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Ethical Silk

picture of ethical silk textile showing the soft texture

Silk is an ancient, natural fibre, famous for its distinctive attributes such as elegance, class, comfort and beauty benefits. Silk is the only natural filament fibre comprised of natural proteins (18 amino acids). A single filament from the same cocoon often measures up to 1 kilometre.

When considering a choice of fabric for bedding or clothing, the entire lifecycle should be considered, from soil to soil, not just up to the factory gate.

Ethical questions arise when choosing bedding and garments, around the impact your choices have on the environment and animals. There is always an impact, it can just be more obvious in some options and more hidden in others.

In this article we cover the ethical and environmental case for silk and silk alternatives in bedding.  

If you are looking into fabrics and how ethical and sustainable they truly are, we hope you find this article interesting and insightful.

Natural fibres derived from animals such as silk, wool, alpaca, cashmere have a longer lifespan than their synthetic and semi-synthetic counterparts.

Synthetic and semi-synthetic fibres, derived from plants or petroleum, have an impact on animals, wildlife and ecosystems. Just because they're not animal derived does not mean they don't displace, disturb natural habitats, kill or injure animals and insects. Huge quantities of insecticides, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are used which kill millions of insects, let alone the pollution to the environment these chemicals.

As an example, did you know there are over 1300 species of insects known that are killed by the pesticides and insecticides used by conventional cotton growers to make your cotton t-shirt or bedsheet?

For every 250 grams of cotton, 17 teaspoons of fertilisers are used and 1 teaspoon of active insecticides and pesticides are used. This equates to 38 million kilograms of pesticides pumped into the environment every year in the US alone.

Not only animals are affected by these chemicals, but neighbouring communities to cotton fields come down with 'cotton flu' every time the crop dusters go up in the autumn to spray the fields. Asthma attacks, headaches, tremors and fatigue are some of the symptoms of those suffering the effects of these chemicals.

The WHO (World health organisation) estimates over 3 million people are poisoned by pesticides every year, with 20-40 thousand deaths per year.

tractor spraying pesticides on cotton field

Studies have estimated that 67 million birds are killed every year by pesticides, and the run off poisons nearby rivers and streams with a well documented case in Alabama where 240,000 fish were killed by runoff (and officials determined that the pesticides were applied within the law).

Organic cotton abstains from using these chemicals, which is much better, however it only accounts for 1% of global cotton production.

This is one example of how there are unintended consequences, hidden impacts, from different sources of fibre that are used in our every day lives for bedding and apparel.

We will consider some of the following questions in this article:

  • What impact does the production and usage of your choice of fabric have on animals and the environment?
  • How is it used, how long will it be used, what impact does your use of the fabric have on the environment and your health?
  • What impact and how does it decompose at the end of its life?
  • Will it add to our landfill problems, sitting for hundreds of years before breaking down and leeching toxic chemicals into the soil and water table?
    • Or, does it biodegrade in compost within a matter of weeks?

All these questions and more will be covered in the article below.

We will cover sustainable fabrics, the silk industry, peace silk, conventional silk production, mulberry silk and ethical sustainable silk and silk alternatives along with their hidden costs and impact on other organisms in order to better understand the ethical argument for silk in bedding and fashion. The information has been compiled by us at Mayfairsilk, an ethical silk company from the U.K. specialising in pure silk bedding and accessories.

Is Silk Sustainable and Ethical, how does it compare to alternatives?

This is a good question and should be viewed from both a macro and micro perspective. As with all things, the question of what is ethical, and has the least negative impact on animals (particularly sentient animals), and the least negative impact on ecology and the environment is nuanced. Just because a fabric is not derived from animals does not make it cruelty-free. Far from it. In this article we will show that synthetic fabrics are the most cruel and unethical when considered from a soil to soil perspective.

Before evaluating silk or buying conventional silk, let us first examine its counterparts such as cotton, wool, synthetics and semi-synthetic fabrics.

Cotton

Many are not aware of the chemical processes involved in the production of cotton. Cotton production uses pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fertilisers, processing chemicals, formaldehyde, dyes and bleaches, regularly polluting water, soil and land. It also has a high carbon footprint, is a very thirsty crop and has high fresh water usage which is a problem when 50% of the crop is grown in arid regions (extremely low rainfall).

It is estimated to produce 1 cotton T-shirt, over 2500 litres of fresh water is used. A host of these toxic chemicals remain on garments in trace amounts but can accumulate over time.

