Every time you put on a pair of socks, underwear, or other type of intimate apparel there is a good chance the material has been made, in some part, from cotton milk fabric.
Given its light, soft and hygienic properties it’s a great fabric for these types of clothing items. But how much do you know about it?
Read on to find out more!
What is Cotton Milk Fabric?
It may surprise you to discover that milk cotton fabric is actually made from the dame casein powder which is also present in milk.
Alternatively known as casein fiber and milk fiber, it has traditionally been mixed with various other substances to create a texture and tensility that resembles cotton.
Typically, most milk cotton fabrics are mixed with a substance called acrylonitrile, which is also used to make acrylic clothing. Thus it follows that it is not a truly organic fiber. But rather a synthetic, or semi-synthetic one.
Consumers tend to love this type of fabric on account of its softness and smoothness, which makes it an excellent material to use for products that are worn directly on the skin.
It also has very pronounced moisture wicking abilities, which means you don’t sweat as much when you wear it. So it is an especially good item to wear in the summer months.
How is Milk Cotton Fabric made?
The process for making milk cotton fabric is quite innovative and involved and does depend on what type of fiber is being made.
The first stage though, always relates to sourcing waste milk from a dairy, as is the basis for the fabric.
Once it has been sourced it is skimmed to remove fat before being de-watered. This will result in an appearance not too dissimilar from milk based powder. To make the milk cotton fabric the casein protein is extracted from this substance by dissolving and purifying it.
From here the production process varies depending on what specific type of material you are producing. But typically to produce the cotton milk fabric the powder is immersed in alkali to formulate a solvent that is then flowed through a spinneret.
Once run through the spinneret, to remove the alkali, the solution is submerged in sulfuric acid. The fibers that remain are then stretched and spun to form a yarn.
Finally they are tanned with both aluminum salts and formaldehyde which ensures they become usable textile yarn.
How is Milk Cotton Fabric used?
Around the time of the Second World War, milk cotton fabric was used by the military as a replacement for wool.
However once the war finished and production of wool increased back up to pre-war levels it stopped being used for this purpose.
Instead, in the latter part of the 20th century, it began to be used as an alternative to silk and cotton, as a result of its rich texture, glossy appearance, and overall lightness.
Today, while some clothing apparel is made entirely from milk cotton fabric, it is primarily blended into other fabrics like silk, or cotton, as a way to reduce costs and create even smoother textures.
Where Is Milk Cotton Fabric Produced?
China is the predominant producer of milk cotton fabric. Although it does not make significant volumes of it.
The casein fiber it produces is typically blended with acrylonitrile, which poses risks to both the environment and the health of their workers.
By contrast, a few independent suppliers in Europe manufacture milk cotton fabric made from pure milk that uses environmentally friendly processes.
How Much Does Milk Cotton Fabric Cost?
As a general rule milk cotton is more costly to produce than many other fabrics available today.
In particular, pure organic milk cotton costs approximately 40% more than cotton, so these higher prices tend to deter many companies from using it in the production process of their clothing apparel range.
Advantages & Disadvantages?
Milk Cotton Fabric has a range of advantages and disadvantages.
In terms of advantages, it can be easily blended with cotton, wool, and silk. It also has a very smooth and delicate feel and lovely sheen, as well as being very hygienic.
This type of fabric is also resistant to heat, very flexible, has great moisture absorption and can easily be dyed.
One of the main disadvantages of milk cotton fabric is that it can get very easily wrinkled. It is also quite costly to produce in comparison to other materials that are available today, and as the fiber is not very hard, and has low durability, it is generally not recommended for machine washing.
Intriguingly, the production process of milk cotton fabric has its advantages and disadvantages too. The traditional way of making it is hazardous to the environment, as well as the health of those who make it.
However with certain manufacturers making the product in an environmentally friendly way it can have the advantage of being a renewable and biodegradable fabric too.
Traditional Production Process of Milk Fiber Fabric?
The traditional production process of milk fiber fabric uses waste milk that has gone off, is part of a surplus, or otherwise not fit for human consumption.
Via a process called wet spinning, grinded powders of casein protein are dissolved in an alkaline solution that is made up of sodium hydroxide.
