silk need professional cleaning and can’t dry in direct sunlight. The fabrics might get wrinkled or shrunk without proper care. If you must wash in the machine at home, we recommend washing at low temperature with special laundry detergent and dry on a gentle cycle. Placing the clothing in a mesh bag to protect them from agitation and friction that can cause pilling.


2. Plant Fiber

Plant fiber, as the name suggests, is fiber extracted from plants, which belongs to natural cellulose fiber. Compared with animal fibers, these fibers are more resistant to insects and are suitable for washing by machine and ironing. They are not prone to static electricity due to their good electrical conductivity. According to the growth part, it is divided into seed fiber, bast fiber, etc., and the two are represented by cotton and linen.


  • Cotton fabrics

Cotton is a seed fiber, that is, it is generated through plant epidermal cells. It is a short fiber that grows around cotton plant seeds. It is a very important natural plant fiber in textiles. It has a wide range of uses. Cotton fabrics include pure cotton (100% Cotton) Or blended cotton (CVC or TC) with synthetic fibers (Polyester). The longer the cotton fiber, the higher the price. Egyptian cotton has the longest fiber length and has the title of platinum in cotton. Other common cottons include American cotton, Chinese cotton, Indian cotton, etc. At present, most of the cotton used in the apparel industry is obtained through traditional farming. Cotton fabrics are comfortable and soft, breathable and absorbent (but cannot be as quick-drying as wool fibers or chemical fibers). Cotton is not resistant to acid, so sweat or acidic liquids are easy to penetrate into the fibers. It is recommended to wash the clothes as soon as possible if stained or getting wet by sweat. Cotton clothes tend to shrink or wrinkle, so they need to be ironed after washing to keep them flat.


Cotton fabrics

<The longer the cotton fiber, the higher the price>


  • Linen

Linen is bast fiber or stem fiber, which is obtained from the phloem/stem of hemp tree. Linen is durable and has a cold touch. There are many types of linen, including flax, ramie, abalone, jute, hemp, etc. Among them, flax is an excellent clothing fiber due to its finer fibers than other hemp species. Flax was widely cultivated in ancient Egypt (mummy wrap is just made of flax). The ancient Egyptians believed that linen was a symbol of purity, so they called it “woven moonlight”. Flax can range from stiff and rough to soft and smooth. The finer and softer the hemp fiber, the higher the quality of the linen. Compared with cotton, linen is cool and quick drying, breathable, and do not cling to skin. So linen is very suitable for summer clothing. The disadvantage is that linen has poor elasticity and can’t retain heat in winter.



<There are many kinds of linen>


Generally speaking, because of the high density of plant fibers, the fabrics made of plant fibers is basically heavier than other fibers.

Although cotton or linen is more resistant to washing and durable, it is necessary to pay attention to the shrinkage, especially the shrinkage rate of pure cotton and pure linen materials.


3. Mineral Fiber

Mineral fibers are fibers produced from minerals and are a type of inorganic fibers. It does not belong to the common fiber type of fashion apparel industry. The most common mineral fiber is asbestos.


  • Asbestos/Asbestos

Asbestos is used in special textiles, automobiles, and construction industries because of its fire resistance and insulation properties. Special textiles include asbestos fireproof clothing, asbestos gloves, asbestos boots, etc., which are used for fireproof and high temperature safety equipment and clothing in chemical plants, glass factories and other places.

A special reminder about asbestos is that although it has good fire resistance and low price, it has also been confirmed internationally that asbestos is a first-class carcinogen. The incubation period of related diseases is as high as more than 20 years. Since the 1970s, countries have enacted legislation to gradually reduce mass production or imports of asbestos. Taiwan has also banned asbestos in 2018. However, when the old buildings are damaged or disassembled, it is necessary to pay attention to exposure to asbestos dust.


Synthetic fiber fabric

General synthetic fibers can be subdivided into three types: regenerated fibers, synthetic fibers, and inorganic fibers:


1. Regenerated Fiber

Regenerated fiber fabric is a material obtained from natural fibers (including plant fiber and protein fibers) after chemical processing. Its composition is still similar to that of natural fibers, but the structure has been changed, which usually makes the fabrics stronger. Famous ones in the textile industry are rayon and Tencel®.


  • Rayon / Viscose

Longer fiber is called Rayon and shorter fiber is called Viscose. Rayon is a natural cellulose (such as wood, cotton, etc.) melted and treated with chemicals and then spun into yarns. It is similar to cotton but brighter, often blended with cotton. The advantages of rayon are soft, smooth, breathable, easy to dye (but with poor color fastness). Rayon is suitable for making pajamas or other textiles that have contact with the skin; the disadvantages are easy to wrinkle and shrink in washing, so dry cleaning is required.


  • Tencel®

In Taiwan, you often see bedding or textile products advertised as “Tencel®”, but “Tencel®” is not actually the name of a fiber, but a brand name. Originally, a British company, Acocdis, registered the brand name “Tencel®” for the “Lyocell® fiber” produced by the company. At the same time, Lenzing company in Australia also produced Lyocell fiber with the brand name “Lenzing Lyocell”; then in 2004, Lenzing merged with Acocdis, and “Tencel®” officially became the registered trademark of Lyocell fiber products produced by Lenzing.