It is a good insulator but cotton absorbs 27x weight in water. Sleeping on cotton regularly is known to dehydrate skin and hair, making it prone to premature wrinkles and matted hair. Also once wet, cotton loses all its insulating properties.

Wool

A wonderful natural fabric that is thermoregulating and long-lasting, it's also renewable. It's production creates methane from the gases of sheep reared for their wool and deforestation for grazing which can lead to soil salinity, erosion and decreased biodiversity.

Polyester

Considered by many as 'vegan' and 'cruelty-free', but with an elementary passing inspection, this textile is anything but cruelty-free and one of the worst polluters of our environment. It epitomises fast fashion, cheap and cheerful and clogging up landfill.

Another petroleum-based, non-renewable, non-biodegradable environmental catastrophe fabric. What is called polyester is technically polyethylene terephthalate or PET plastic molded into filaments that are then woven on a loom into fabric. It’s produced by making a chemical reaction between ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. Did you know that over 70-million barrels of oil are used to produce polyester every year? It also takes around 200 years to decompose.

Drilling and processing releases gases and chemicals that pollute our natural environment. Then every time we wash a polyester garment / sheet, it produces millions of "microplastics" (‘fluff’) in each wash and these are washed into our waterways, killing our aquatic life by disrupting their GI tract, nutrient absorption, reproductive problems and hindered growth.  

A study of plastic microfibre ingestion by deep-sea organisms show microfibre ingestion in a wide variety of species, including crabs, lobsters, fish, turtles, penguins, seals, manatees and sea otters. Microfibres have even been found in the food we eat.

Polyester fabric also isn't biodegradable and can take hundreds of years to breakdown in landfill. It’s cheap to produce, is a poor insulator, doesn’t breathe, so it creates sweating as it’s plastic - poor choice in bedding and the environment. It's often used in 'Satin sheets', and gives silk a bad name as sleepers find it hot and uncomfortable, creating static electricity with each toss and turn, and they mistakenly think they've slept on silk, when they've in fact slept on plastic. See our Satin vs Silk article for more on the differences.

Verdict: Not ethical. Pollutes our ecosystem and harms animals.

What about 'vegan silk' alternatives? 'Art Silk' as it's otherwise known (Artificial Silk)

Rayon (also known as Viscose, Modal, Lyocell)

A semi-synthetic fibre typically made of wood from eucalyptus, spruce, and pine trees, but can also be made from cotton or bamboo. It's called a 'regenerated cellulose fibre obtained through the viscose process. It was first developed in the late 19th century and was originally marketed as artificial silk due to its softness, drape and lustre.

Rayon can have significant negative impacts on people, the environment and biodiversity during lifecycle. The wood pulp used could be from sustainable sources but only 1/3 of production is and roughly 1/3rd comes from ancient and endangered forests.

The most common method to produce rayon is the viscose process which uses toxic chemicals ("Carbon disulfide") to breakdown the wood pulp and turn it into a fibre. The chemicals are dangerous to workers and they pollute our waterways and air as they often aren't captured in production. It's estimated 150 million trees (Canopy Planet) are logged every year and turned into fabric such as viscose every year.

Workers can be seriously harmed by the chemicals which can cause reproductive harm and damage to the nervous system. Carbon-disulfide-based viscose isn't manufactured in the US anymore. Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, can cause chemical burns and corrosion to workers who handle it frequently without protection.

According to Paul D. Blanc (University of California - occupational and environmental medicine), who wrote "Fake Silk: The Lethal History of Viscose Rayon':

throughout most of the 20th century, viscose rayon manufacturing was inextricably linked to widespread, severe and often lethal illness among those employed in making it. For workers in viscose rayon factories, poisoning caused insanity, nerve damage, Parkinson’s disease, and increased risk of heart disease and stroke."

Further, rayon becomes delicate when wet which means it usually requires dry cleaning.

Verdict: Not ethical. Deforests, killing wildlife and natural habitats, pollutes our ecosystem and harms workers health. Uses high quantities of toxic chemicals which endangers the environment in not only their use but also producing the chemicals and puts workers health in jeopardy.

Bamboo (Bamboo viscose)

Another type of rayon viscose just using Bamboo plant fibres as the donor plant for the chemical soup. So how exactly is Bamboo fabric made?

