Turning fiber into yarn is a multistep process. Many chemicals are used in that process.
What Chemicals are Typically Found In Yarn
Chemical solvents are used in manufacturing to break down substances. They are used sometimes to clean raw fibers that will be spun into yarn. Trichloroethylene, benzene and methanol are the most common.
Surfactants are also used as detergents, wetting agents or emulsifiers in the manufacture and dyeing of yarn.
Dyeing yarn is a toxic process. Many chemicals are used, including the following:
- Dispersants prevent the redeposit of dyes.
- Leveling agents help the fiber take the dye better.
- Vat levelling agents slow the dye takeup process
Before dyeing, yarns are bleached with peroxide stabilizers. Then, peroxide killers are used to stop the bleaching process. A neutralizer is then added to adjust the ph level
In addition to the chemicals used in manufacturing and processing yarn, water is used in almost every step. Water carries the residue of the very substances it washes out. If the water is not run through a filtration system before it’s deposited, it will pollute the waterway.
Yarn spun from natural fibers, either from animals or plants may carry traces of chemicals used in their growth. Plants, such as cotton and linen, that are treated with pesticides will contain residue from those pesticides. The fleece of sheep and other fiber-bearing animals will also carry trace amounts of residue from antibiotics or other medicines.
Acrylic yarn, or polyacrylonitrile is a type of plastic made from fossil fuels. It is the result of a chemical reaction that includes using very strong solvents that create a plastic gel that is forced through holes or spinnerets. The gel dries into threads which are spun into yarn. Acrylic yarn not only contains chemicals, it is a chemical.
Why Should a Hobbiest Care?
Yarn can hold the residue of the chemicals it comes in contact with throughout its lifetime. Studies have shown they are only trace amounts and not enough to be harmful, they can however, irritate your skin or the skin of the wearer of a knitted or crocheted garment.
Acrylic yarn, or polyacrylonitrile, is a chemical compound. Not only is it completely man made, but it can be harmful. Polyacrylonitrile was found by the EPA to produce symptoms similar to cyanide poisoning. Acrylic yarn is also thought to be carcinogenic.
How To Prevent Using Yarn With Chemicals
When you are shopping for yarn that doesn’t contain chemicals avoid craft store chains. Find an owned yarn store or shop online.
How To Find Chemical Free Yarn
If you have a local yarn store in your community, please shop there first. Ask their staff for organic or fair trade yarn. If they don’t have it, ask them if they can stock it. Small business owners want to please their customers. If people continue to ask for something, the owners will provide it.
If you order online, use the website’s search tool. Search words like organic, natural, fair trade, ethically sourced or sustainable.
The Benefits of Hemp and Nettle Yarn?
Yarn made from hemp and nettle plants are inherently chemical free as these plants are naturally pest-free and don’t require pesticides.
Hemp and nettle yarns also contain antibacterial properties. They are a great alternative to cotton when knitting, crocheting or weaving dishtowels and washcloths.