The first difference between these materials is their origin: cotton and silk are natural while microfiber is artificial.
What is microfiber?
You’ve seen it everywhere: from furniture cloths, sportswear to bath towels.
“Microfiber” means, in other words: extremely thin synthetic fiber, even thinner than a thread of silk (around one fifth of the diameter of a hair).
To be precise, a microfiber must be thinner than one denier of thread. The properties of microfiber can vary depending on the type of microfiber used. As a result, this extraordinary material has a multitude of advantages in comparison with other, natural fabrics.
What is microfiber made from?
In general, microfiber is made from polyester, the most common synthetic material, but it can vary depending on the use of the fabric.
At first glance, it doesn't seem as environmentally friendly as natural fabrics, however it is interesting to note that during the manufacturing process of microfiber from polyester, no pesticides are used and the dye does not require water, therefore this doesn't produce waste, contrary to cotton which requires a large quantity of water for dyeing.
Manufacturers modify and combine different types, sizes, lengths and shapes of fibers to utilize specific characteristics of the microfiber for their purpose. For example, by choosing a specific type of fiber, they are able to make the fabric more absorbent or softer.
Where does microfiber originate from?
Although microfiber is used every day, no one knows exactly where it first came into use. One of the most interesting theories is that it was invented by the Japanese to create lightweight, flattering swimwear for women in the 1970s. Despite being a spectacular failure, the swimsuits absorbed water and became very heavy, the Europeans re-developed microfiber ten years later and marketed it as a highly absorbent fabric for cleaning purposes.
The advantages and disadvantages of microfiber
Like all products, microfiber has both advantages and disadvantages. The flexibility of microfiber makes it a very versatile product and therefore highly advantageous, which can be adapted to your needs.
- Soft to touch
- Can be treated with antibacterial chemicals
- Long lifespan if taken care of
- Only creases a little
- Requires special washing
- Higher initial cost
What is cotton?
Cotton is the most used natural fiber, it is also essential for letting skin breathe. With its excellent insulating power, it is used to make any garment: it prevents irritation and is the best choice for sensitive skin.
Cotton has a great absorption capacity: the cotton plant fiber can absorb up to 8.5% of its weight in water... And otherwise, we like cotton because it withstands heat well: cotton is one of the fabrics capable of withstanding high temperatures.
What is cotton made from?
Cotton comes from the cotton plant which produces a silky fluff: the cotton fiber. There are different varieties of cotton plants. It is a shrub. The fruit is a boll with several chambers where the seeds are covered with white fluff. It is this fluff that makes up the cotton fibers. Once mature, the boll opens to let the cotton fibers out, this is when the harvest takes place.
The advantages and disadvantages of cotton
It has a particular tendency to shrink and also dyes can fade over time. Cotton tears easily and is sensitive to moisture.
- Absorbs moisture well
- Resistant to static electricity
- Naturally antibacterial which prevents odors
- Shrinks in the wash and when heated
- The dyes fade over time
- Has a tendency to bobble
- Creases easily
What is silk?
Natural silk is considered one of the most valuable fibers in the textile industry for its reputation of being similar to the skin.
There are two types of silk: Mulberry silk and Tussah silk (or wild silk). The difference comes in part from the diet of the silkworms.
Mulberry silk fiber is finer and longer, it’s color is also very close to white. Once woven, the result is more supple and smooth. This type of silk is mainly used in clothing.
Tussah silk fiber tends to be more brown. It is stronger and more insulating, and is mostly used for products such as silk comforters.
What is silk made from?
This fabulous material exists thanks to silkworms. In their first phase of life, they feed on mulberry leaves. Then, in their metamorphosis phase, they weave their cocoon before leaving it.
Each cocoon makes up a silk fiber. For weaving, around 30 cocoons are required to make one thread. This explains the rarity of this fabric.
The advantages and disadvantages of silk
- The feeling of a second skin
- Doesn’t cause perpsiration
- Contributes to the body’s heat regulation
- Causes little pollution
- Doesn’t move over time
- Its high cost
- Beware of synthetic silk which is the opposite to natural silk and is an environmental catastrophe