Firstly, it involves extracting cellulose from bamboo pulp by breaking it down into tiny chunks and bathed in sodium hydroxide (caustic soda). Then this cellulose substance is compressed into sheets and exposing it to carbon disulfide with a little extra sodium hydroxide for good measure. Now we have a viscous material, which is where the name viscose comes from, and it is pushed under high pressure through tiny holes of a spinneret transforming it into strands. These strands are then immersed in a bath of sulfuric acid, sodium sulfate and zinc sulfate to create the filament fibre. Then these filaments are spun into yarn and woven into fabric. Voila, bamboo sheets, so natural.

Clothing and bedding 'made from bamboo' has been marketed as more environmentally friendly because the donor plant is tree-like, technically a grass, that grows rapidly and thrives all over the planet without artificial fertilisers or irrigation. But, most of it is made from viscose rayon, which is a toxic soup of chemicals and generates significant pollution.

It's so-not natural, that the raw plant materials are chemically dissolved to the point they no longer exist in the final fabric. In 2015 major retailers were fined millions of dollars by the FTC for mislabelling textile goods as 'bamboo' or 'made from bamboo' when they are really viscose rayon. These products are derived from bamboo, but not made from bamboo.

The law states: "If it's not made directly of bamboo fibre, don't call it bamboo. Not anywhere, not any way. That's a mistake". Instead they can label the products "viscose from bamboo".

Brands sometimes highlight properties of the plant or tree in their marketing, such as bamboo is naturally antimicrobial. However, Anil N. Netravali, Ph.D., a professor of fiber science and apparel design at Cornell University, says when the plant gets chemically dissolved, it loses all trace of those characteristics. The purified pulp contains mostly cellulose, all other chemicals such as antimicrobials in bamboo are removed.

If you buy bamboo rayon, don't kid yourself that you're buying a 'green' product. It's just another fabric in a long line of greenwashing.  

Due to the toxic chemical mix, if you suffer from sensitive skin, you might want to steer clear of this one. It also is known to shrink a lot.

Today, lots of experts believe that the “bamboo” label on rayon clothing and bedding is fundamentally a misrepresentation.

Verdict: not ethical or green.

Cupro ("Bemberg", "Cuprammonium")

Part of the rayon family of fabrics, it has some positive and negative qualities.

Cuprammonium rayon ("Cupro"), otherwise known as "Bemberg" after the manufacturer JP Bemberg, or "Ammonia Silk", is a semi-synthetic fibre made from cellulose dissolved in cuprammonium, which is a solution of copper, ammonia and caustic soda. This can be either from recycled cotton linter (tiny fibres around the seeds of the cotton plant), or from wood pulp.

It may seem like a new fabric in 'sustainable fashion', however this fabric was invented back in the 1890s by French chemist Dr Max Fremery, who obtained a patent for the cupro manufacturing process of mixing cellulose solution with copper salts and ammonia.

The high levels of chemicals used to break down and harden the fibres poison the environment and put workers health at risk. Because hazardous chemicals are used in the production process, the production of cupro in the US is currently illegal. If cupro isn't created using a closed-loop system, it poses risk of contaminating areas with copper waste and toxic chemicals.

The ammonia is extracted from natural gas, which is a non-renewable resource. It's difficult to dye, which requires more harsh and toxic formulas to complete the process.

It feels soft and drapes nicely, so its used for lining men's suits, blouses, nightgowns, lingerie and scarves. It has quite good moisture wicking properties so can be used in sweatpants and yoga clothes, although it's not stretchy but can be blended with spandex and elastane to give this property.

One of the benefits of Cupro, when compared to natural fibres such as cotton, linen and especially silk, is its low cost. Cupro is knitted or woven into fabrics for fashion to replace silk or polyester as a cheaper option.

Cupro, like other rayons and polyester creates microplastics every time you wash it, polluting the waterways and interrupting the endocrine systems of aquatic animals, causing irregular behaviour and reduced appetite as the fibres can block the digestion tract and damage stomach lining leading to reduced feeding and starvation.

Tencel (trademark for modal and lyocell rayon fibre)

Similar to rayon, it is regenerated cellulose fibres created by dissolving wood with a chemical solvent (N-methylmorpholine N-oxide, "amine oxide") and then extruded under high pressure to form fibres.

Even though it's of natural origin, it's a semi-synthetic, manmade fibre. Tencel branded lyocell says that they only source eucalyptus wood from sustainably sourced plantations and 99% of the chemicals used in manufacturing are recycled and the water treated and reused in a somewhat closed loop, so it's better than rayon in this regard and non-branded lyocell production, however it still uses a lot of harsh chemicals that can cause skin sensitivities.

