When I saw Nano Technology advertised at my local bedding store I was curious so I had to find out more…I knew a little bit about nano technology in textiles but didn’t realize things were moving so quickly. From non-iron to deodorizing properties and everything in between, it’s definitely stuff of the future – or is it already in our present?
So what’s wrong with crinkles and wrinkles? Well, nothing if you ask me! I love texture & I love natural fibres but with that comes the question of spending time ironing. In the old days, ironing was very much part of everyday life; as a child, I helped my Mum by pressing pillow cases and tea towels for the household. I still love the process of pressing to achieve a beautiful crisp result for a dress shirt or silk gown but I have a lot of friends who despise ironing. These days there are lots of alternatives for dealing with the ironing dilemma.
Since the 1660’s man has been tinkering with artificial fibres but it was really not until the 1930’s that scientists & fabric technologists began to have success with creating and blending artificial fibres. Today there are many technical fibre blends created for a variety of reasons, one of which is to reduce or eliminate ironing. The addition of chemical finishes to enhance a textile’s natural attributes was the next technological advancement and has many modern applications from permanent pressing to sunblocking qualities. Today, nano technology seems poised to impact the general fashion market on a variety of levels.
What is so great about nano technology? Well, for a start it can be applied to give fabrics a wide range of properties including stain resistance and thermal qualities along with fire retardant, anti fungal and anti bacterial properties. This has to be fantastic for workwear in the mining and construction industries, and for frontline service workers in the health & police services. The technology can be applied to any type of fibre (natural or man-made) and has wide ranging possibilities. Nano technology companies claim that their fabrics will maintain theses additional qualities because they are embedded at a molecular level. But should we have concerns about nano technology and should we consider whether we bring it into our homes?
The greatest concern about nano technology in textiles (and in other applications such as cosmetics) is that it is molecular so therefore the fibre is embedded with microscopic particles. Does this create the risk that these particles will be absorbed by our skin and then taken into our circulatory system? Opponents to the technology say we have no idea whether or not there are health consequences related to nano particles being absorbed. Scientists, health advocates and environmentalists have concerns that there will be side affects from prolonged exposure to nano particles. There is also cause for concern about whether the particles will wash out of garments & fabrics and be flushed into our water systems (metals are just one type of material used to make the particles).
Many of the properties that we’re seeking in nano technology are actually available in many of our natural fibre group of textiles. For example, linen makes the most beautiful bed sheets – it is more durable than cotton, has high moisture absorbency and breathability and is hypo allergenic. Linen sheets are ideal for hotter climates because of the fabric’s natural tendency to cool; fine linen sheets can also last for decades. Yes, they can be an investment but the longevity can justify this. And yes, they will be crinkled and wrinkled in the loveliest possible way.
Maybe we’ve been over thinking the whole ironing thing. If you wash and dry your clothes well then even natural fibres won’t need ironing. I spoke to Sarah from sustainablefashion.com.au and she gave me some great washing tips. Sarah washes all the garments she produces before they’re dispatched to her customers so she knows her stuff when it comes to washing and caring for clothes. “We machine wash them (with a small amount of detergent) on a cold water gentle cycle and hang them on padded hangers in the shade to dry. No ironing is needed if you wash this way. The key is to have a slow spin as this stops the creases being made. The excess moisture left in the garment helps flattens any creases as it dries”.
If we put the effort in at the washing stage then caring for our clothes and bedding will be easier. And we should definitely find out more about nano technology because the potential is enormous for industrial applications but it needs to be 100% safe because we’ve been down that road before. Whether it needs to be in our households is another question for debate.
Guest post by Michael Lackman from OrganicClothing.blogs.com
MARTHA STEWART LIVING, VOLUME 2 APRIL/MAY 1992