This liquidity is then formed into the desired viscosity in a spinneret, which is a sieve-like machine that has several holes around its base.
Once this cycle has been completed, the fibers are hardened in formaldehyde, before being stretched, washed, dried, and cut into the length required for its end use.
What Different Types of Milk Cotton Fabric Are There?
Milk cotton fabric made of formaldehyde is no longer a common practice. Instead a semi-synthetic milk fiber that is made with acrylonitrile is now more regularly produced.
In recent years however, another type of milk cotton fabric, that is made with pure casein is quickly becoming a very popular alternative around the world.
Is Cotton Milk Fabric Durable?
As it is silky soft, cotton milk fabric is about as durable as most other acrylic yarns.
If looked after they can last a while, as it does not have as many issues with piling as some of the other yarns do.
However this type of fabric can easily ruin if washed at too high a temperature.
Is Cotton Milk Fabric Comfortable?
As it is soft, and has good moisture wicking abilities, cotton milk fabric is very comfortable to wear on clothes that have direct contact on your skin.
It is even more so, when combined with cotton or silk, for clothing items like socks, t-shirts, and underwear. As well as home furnishings like bedsheets and pillows.
Is Cotton Milk Fabric Like Cotton?
On the face of it cotton milk fabric is very much like cotton, both in terms of how it looks and also how it feels.
Furthermore many manufacturers around the world regularly combine cotton milk fabric with cotton to produce clothing apparel items, homeware furnishings and other household textiles as well.
Is the cotton milk fabric flexible?
Cotton milk fabric is a very flexible material. So it can bend and shape around your figure very easily.
As it is a regenerated protein fiber, it reacts a lot like wool in this sense, and thus takes on many of its properties, including being comfortable and permeable as well.
Does Cotton Milk Fabric Absorb Sweat?
Well regarded for its high moisture-wicking abilities, cotton milk fabric also has very breathable, bacteriostatic, thermo-regulating and hydrating properties. So it can be worn directly on your skin and can easily absorb sweat.
This makes it a very suitable material for people to wear in places that experience hot temperatures and high humidity.
Is Cotton Milk Fabric Suitable For Summer?
As a material, cotton milk fabric is so light you can almost feel like you are wearing no clothes at all!
Typically it is around 10% lighter than silk and polyester and up to 60% lighter than cotton.
So it is perfect for clothes that you wear in the summer months.
Is Milk Cotton Machine Washable?
In general it is ok to put milk cotton fabric in the washing machine. Although if you do, you should use cold or lukewarm water.
All things considered it is probably a better idea to wash this type of fabric by hand in cold water, and air dry it, to reduce the risk of any potential damage.
Will Cotton Milk Fabric Shrink?
While cotton milk fabric can shrink, or otherwise damage if put in the washing machine, as a general rule if you hand wash this fabric in cold water it should retain its shape fairly well.
As a result clothing items made of this type of fabric should last a fair while.
Does Cotton Milk Fabric Keep Warm?
During the second world war one of the reasons cotton milk fabric was used by the military as an alternative to wool was because it had good heat retention abilities.
Today some winter clothing like jackets are made with this type of material, so in places where the weather is not too artic, they should keep you warm during the winter months.
How Does Milk Cotton Fabric Impact the Environment? (50 Words)
Milk cotton fabric can have a positive or negative impact on the environment depending how it is made.
The traditional way of making it with formaldehyde is very toxic to the environment, as well as the workers and consumers. So that is a clear detriment to it.
However as manufacturers have developed more environmentally friendly ways to produce it, then it does possess the benefit of being renewable and biodegradable too.
The Future Of Cotton Milk Fabric?
As it is generally more expensive than other materials and impacts negatively on the environment if made in the traditional way, the future of cotton milk fabric is very much up in the air.
Whilst significant moves have been made to eradicate the latter issue, as the overall worldwide production of milk cotton is quite minimal, its days could be numbered.
It would be a shame if the use of cotton milk fabric does die out because it has brought joy to the lives of many in terms of the clothes they wear, and their home furnishings.
But as the world becomes ever more in tune with its environmental consciousness, now might be the time to consign the production of cotton milk fabric to the annals of history.