This initially sounds good, but Eucalyptus plantations growing in non-native regions is not without controversy. The main issues are the impact monoculture Eucalyptus plantations have on the local wildlife (they don't like the smell, so the plantations are largely devoid of animal life); the harmful effect on the environment and ecology by draining water resources; it enhances soil erosion, suppresses undergrowth, depletes soil nutrients and allopathically affects nearby agricultural crop.

The fabric feels soft, is hypoallergenic and reportedly biodegradable at end of life, so these are positives. Negatives we have researched is that the fabric may be prone to pilling more than silk.

Verdict: Neutral. Plantations of Eucalyptus trees displace local animals, and flora. Depending on the exact source of timber, and the habitat it's grown in would determine if you can consider it ethical on balance.

Nylon

This was the first synthetic textile fibre, invented by DuPont in 1938.

Nylon is made from a complex and energy-intensive chemical and manufacturing process derived from crude oil. It first creates the fibre's strong polymers, then binds them together to create a durable, strong, stretchy fibre that makes it useful as a fabric.

Broadly it combines two sets of molecules, one set is an acid group on each end and the other set has an amine group made up of basic organic compounds, on each end. There is room for variation but using hexamethylene diamine monomers and adipic acid is a common combination. When they're combined, crystalised 'nylon salts' are formed. Commonly known as nylon 6, 6 or simply 6-6. This is based on the number of carbon atoms between the two acid groups and two amine groups.

It's then heated into a molten state and forced into a spinneret, that creates thin strands and exposidng to air for the first time. Once it comes in contact with air it hardens immediately, and once hardened it can be wound onto bobbins. It can then be stretched to create strength and elasticity, which is one of the material's main benefits.

The term is now commonly used to refer to a range of polyamides, or synthetic polymers that encompass a broad range of differing products - clothing, rope, hard plastic mechanical parts, parachute coverings, tires. It converts petroleum into a type of stretchy plastic. It can be treated with formaldehyde-based residues to prevent shrinkage and does not biodegrade.

In bedding it would be a terrible choice of fabric. Hot and sticky and water resistant, so you'll be sleeping in a literal pool of sweat.

Verdict: Not ethical. Energy intensive, petroleum derived. Pollutes our ecosystem, non-biodegradable.

Sateen Cotton

Sateen is a luxurious type of weave to imitate the smooth texture of silk. It's actually a satin weave but using cotton as the fibre, so it's called sateen.

Cotton production we have covered earlier, a lot of water, around 10-20,000 litres of water per kilogram of cotton! Said in another way, a kilo of cotton, enough to make a pair of jeans and t-shirt, uses as much water as a person drinks in 13 years.

50% of annual cotton production is grown in arid regions that rely extensively on irrigation.

Lots of toxic bleaches and chemicals are used in processing and finishing cotton with some of these chemicals remaining on the garment in trace amounts, which can cause skin sensitivities.

Formaldehyde can be used to prevent mildew in transportation as well as increase wrinkle and crease resistance in textiles, and also helps some dyes and inks better penetrate fabrics. It's commonly associated with that "chemical smell" of new clothes and is linked to many health problems like asthma, nausea, cancer and dermatitis.

Cotton bedding also dries your skin and hair out as it absorbs 27x its weight in moisture. It's also a breeding ground for bacteria and dust-mites so it requires frequent washing.

Fun fact about bedding generally:

A recent study by Amerisleep found that a pillowcase after just one week of use, had 17 thousand times more bacteria than a toilet seat, and after 4 weeks, had 39 times the bacteria of a pet bowl.  

We shed around 15 million skin cells each night which is a breeding ground for bacteria to multiply.

Verdict: feels nice to sleep on, but can't really be considered eco-friendly.

Ramie (also known as China Grass)

One of the oldest vegetable fibres in the world, dating back almost 5000 years. It's harvested from a fibre yielding plant of the nettle family and is called a bast fibre, like flax, jute and hemp. Bast fibres are fibres from the cellulose in the stalks of plants.

The fibres are stripped/scraped from the inside of the stalk by hand, it's very labour intensive, and then boiled in an alkaline solution before washing, bleaching, neutralising, oiling and drying.

