What Is Linen Fabric And How Sustainable Is It?

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By Webdesk

On our quest for more sustainable fashion, we’ve looked at lots of sustainable fabrics—bamboo fabric, lyocell, cactus leather, fish leather, modal fabric, and more—so how does linen compare to some of these?

For example, is linen more sustainable than cotton?

Linen Vs Cotton Sustainability & Performance

Is linen better than cotton fabric?

Yes, in a number of ways. 

Linen fibers are stronger and more durable than cotton (you know, that thing that makes up denim and corduroy?). 

For anyone obsessed with their new linen towels, there’s more good news in that linen dries much faster than cotton—which is perfect for those who can’t stand the smell of mildew-y bath towels (which is hopefully everyone). 

Its water-wicking abilities mean that it will just draw in liquid (sweat or water) before drying quickly. Cotton, on the other hand, absorbs moisture rather than wicks, so it can lead to chafing and a soggy bottom during high output activities.

While cotton and linen are both hypoallergenic, linen tends to be a better choice for people with allergies. 

In terms of sustainability, even the worst linen manufacturing far surpasses conventional cotton—AKA the dirtiest crop in the world. This is because linen requires significantly fewer inputs (water, land, and chemicals).

While organic cotton cuts out chemicals and uses less land, it still uses more water than linen cultivation.

There’s one big drawback to linen compared to cotton fabric. While they’re both natural fabrics derived from plants, flax takes longer to harvest and it’s more difficult to weave the fibers into fabric.

While linen is more durable than cotton fibers, the latter is more flexible and provides some additional stretch. For anyone who’s worn both, it’ll come as no surprise that cotton is softer—which is due to the fact that flax fibers are rougher and woven less tightly. 

Hemp Vs Linen Sustainability & Performance

As far as natural fibers are concerned, linen is more comparable to hemp fabric than cotton, since both are lightweight, temperature regulating, UV resistant, and durable. 

They also both come from low water-intensive, woody plant stalks.

The most significant difference is that hemp fibers are even longer than flax ones, 15 feet compared to 3 feet. That means hemp clothing is even more durable than linen, but consequently coarser to the touch.

Hemp is also more carbon hungry and generally more sustainable to harvest because the stalks are cut rather than completely uprooted. This both prevents erosion and ensures healthier soil that retains more moisture.

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