There are two types of wood fiber products under the Tencel® brand: Lyocell fiber and Modal fiber. Tencel® products advertise the use of sustainable natural wood pulp raw materials, and the solvent used in the process can also be recycled. It is a production process that takes into account environmental protection and sustainable development. Among them, Modal fiber uses renewable beech wood, and Lyocell fiber also stipulates that its raw materials must be from forests that have been certified by the Forest Standards Committee, and the solvent uses NMMO solvent (NMMO) with high recovery characteristics. – methyl morphine-N-oxide). Tencel® products have silk-like smoothness, breathability, antibacterial and dust-mite-proof, so it’s also known as cheap silk. It’s often used for pajamas and home textiles. In terms of fiber strength and environmental protection, the order of advantages of wood fiber products is: Lyocell > Modal > rayon. Therefore, for products such as mattresses and bedding that require strong fiber support, Lyocell fibers would work best.


Regenerated fibers originated from solving and improving the shortcomings of natural fibers. Later, they were impacted by the rapid development of synthetic fiber technology, so their development was relatively stagnant. However, with the rise of environmental protection awareness, recycled fiber fabrics have once again received attention.


2. Synthetic Fiber

The raw materials come from petrochemical products, and the purpose of development is to improve the characteristics of natural fibers that are not easy to store and require special washing. Therefore, synthetic fibers are more long lasting than natural fibers in terms of durability, and are not as susceptible to insect pests as natural fibers. In addition, in terms of output and price, synthetic fibers have made it continue to occupy an unshakable position in the textile and apparel industry since its development.


The following are four common synthetic fibers.


  • Polyester fabric

Polyester fiber is the most commonly used synthetic fiber. With high strength, wrinkle resistance, durable and good color fastness after dyeing, it is often used in outdoor clothing. With special post-processing treatment, it can be added UV resistance, windproof, waterproof and other functions. In addition, since the melting point of polyester is high, it can withstand the high temperature of digital print or heat transfer. The disadvantage of polyester fiber is that it is more prone to static electricity, so in Europe and the United States, where it is relatively dry, polyester fiber is less popular; instead, nylon is more likely to be used in making clothes than polyester fiber.


  • Acrylic fabric

Acrylic fiber is polyacrylonitrile (PAN), also known as artificial wool. It was developed to substitute wool since wool is expensive. It is the most successful and most wool-like synthetic fiber among all man-made fibers. The advantage is that it is light in weight, not easy to shrink and wrinkled, and does not require special dry cleaning. In recent years, through continuous improvement of technology, acrylic fiber can almost replace rabbit hair and wool. Its soft hand feel makes it difficult to identify whether it’s real animal fiber or acrylic fiber. Its heat retention performance can be even better than wool, but much cheaper than wool. So acrylic fiber is widely used in thermal underwear or clothing. The disadvantage is that the sweater made of pure acrylic fiber is easy to generate static electricity and pilling, so it is usually blended with wool (such as 30% wool + 70% acrylic fiber) to improve the pilling problem.


  • Nylon fabric (Polyamide)

Nylon fiber is the earliest synthetic fiber used. It was developed in order to replace silk. It has become very popular and widely used after being made into stockings. Nylon is smooth, shiny and with good hand feeling. Because nylon fiber is stronger, more durable and stretchable than polyester, it’s often used in stockings, elastic headbands, etc., and often blended with Spandex. The disadvantage is that it is less resistant to light and heat, and has poor water absorption.


  • Spandex fabric (Elastane)

Spandex, also known as Lycra, has excellent elasticity and is one of the synthetic fibers. Due to its characteristics, it is often used in medical suits, bandages, swimwear, sports shorts, legging and other textile products that require high elasticity. It is also often blended with other natural fibers or synthetic fibers, such as ear loops on masks, which are often blended with Spandex and other fibers.


Spandex legging

<Spandex is widely used in leggings and stockings>


Compared with natural fibers, the disadvantage of synthetic fibers is that it is easy to cause allergic or dry itching reactions on the skin, and static electricity is also easily generated when rubbing. The most criticized problem is its pollution to the environment. Because synthetic fibers are not like natural fibers, they can’t be naturally decomposed and biodegraded. While the fast fashion industry is booming, consumers often buy new clothes before the fabric is damaged, which results in more and more synthetic fiber fabrics being disposed, and causes more and more serious environmental issues.


3. Inorganic Fiber

Inorganic fibers refer to fibers whose raw materials are derived from minerals. According to different raw materials, inorganic fibers can be divided into natural inorganic substances (such as mineral fibers mentioned above) and carbon-containing polymers. Here, it refers specifically to inorganic fibers in man-made fibers. Glass fiber and carbon fiber are two common types of inorganic fibers.


  • Glass Fiber

Non-metallic materials obtained from waste glass or glass balls are excellent substitute raw materials to metal. It has high tensile strength, good heat resistance and reasonable price, and is mostly used in heat insulation, sound insulation, construction and other fields. At present, glass fiber filaments are classified as Category 3 carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).


  • Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber is a polymer fiber with a carbon content higher than 90%. Because carbon can’t be made into carbon fiber directly, the best way is to combine carbon-containing organic fiber (such as polyacrylonitrile, pitch) with resin and then carbonize it. Carbon fiber is lightweight, stiff, strong and high resistance to heat, so it is mostly used in automobile, aerospace, military and other fields, and the price is higher than that of glass fiber.


Whether natural or man-made, inorganic fibers are rarely used in the apparel and textile industry, and are mostly used in specialized and high-performance products.


(to be continued………)


~ Part 2 ~

What should you pay attention to when purchasing clothing? What are common types of fabrics? (Part 2)

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