September 18 2021 – Diana Aldescu
Hello, hello, welcome back to our fabric of the week blog! This week we are going to dive deeper into the rayon family with yet another fabric. Here comes, cupro.
We have used cupro in the past and have to say, it did not disappoint. But, we will not be biased, keeping it 100% real! We found some cool information about cupro, how it is made and its pros and cons. We will also be answering the big question of is it worth buying products made from this fabric? Let’s find out.
What are rayon fabrics?
Let us refresh your memory and remind you what rayon fabrics are. They are natural materials that go through a chemical process. It is a controlled process, resulting in the final, desired fabric. Naturally, they come from raw materials, so they are considered sustainable. They are also known as semi-synthetic fabrics.
Origins of cupro
More than 130 years ago, cupro was invented in Oberbruch, Germany. Vereinigte Glanzstoff Fabriken AG was the manufacturer of this artificial fibre. It also became one of the leading European producers of rayon. In 1904, a rayon manufacturer called J.P. Bemberg AG improved these artificial fibres. They made the new fabric a product comparable to real silk. This fine fibre became popular very quickly for its amazing quality. It was trademarked as Bemberg®.
How is the cupro fabric made?
-Cupro is made using raw materials only. It uses cotton linter which is non-refined leftover cotton. This is usually not suitable for cotton yarn.
-This is combined with a mixture of ammonium and copper.
-The new substance is dropped into chemicals called caustic soda. The new solution then goes into a spinneret. A spinneret is a man-made small, shaped metal nozzle with holes. It allows solutions to be forced through and form new fibres.
-These fibres then go in a series of hardening baths to remove the ammonia, copper and caustic soda.
-The process of creating cupro uses 40% renewable energy. It also reuses exhaust heat, reducing co2 emission.
Benefits of the cupro fabric
If we’re being honest, cupro is kind of a cool fabric. Let’s find out why!
Reduces waste: Cupro uses waste by-products from cotton production. All cotton is put to use, it doesn’t get thrown away.
Biodegradable and compostable: Cupro is fully biodegradable as it is a raw material. It breaks down completely into non-toxic components that will not harm the environment.
Lightweight: It is a chilled fabric, light and breathable. You will not struggle with this.
Very compatible with other fabrics: From a manufacturer view, it is a fantastic fabric. It mixes very easily with other fabrics and dyes well, producing some vibrant prints!
Machine-washing friendly: It is a fairly easy fabric, so you can machine-wash it. As long as the right temperature is used, you are all good.
Hypo-allergenic and anti-static: You know sometimes you get close to a TV and it is end game for your hair. Some clothes have that effect, too, but not cupro, it's super friendly on your skin. This fabric is very unlikely to cause any allergic reactions and your hair stays safe, too!
No animal usage: This fabric is complete, 100% vegan-friendly! Always a big plus. It is even sometimes called vegan silk for it’s lightweight and silky touch.
And now, some cons
Chemical usage: During production, cupro uses harsh chemicals such as ammonia. This chemical can be irritating and corrosive for the workers. Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia in the air can cause burning of the nose, throat and respiratory distress.
Flammable: This fabric can easily ignite at high temperatures. Little advice, don’t stand too close to the fire.
Drying takes a bit longer: This fabric cannot be tumble-dried, so you have to let it chill. If you’re in a rush it can be a bit of an inconvenience, but still worth it!
Wrinkles easily: If you are planning on travelling, this fabric might be a bit of a pain as it wrinkles easily. However, grab the iron and your problem is solved!
Now comes the real questions…
Why is cupro sustainable?
Well, from the start, cupro is sustainable as it uses cotton waste, called linters. These are tiny, silky cotton fibres that stick out of the cottonseed and are too small to be used in the production of cotton. As cupro is a by-product of cotton production, it is technically a recycled fabric. We know from previous blogs, cotton production can be very wasteful, so using every bit of it it’s a huge plus!
Another obvious one is that cupro is plant-based, so cruelty-free fabric. Although it has a silk-like texture, they are very different. Silk comes from silkworms. Cupro on the other side comes directly from the plant cotton, making this fabric 100% vegan. It can be machine-washed, making it more environmentally friendly than dry cleaning.
Like Tencel, cupro uses a closed-loop production system where chemicals are reused. The chemicals can be extracted afterwards as well as the water can be reused. So the chemical baths can be reused multiple times before being disposed of.
Why is cupro not sustainable?
Of course, every fabric has its disadvantages. The main country of cupro production is China. This country is known for producing a lot of waste, creating low-cost products. Working with manufacturers in China can be tricky. With it comes the worry of modern-day slave labour. It's a huge concern as manufacturers might not follow air and water protection regulations. This can be very dangerous, especially when working with chemicals.
As we mentioned in the cons section, cupro production uses harsh chemicals. These can be toxic for both the environment and workers when not disposed of properly. These chemicals contribute to nitrogen pollution. This affects the ability to breathe, limits visibility and alters plant growth. It can also harm the health of waterways, forests and soils.
Well, cupro is a bit of a tricky fabric. Plant-based in nature, 100% vegan but still not quite there. Sourcing sustainable materials in China can be very tough, but not impossible. There is a stigma against “made in China”, but that doesn’t have to always mean bad things. Manufacturers such as Primary Apparel Factory hold certificates, such as GOTS, Fair Wear and OCS Standard. These prove their contribution to environmentally friendly production.
Another cool manufacturer is called SoftHemp™ Sock Factory in Zhuji City, China. They specialise in the research, development and production of socks and textiles. This factory complies with international quality standards for their personnel and their products. The point is, there are good options out there, too!
So, should you buy cupro?
Yes, cupro faces some issues, but without any doubt, you should purchase this fabric. Especially over full synthetic clothing such as polyester. Recycled and cruelty-free, cupro has some great properties. We know it’s tough, but where possible you should try to find out in what factory your cupro garments are made. However, keep in mind that there are other great vegan silk alternatives worth checking out! Some of these are citrus fibre silk, micro silk and much more!
The sustainability route is not an easy one, but so worth it! Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions!