Hemp and Linen
Sturdy fibers with a small weak spot
Hemp is a very durable natural fibre. Traditionally, it has been valued for its strength and durability. Sails, rigging, and tents are well known hemp-made products. Especially long lasting paper – think bank notes – is still being manufactured with hemp today, Gutenberg even printed his bible on hemp paper.
The ever-famous blue jeans, which Levi Strauss riveted together during the American gold rush, were originally made of hemp material and not of cotton as they are today. But you’d be surprised that this incredible material, along with linen, can quickly be destroyed by incorrect washing.
This is due to the unique structure of the hemp fibre. Hemp consists of fibre bundles. Within these bundles are individual fibres in the shape of fine tubes. When wet, hemp absorbs up to 60% of its weight in water and expands in size by up to 30%.
Where is this water going? The cavities in the fine tubes grow bigger while the material absorbs water. Solid substances in detergents can be washed into these cavities. As hemp dries, it shrinks back down to size, trapping these granules within the fibre.
Specifically in hemp care, we’re concerned with finely ground kieselguhr (diatomaceous earth, a type of rock powder), which is used in washing powder as an anticaking agent. This fine mineral powder is washed into the fine hemp tubes with each wash. The fibre shrinks when it dries and the cavities contract again. Because the trapped solid substances do not shrink, they damage the fine capillaries. The fabric becomes brittle and eventually dissolves.
The same concern applies to Flax (linen) to a lesser extent. The linen fibre is also a tube, but it does not absorb as much water and therefore does not expand quite as much as the hemp fibre.
Washing and Care
Hemp and linen should therefore be washed exclusively with liquid detergents which contain no insoluble solids.
Click here to find our DIDYMOS-Baby Wrap Slings with linen and hemp.