Can we make clothes from milk? Yes, we can!
Milk fabric, as the name says, is made from milk. Not the bottle of milk you’re about to pour over your cereal, but the one which you may have left for too long in the fridge and has gone sour.
How is milk yarn made?
In comes milk yarn, made from sour milk, or more precisely its protein fibre - casein. The yarn created is as silky as your milk, and equally fresh, as the casein gets separated from the sour milk through a rather long process, adding a few ingredients to the mix. The smell of milk fibres has been likened to wool.
There are several ways to spin a milk yarn. Traditionally, the milk first gets dehydrated to get to the casein, which then gets dissolved again in a solution of alkali and zinc ions, and then goes through a spinneret. The streams that come out of the spinneret are like those out of a shower head dripping into acidic water, which hardens the fibres. At this point they look like a piece of wool you would shear off a sheep.
Through heating, stretching and treating them with an eco-friendly chemical the strong, yet soft, milk yarn is born. Over time, new bio-engineering technologies have emerged simplifying the process, reducing the need to add chemicals to milk yarn.
The story of milk yarn
Milk fibre may be news to some of us, but it’s not a new idea, scroll back to World War I, when the Germans made uniforms out of milk waste. Still a little rough around the edges decided an Italian engineer, who improved on and patented his milk yarn in 1935. Milk fibre lived on as wool replacement into the 1950s, but then unfortunately, cheaper synthetic fibres pushed the organic yarn into the background. Casein itself became more popular for use in other products, such as paint and cosmetics. Allegedly, also in those times, the milk fibres weren’t strengthened, so the clothes didn’t last as long. An issue, which has been solved today, mostly by mixing milk fibre with other fibres to create the perfect fabric.
So, why choose clothes made from milk?
Farms and supermarkets waste a lot of milk!
A wonderful thought not to have to waste the milk we don’t drink, indeed over a hundred of million tons stay behind on the supermarket shelves and are wasted in dairy farms. If not put to good use, this precious resource just goes down the drain.
The process of making milk fabric is better for the environment
The process of turning milk into fabric uses a lot less water compared to the processes to manufacture cotton fabric. For example, Inner Mettle’s IM MILK essentials collection saves 162 litres when making ladies briefs and 302 litres in the case of men’s boxers. A tank top saves as much as 760 litres and men’s t-shirt a whopping 1080 litres.
Milk fabric makes economic sense
Buying and wearing clothes from a material that has been recycled, and is biodegradable, contributes to a more sustainable economic cycle. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation website notes that “by moving to a circular system the industry can unlock a USD 560 billion economic opportunity”
Milk fabric is 100% natural and free from toxic chemicals
The milk yarn is 100% natural as long as it has been made using no chemical products that are harmful to the environment, or humans, making it sustainable. To know if this is the case look out for the gold standard label ‘Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX®
The texture of the fabric is soft, smooth and glowing
We have mentioned that milk fabric was used in place of wool. But unlike wool it isn’t only softer, around three times more than cotton, but also silkier, comparable to cashmere, enveloping the skin with softness, and offering a nice glow.
Milk fabric is so light, it almost feels like you’re wearing nothing at all
The other milk fabric advantage is that it is extremely light, even around 10 percent lighter than silk and polyester. And of course trumping cotton, milk fabric can be 30-60% lighter than the same garment made with cotton. Basically, it feels like you’re not wearing much at all!
Clothes made from milk fabric can promote better hygiene
The great news is that milk fibre is hypoallergenic with a similar PH to human skin. The fibre breathes naturally and is brilliant at wicking away moisture, keeping us dry and fresh.
Nourish your skin with milk
The milk fibre protein casein contains plenty of nourishing amino-acids, for our skin this means hydration! The protein found in milk fibre is pretty good at deflecting UV light as well, a perfect combination that may well help our skin to age a little slower. Legend has it that Cleopatra — yes the ancient Egyptian queen — bathed in milk to give her skin a radiant glow.
Can help with body temperature regulation
Milk fibre’s nifty little amino-acids can also do a little more than just protecting your skin. Thanks to its thermo-regulatory properties, body temperature is kept even and blood circulation is improved.
Milk is perfect for a variety of clothing styles
Hygienic, soft and light, makes milk fabric the perfect candidate for intimate clothing, socks, and sleep apparel, as well as gym clothing. Yet, milk fabric uses extend beyond the close up and personal. Its softness and sheen call for anything from more luxurious scarves and dresses down to a T-shirt.
Milk fibre is often blended with other fibres, depending on the effect the apparel company is looking for. It makes an excellent companion for anything cool, with bamboo, for example, add some silk and super-sheen is achieved. Heat resistant, milk fibre, also works well with wool and cashmere, turning into a warming material.
IM Milk by Inner Mettle
At Inner Mettle we’re launching our milk apparel with the Essentials Collection. The first IM MILK products will be innerwear!
Like milk fibre, this tree cellulose is also very soft and breathable, great at absorbing moisture, but doesn’t retain heat and is shrink-resistant. Modal Rayon fibre is exclusively made in Europe, contributing to its environmental sustainability aspect.