It's a delicate, see through fabric that looks a little like silk. The positive properties are it doesn't shrink when wet, is very absorbent so comfortable to wear in hot weather, resists mildew and bacteria and dries quickly. Negatives include, it's labour intensive, needs to be treated gently as it can be stiff and brittle, and easy to break. If it's left folded in the same place for a long time it will break. It also wrinkles quite easily.

Verdict: not a practical fibre for bedding, nor viable alternative to silk.

 

Lotus Silk

A type that is created using long lotus stem fibres. Originating in Myanmar (Burma) it's now also woven by smaller-scale cottage industries in Vietnam.

Lotus grows without chemicals and requires very little moisture. As it is extracted and made completely by hand, the price of lotus silk is more than 10x the price of traditional silk, making it one of the most rare and expensive textiles in the world.

Verdict: Small-scale and expensive to be an alternative to conventional silk.

Pineapple silk

Another silk fabric you might see - Pineapple silk fibre - is produced from the fruit industry and not silk worms.

It's a manual process extracting fibres from the leaves of the pineapple plant.

It deteriorates when reacted with acid so has limitations in clothing and tableware.

It is biodegradable, and long lasting, turning into beige colour as it gets older.

Cactus silk

It's no wonder the Cactus Silk doesn't go unnoticed!! The succulents are produced from a subspecies whose growth requires little water and no chemicals. There is even silk that is infused with spiders also known as spider silk.

There is a considerable amount of waste and chemical treatments that the vegan silk production is guilty of.

Besides vegan alternatives there are other type of silk which have lesser chemical treatments such as Eri silk, Raw silk, Tussar silk, etc. however Mulberry silk is considered the best for its smoothness, quality and softness.

Spider silk

An innovation in fabric this silk is made from spiders and therefore it is not vegan. A million spiders go into creating a small piece of cloth and the production process is very capital intensive and so not feasible for daily use.

Spider silk is highly flexible, extremely stretchable, surpasses steel in strength. It is said to be five times stronger than a steel and can be used to create bulletproof vests.

How sustainable is silk?

Silk is remarkably elegant and possesses flame retardant and antibacterial characteristics.

Silk has various uses from being used as bedding, to making bicycle tires, to virgin silk used in medical industry to making clothes and more.

Since the early 1800s silk has been a popular textile. It is delicate, lustrous and beautifully crafted and the perfect material for a scarf, blouse or dress. A legend, claims silk was found in 2640 BC when Chinas Empress Xili Lingshi drank a cup of tea on the edge of mulberry bushes and ate tea in the area. A cocoon filled the cup and the queen understood that cocoons are composed of lovely yarns that are used in making fine fabrics when dissolving them. In fact Silk was first produced, mostly in Asia, but sericulture became popular throughout the world with the ages.

The silk industry eventually made its way to Europe after centuries with the trade route between Europe and Asia also known as the ' Silk Road'.

What is ethical silk?

Sericulture is an agroforestry sector, that has been practiced for over 4500 years, focusing on cultivating plants for food, rearing silkworms, reeling and spinning the silk.

Ethical silk is often used interchangeably as 'Ahimsa silk' or 'Peace silk'.

When we first started out at Mayfairsilk, we looked into the practices of Ahimsa silk to determine if we should offer this type of silk exclusively or as an option.

After careful consideration, we decided against it, for many of the reasons listed below. We will show that all conventional silk production is as ethical, if not more so than Ahimsa or Peace silk.

Ahimsa Silk (Peace Silk)

There is little known about the Ahimsa/ peace silk production. Created and trademarked by Kusuma Rajaiah who was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's philosophies. The word means 'non violence' in Hindi, where silkworms are not killed during their suspended animation stage in the cocoon, and are allowed to leave the cocoon for their final 5-10 days where they mate, although they no longer eat. Usually Ahimsa silk is Eri Silk from Samia Ricini silkmoth a wild type of silk. This moth leaves a tiny hole in the cocoon, so it's able to exit the cocoon without using an acid to cut a hole in the cocoon like the Bombyx Mori silkworms do.

However, the grade of Ahimsa silk cannot be compared with the quality and softness of Mulberry silk. The silk produced is a wooly, cotton-like feel to the silk.

