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Textile Industry Definitions


Biobased processes use naturally occurring enzymes or organisms. Biobased manufacturing processes generate by-products that are not hazardous, can be reused and/or are disposed of through biodegradable methods.

Biobased Fiber:

Fiber that is derived from plants and processed using naturally occurring enzymes or organisms. Biobased manufacturing processes generate by-products that are not hazardous, can be reused and are disposed of through biodegradable methods.

Certified Humane:

The Certified Humane Raised and Handled® program is a certification and labeling program that is the only animal welfare label requiring the humane treatment of farm animals from birth through slaughter.  The goal of the program is to improve the lives of farm animals by driving consumer demand for kinder and more responsible farm animal practices. These animals are allowed to engage in their natural behaviors; raised with sufficient space, shelter and gentle handling to limit stress, given ample fresh water and a healthy diet without added antibiotics or hormones. Note: Not all “humane” label claims are regulated.

Conventionally Produced:

An agricultural product that is not certified as having been produced using organic or sustainable methods. Potentially toxic chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides are commonly used in the agricultural processes.

Dyes (Low Impact):

Dyes that contain no metals, low salt, and are AZO & dioxazines compound free. Low impact dyes require significantly less water for the dyeing process so there is less polluted runoff than from the conventional dye process. Organic cotton and most other fabrics can be successfully colored with fiber-reactive low impact dyes or all natural dyes such as-insects, clay, vegetables, berries, indigo, and other plant extracts.

Dyes (Fiber-Reactive):

A color producing compound which has a molecular group capable of forming a covalent bond with atoms on the textile polymers. This bond is very strong which creates good colorfastness and reduces dye run-off during processing or care.

Ethical Trading:

Ethical Trading (or sourcing) is a business model that aims to ensure that acceptable minimum labor standards are met in the supply chains of the whole range of a companies products. This process ensures the basic labor rights of the employees are respected.

Fair Trade:

Fairtrade certification is a market-based model of international trade that benefits over one million farmers and farm workers in over fifty developing countries.

Fairtrade Mark:

A product that is produced and traded under Fair Trade conditions as defined by Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO) and certified by FLO or one of its member National Initiatives. The Fair Trade Mark certifies individual products and not whole companies.

Fair Trade Principles:

Fair Trade Principles Include; Fair Prices, Fair Labor Conditions, Direct Trade, Democratic and Transparent Organizations, Community Development and Environmental Sustainability.

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO):

The terms genetically modified (GM) and genetically engineered (GE) are used interchangeably by the industry, concurrently referring to genetic engineering, also known as recombinant DNA technology. GMO’s are genetically modified organisms, i.e. organisms whose DNA has undergone gene insertion. They are also called GEO’s, for genetically engineered organisms. If a GMO is used for food or to produce GM proteins used in food, the ingested product is called GM food. The term Bioengineering is also used to describe genetic engineering.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM):

A pest management strategy that focuses on methods that are least injurious to the environment. Pesticides are applied in such a way that they pose the least possible hazard, and are used as a ‘last resort’ when other controls are inadequate.

Man-Made Fiber:

Man made fibers are fibers that have been created by man using building blocks provided by nature e.g. proteins or cellulose as opposed to fibers made entirely by nature e.g. cotton. Man-Made Fibers include; rayon, modal, cupro etc.


A finishing process of treating a cotton yarn or fabric, in which the fabric or yarn is immersed in a caustic soda solution (sodium hydroxide) and later neutralized in acid. The process causes a permanent swelling of the fiber, resulting in an increased luster on the surface of the fabric, an increased affinity for dyes, increased strength and decreased shrinkage.

Naturally Grown/All-Natural:

USDA guidelines state that “natural” meat and poultry products can only undergo minimal processing and cannot contain artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, or other artificial ingredients. The claim “natural” is otherwise unregulated.

Organically Produced Fiber:

The raw fiber ingredients, such as cotton, flax or wool, have been certified as “Organic” by a USDA accredited certifying agent in accordance with the National Organic Program (NOP) Standards.

Plant-Based Fibers:

Plant fibers are produced by plants, and are a product of agriculture. Cotton, Flax and Hemp are examples of Natural fibers grown in nature.

Pre-Consumer Recycled Content:

Materials generated by manufacturers and processors, and may consist of scrap, trimmings and other by-products that were never used in the consumer market.

Post-Consumer Recycled Content:

Post-consumer material is an end product that has completed its life cycle as a consumer item and would otherwise have been disposed of as a solid waste. Post-consumer materials include recyclables collected in commercial and residential recycling programs, such as office paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, plastics and metals.

Predator Friendly:

A farming system that seeks coexistence with native predators rather than their elimination. Ranchers who seek certification as predator friendly agree to minimize contact between stock and predators and use non-lethal control methods for dealing with predators.