At first inspection, 'Peace silk' sounds like the humane solution, but even Peace Silk is not perfectly humane. You see, after emerging from the cocoon, the male and female moths are kept together for three hours to mate. The females are then segregated and placed in trays to lay hundreds of eggs. The males are put in the refrigerator, kept semi-frozen, and trotted out repeatedly to mate. They are eventually thrown into a dustbin to die lingering deaths when their virility diminishes. Silk farms have a limited supply of food and they can't feed all the hatchlings. So although the silkworm moths have emerged safely from their cocoons and will die naturally or in the dustbin, most of their offspring will die from starvation or dehydration within a few days of birth. Is this humane? We don't think so.

Even with wild silk, which is impractical and low quality, most offspring will suffer the same fate. Eaten by birds, ants, spiders and starvation. Silkworms are notoriously picky eaters, and will die of starvation if their chosen choice of food is not immediately available.

dove, peace, peace silk
silkworm, mulberry, silk moths

Conventional silk production

Silk industry goes back more than four thousand years when the cocoon began to be cultivated in the East. Generally speaking when it comes to conventional silk there are 11 grades of silk and the best silk grade of silk is Grade 6A Mulberry silk. Let us find out more about this smooth fabric.

The silk produced by bombyx Mori silkworm being fed Mulberry leaves. This is why it's called, Mulberry silk.

Silk sustainability

Silk production is fully sustainable. It’s very efficient with inputs (land, water, resources). Compared to cotton, there is far less impact on land, water and air. Sericulture (silk production) has been used as a model example of AgroEcology by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) as it’s a complete circle with no wastage.

Mulberry trees are grown without pesticides, insecticides, fungicides and chemical fertilisers. Silkworms are fed on mulberry leaves. - Silkworms are boiled while in suspended animation, removed during reeling and eaten as a delicacy in local communities. - Mulberry fruits are eaten by local communities. - Left over stems/foliage is fed to livestock. Organic waste is used as feed / forage in aquaculture fish farms. - Organic material from ponds is used as fertiliser for the mulberry tree. - Lower quality silk used as filling of duvets / eye masks. - Wastewater is treated. - Sericin is recovered from wastewater and added to cosmetics, food and pharmaceuticals. - High annual rainfall in region of production (1000mm / yr). - No plastic microfibre pollution or any residues in the environment. - Biodegradable - composted with food/garden waste at the end of its useful life.

Silk production emits 800x less carbon than cotton for 1 pound of fabric. Silk grown/reared in climates that have ample rainfall so the mulberry trees are irrigated from rainfall and not fresh water sources.

Although the production of Mulberry silk involves killing silk moths, these moth are consumed as food in local areas where the silk is produced. The silk worm in its natural habitat stops consuming food once it has made the cocoon and starves itself to death. In other cases, it is eaten by other birds or insects which are higher up in the food chain.

Mulberry silk is relatively fewer chemicals and pure silk which is ivory in colour is even free from dyes.

Recycled silk

With the encouragement of sustainable fashion the demand for recycled silk has increased. Many companies source silk fabric which has been used and create outfits from them.

This is a highly ethical and sustainable approach, reducing waste, and a wonderful use of the precious silk fabric, as it's repurposed and reused.

womans hand holding recycle globe
girl sleeping on pure silk bedding

Why use Mulberry Silk bedding

Used by royalty and noblemen as bedding for centuries, modern technology has made silk bedding durable for every day use and brought to luxury seekers homes for not just its tactile benefits but also numerous other benefits. Let us explore some of the reasons silk pillowcases and silk bedding is becoming a popular choice for those in the pursuit of sweet dreams.

1. More ethical / sustainable than alternatives in conventional bedding

As explained above, silk is more ethical and sustainable than its counter parts. Its production process which involves planting of Mulberry tree helps maintain the ecological balance, reduce waste and produce a product that is biodegradable at the end of its life.

2. Hypoallergenic

Silk naturally repels dust mites, mould and mildew. The bedroom is a major cause of allergies in the home. Tiny microorganisms are found in bedding and carpets, and feed off of our dead skin cells.

The excrement of dust mites is the number one cause of household allergies.

skincare, skin

3. Benefits for your skin

Silk fabric is recommended to beauty professionals as it reduces wrinkles and sleep creases. The cotton pillowcases wicks out the moisture from your skin making it dry and dull whereas silk being similar pH level to your skin retains the natural moisture. This method works well in the evening for optimal benefit and gives a more glowing skin tone.

4. Benefits for your hair

As the cotton pillowcases dry out the hair but absorbing the natural moisture they cause hair to get dry and brittle. This can result into hair breakage, bald spots and even hair loss.