Recycled Content:

The amount of material by weight collected, separated or otherwise recovered from the solid waste stream for use in the form of raw materials, in the manufacture or assembly of a new package or product. Alternative Definition: An item that contains recovered materials. Recovered materials are wastes that have been diverted from conventional disposal such as landfills for another use. Recovered materials include both pre-consumer and post-consumer wastes.


Regenerated means fiber obtained from natural materials that involve a chemical process to convert the natural material e.g. wood into fiber e.g. viscose. Often referred to as man-made as opposed to synthetic.

Transitional Farming Practices:

According to the USDA/NOP standards, farmers must practice organic methods for a ‘transitional time period” of three years on a given piece of land prior to receiving organic certification. “Transitional” means that the farmland is in the ‘interim’ period of that transition period towards organic certification. During that time all practices are certified organic by certifiers accredited by the National Organic Program.


Fabrics that are not from a renewable resource or natural origins. Synthetics include manmade polyesters and polyvinyl fiber derivatives such as Acrylic, Nylon and Spandex that have been synthesized from petroleum and carbon derivatives.

Fiber Glossary

Abaca (Manila):

A vegetable leaf fiber derived from the Musa textiles plant, which is resistant to damage from salt water.


A manufactured fiber formed by a compound of cellulose, refined from cotton, linens and/or wood.


A synthetic fiber derived from polyacrylonitrile.


A hair fiber from the Alpaca animal, a member of the llama family of the South American Andes Mountains.

Alpaca (Organic):

Free roaming, pasture rotation, distribution of the Alpaca’s manure as fertilizer, fed no hormones, no chemical dipping for ticks and parasites, no chemical ingredients are permitted on the land or animals.


The hair of the Angora rabbit. The clipped fiber from the Angora rabbit is the softest of rabbit hairs.


A manufactured fiber formed by a compound of cellulose, refined from cotton, linens and/or wood.


As one of the fastest growing plants in the world, bamboo grows to its maximum height in about 3 months and reaches maturity in 3-4 years.  It spreads rapidly across large areas. Because of relatively quick growing time and the ability to be grown without fertilizers or pesticides, the fiber is currently being marketed as an ‘eco-green-sustainable fiber.’ There are also claims that viscose or rayon from bamboo is biodegradable and anti-microbial. There are potential risks associated with using bamboo as a polymer source for rayon since there is currently a lack of transparency in the supply chain. It is not always clear which type of bamboo is used for fiber, where it is grown, how it is cultivated, harvested etc. To date there are no known organic certification of bamboo.

Linen from Bamboo:

A mechanical way of producing bamboo by crushing the woody parts of the bamboo plant and then using natural enzymes to break the bamboo walls into a mushy mass so that the natural fibers can be mechanically combed out and spun into yarn. Very little linen from bamboo is currently manufactured for clothing because it is more labor intensive and costly.

Rayon from Bamboo:

The process to make viscose or rayon fiber from bamboo is the same process used to produce viscose/ rayon from any other plant source. The cellulose is extracted from the bamboo, and then the cellulose is mixed with chemicals to convert the plant pulp into textile quality fiber. This process can be very polluting unless it is carefully controlled, which can be influenced by the age and condition of the equipment as well as whether there is any by-product recycling or effluent treatment. Bamboo is not, in and of itself, recognized as a fiber in the US or EU.  What is referred to as bamboo fiber in the market is actually viscose/rayon.

Note: All viscose or rayon fiber from Bamboo (as a source) that is imported into the US must carry a legal fiber content label declaration of viscose or rayon. All bamboo imported into the EU must use of the legal content declaration viscose; the EU does not permit the use of the word rayon. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) you must label your garments; “Rayon from Bamboo”

Bast fiber:

Strong, soft, woody fibers such as flax, jute, hemp, ramie, and bamboo (if the bamboo is a linen fabric) that is obtained from the inner bark of the stems of certain plants. Linen from Bamboo fabric may fall into this category of Bast fiber.


A cotton, wool, and even synthetic fabric of sateen or twill construction with extra fillings for long floats.


Cuprammonium rayon (Cupro or Cupra) is a regenerated cellulosic fiber made from a cellulose source such as cotton linters (waste fibers too small to spin) using a solution including copper sulfate and aqueous ammonia. A fine lustrous fiber that is stronger than Viscose rayon, Cupro is sometimes trademarked Bemberg and is no longer produced in the US.


A nubby, soft fabric made from (PET) recycled soda bottles.


The Linum usitaatissimum plant, used to produce linen.


A bast fiber obtained from the stalk of Cannabis sativa that is very hardy and requires minimal agricultural inputs. It can be grown easily without the use of pesticides. Hemp needs fertilizer and may be grown organically.

Jusi Banana Fabric:

A fabric that is generally derived from banana leaves, but may also come from silk worm cocoons.

Jute and Burlap:

Fiber used in textiles for interiors, consisting of bundles of fiber held together by gummy pectinaceous substances.


A short, lightweight, cotton-like, vegetable fiber found in the seed pods of the Bombocaceae tree, commonly used in cushions, mattresses, and life jackets.


A bast fiber obtained from the Hibiscus cannabinus plant, used as a substitute for Jute. Kenaf is also suitable for non-wovens.


Wool that is taken from sheep before they reach the age of 7 months.


Elastic material derived from the Castilla elastica tree, used to provide stretch to fabrics. Synthetic latex is derived from petrochemicals. Natural latex needs the addition of cross linking agents to render it durable and usable in products.

Lenzing Fibers:

There is only one case of manufacturing a regenerated cellulose fiber-where the chemicals used in the process are completely recycled  with a recovery rate of 99.5%, this is known as a closed loop system. The fiber made using this closed looped process is Lenzings TENCEL ® Lyocell. More accurately described Lyocell is a solvent spun fiber in which the cellulose is directly dissolved keeping the cellulose much closer to that found in nature. TENCEL® Lyocell also carries the Oeko Tex 100 certification and FSC certification ( currently organic standards are not in place for certifying regenerated fibers using trees as a source e.g. Eucalyptus, or Beechwood.  FSC certification for TENCEL® Lyocell is for the forest and for the pulp, they also have been awarded the European-Eco flower label. (

Latex (blended):

Also know as Styrene Butadiene Rubber (SBR), is produced with petrochemicals and doesn’t not have the resilience properties that 100% natural latex has. In Europe, anything that has at least 20% natural latex is considered natural.


A fiber derived from the inside the woody stem of the flax plant.


A DuPont trademark for its spandex fiber.


The fiber from the Angora goat, mohair is mainly produced in South Africa and Texas. The long strong, lustrous fibers are clipped annually and are excellent for use in upholstery and carpeting due to their resilience.


A regenerated cellulosic fiber derived from beechwood.


The first completely synthetic fiber, nylon was developed in 1938.


A synthetic fiber, most often used in sweaters or pile fabrics.

PLA (Poly Lactic Acid Polymer):

Taken from lactic acid produced by fermenting a sugar source such as corn.


A petroleum-based, synthesized fiber introduced and widely used in the early 1950s, often spun with cotton.

Polypropylene (also known as polyolefin and Olefin):

A synthetic fiber characterized by its light weight, strength, and abrasion resistance, used in activewear apparel, rope, indoor-outdoor carpets, lawn furniture, and upholstery.


A woody fiber derived from the stalk of Boehmeria species, grown mainly in China.Raime is naturally white, but also brittle.


A manufactured fiber composed of regenerated cellulose, derived from wood pulp, cotton linters, or bamboo vegetable matter.


A fiber produced by the silkworm Bombyx mori, also known as the mulberry silkworm, with which the worm weaves its cocoon. Cultivated silk comes from silkworms raised in production facilities and the worms are killed before leaving the cocoons as moths in order to prevent damage to the cocoons.

“Peace Silk” is silk that is produced from the fibers of a cocoon cut by the adult silkworms as it exists alive, and is considered a more humane option. “Tussah Silk” known for its tan color, is made from cocoons that are harvested in the wild, often after the moths have left the cocoons.


A bast fiber derived from the leaves of the Agave plant, which is found in the West Indies, Central America, and Africa.

Soy Fiber:

A fiber with a silky feel, the soy fiber is correctly termed “Azlon from Soy”, these protein fibers are produced using the proteins from soy beans. Azlons can also be made with milk proteins or even chicken feathers.

Soy Sunn:

A bast fiber derived from the Crotalaria juncea plant.

Synthetic Fibers:

Are those in which man has produced the entire operation of the fiber production without allowing nature to manufacture the fiber forming substance (called polymers.). Usually synthetics are made from chemicals derived from non-renewable resources such as coal or oil. The most widely recognized synthetics are polyester and nylon. 


A registered trademark of the Lenzing Fibers Group for Lyocell. More accurately described Lyocell is a solvent spun fiber in which the cellulose is directly dissolved keeping the cellulose much closer to that found in nature. The source of the cellulose is Eucalyptus.


A manufactured fiber, which, like acetate, is made by modifying cellulose.


A protein fiber usually derived from the fleece of sheep or lambs. The term wool can also be generically applied to all animal hair fibers, including the hair of the Cashmere or Angora goat or the specialty hair fibers of the camel, alpaca, llama, or vicuna.


Viscose rayon is the oldest and most commonly produced type of rayon. The fiber labeled “rayon” in the US, but however will likely be labeled “viscose” in Europe. Viscose rayon is absorbent but also has poor wet strength and often requires dry cleaning to retain integrity. Other methods of producing rayon include High Wet Modulus (Modal) which improves wet strength and Cupro.

Special Thanks to:
Dr. Gwendolyn Hustvedt-Professor of Textiles Texas State University and
Coral Rose, Founder Eco-Innovations Sustainable Textile Strategies

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