Sleeping on silk is recommended for all hair types. It is particularly beneficial for curly and coloured hair. The silk proteins and soft texture of silk help to prevent hair mattes and dry out while sleeping. It retains the hair's natural moisture and those who are used to going in for a regular blow dry find that their blow dry lasts a few days longer when they sleep on silk pillowcases.

woman drying hair, girl
thermometre chart, temperature measure

5. Thermoregulating properties

Silk is also a wonderful insulator and regulates body temperature very well which makes it ideal for bedding. Keeping you warm when you’re cold and cool when you’re overheating. Your silk bedding can be used all year around.

Benefits of silk are further explained here

How to choose the best silk sheets?

A) Quality

The Metric Momme means the silk's answer to the thread count of other textiles. Japanese units measure the weight of a piece of fabric. The bigger your mum, the more dense the material is. The silk sheet is usually from 1 oz to 30 mg. Transparency in product development, certification and transparency - Branding needs to demonstrate clearly what the product's manufacturing process is. Sheets which are certified under OEK-TEX standard 100 or Global Organic Textile standards are GOTS certified organic materials that guarantee the quality of the materials.

Oekotex silk is a sustainable choice. Silk has the advantage of not only being free from harmful chemicals, but is also beneficial to the environment

B) Sustainability metrics

Choose 100% pure silk versus blends of cotton or polyester with silk.

Silk production is fully sustainable. It’s very efficient with inputs (land, water, resources). Compared to cotton, there is far less impact on land, water and air. Sericulture (silk production) has been used as a model example of AgroEcology by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) as it’s a complete circle with no wastage.

Mulberry trees are grown without pesticides, insecticides, fungicides and chemical fertilisers. Silkworms are fed on mulberry leaves. - Silkworms are boiled while in suspended animation, removed during realing and eaten as a delicacy in local communities. - Mulberry fruits are eaten by local communities. - Left over stems/foliage is fed to livestock. Organic waste is used as feed / forage in aquaculture fish farms. - Organic material from ponds is used as fertiliser for mulberry trees. - Lower quality silk used as filling of duvets / eye masks. - Wastewater is treated. - Sericin is recovered from wastewater and added to cosmetics, food and pharmaceuticals. - High annual rainfall in region of production (1000mm / yr). - No plastic microfibre pollution or any residues in the environment. - Biodegradable - composted with food/garden waste at the end of its useful life.

Silk production emits 800x less carbon than cotton for 1 pound of fabric. Silk grown/reared in climates that have ample rainfall so the mulberry trees are irrigated from rainfall and not fresh water sources. The lifecycle of a silk worm is around 6-8 weeks. During its growth stage, which is the only time it eats, is around 24-28 days, once it spins its cocoon it turns into pupae and goes to sleep In this stage of pupae, they don’t react to external stimuli, and it is this time they are baked or boiled, to remove any suffering and keep the silk in tact.   The process of killing silkworms is kinder that one would think.

The silkworms are eaten as a delicacy, they’re not discarded.   If they were to continue and turn into a moth, they would eat their way out of the cocoon whilst damaging the silk and mate and die within a few days of starvation as it never eat again after emerging from the cocoon. This is a lesser known fact amongst some animal welfare groups who need to consider this.

Instead of them starving the silk moths, they are boiled so that their life's work can be preserve in the form of a non- torn cocoon which is 1 continuous thread.

Mayfairsilk®

A leading brand when it comes to silk bedding and accessories, Mayfairsilk creates biodegradable and sustainable silk products that when discarded at end of life and can be composted with food & garden compost.

All our products are grade 6A Mulberry silk and are OEKO-Tex standard 100 certified. Besides being super soft customers absolutely love the matt finish of our silk. We offer a durable fabric that you can enjoy all year around. Dry cleaning or machine wash using a silk setting is preferred although one can also hand wash the silk.

Our 22 momme and 25 momme silk bedding and accessories are widely distributed across the US, Middle East, Europe and Asia. We pride ourselves to be one of UK's sustainable brands and so we plant tree after every order made directly on our website. Our products aim to bring you joy in the simplest of moments that lead to sweet dreams.

Conclusion

Silk is a wonderful textile and all things considered, has low impact on the environment, is a completely circular industry with no wastage, long lasting, sustainably produced and renewable and has low sentient animal cruelty as silkworms are insects and asleep while when boiled for food and reeling the silk.  

 

girl lying on silk bedding, mayfairsilk
oeko-tex standard 100 logo

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