Hemp can be used in various ways. The most diverse utility and the longest dated history is attributed to hemp fibres. They have been used for millennia and are one of the strongest materials known. There are many advantages of hemp, therefore it is no wonder it stayed in use for such a long time.
Until 1920 up to 80% of clothes in USA contained hemp. With the start of war on cannabis (Marijuana Tax Act – 1937) this percentage decreased drastically. In a bit more than 80 years they have destroyed a plant, which was in use for millennia for a reason. We became dependent to worse, lower quality materials, which are not sustainable and their cultivation can be harmful to the environment.
However, hemp is back and it is time to include it in our everyday life. Although, hemp is an amazing plant and can be used in various ways, it has its disadvantages as well. In this article we will review the advantages of cannabis as a textile and its “disadvantages” as well.
Hemp Textiles are Expensive
Currently, prices of hemp textile products are relatively high compared to nylon, cotton, or other mass used materials. Although, its production is on the rise, it is still behind the competitive textiles. For comparison, in 2018 the world produced 60,000 tons of cannabis fibre and 30 million tons of cotton. Whenever something new with limited supply appears on the market, the price increases. Because the interest surrounding hemp and production are growing, we can expect a decrease in prices through time.
Hemp Textiles Tend to Wrinkle
Like most of textiles made from natural fibres, hemp wrinkles as well. Depending on its processing, it can also cause slight itching. Consequently, it is often blended with other materials (although it gets softer with every wash). Some hemp clothes need to be hung for straightening or need to be ironed.
“Hemp textiles can wrinkle; however, this is a small price to pay for an environment friendly material”
As it is a natural material it is not extremely colour rich compared to synthetic materials. Visually, it might not be for everyone and it will have an authentic “organic” look. Companies involved in sustainable approaches also use natural textile dyes, which can produce a very beautiful colour.
Although it is legal to grow hemp, many people still have a negative opinion about hemp (mostly due to negative historical propaganda and lack of knowledge). Consequently, it is still very difficult to promote hemp textiles due to judgement from the public. Furthermore, still today, certain sites and advertising mechanisms censure and forbid the word hemp, which is and absurd. Through time, the situation will get better.
ADVANTAGES OF HEMP
Hemp Textiles are Environmentally Friendly
It is one of the most environment friendly textiles we know. Hemp does not require pesticides to grow and can outgrow the weeds without the use of herbicides. Hemp controls the top parts of soil erosion and produces oxygen. Moreover, the process of growing hemp is carbon negative, as it absorbs more CO2 compared to trees. Additionally, the material is also biodegradable.
Besides the fact that cannabis is naturally resistant to many types of insects (not all), it also requires relatively small amounts of water to grow. We require approximately 50% less water compared to growing cotton. Very little is thrown away in the process of growing and processing hemp. Stalks can be used for fibre, seeds for food and hemp oil, flower for CBD oil, hemp tea, or other products made of cannabis extract.
Hemp produces more fibres per hectare compared to trees and we can have up to 3 harvests per year. Hemp also grows very fast, as it requires only 90 to 120 days from seed to harvest (trees require 20+ years).
Hemp Textile is Weather Resistant
Nowadays, most of us are aware of the potential UV ray’s danger. It is recommended to protect our body against the strong sun. Hemp textiles serve as an additional layer of protection. The number of threads in hemp fibre/textiles is extremely high, which means they are weaved very tightly. Consequently, it is difficult for the sun rays to get through the material. Research shows, that according to best approximations, hemp filters up to 95% of UV rays.
Hemp Textiles are Extremely Durable
Hemp clothes are surprisingly light and absorbent. Their tensile strength is a few times greater compared to cotton. The ancient civilizations were aware of this, as they started to use hemp for fibres at least 10,000 years ago. You can read more about cannabis history here.
In the end, hemp clothes will outlive synthetic ones. At first, wearing hemp clothes might feel a bit strange. You get used to it through time and enjoy it a lot. Hemp clothes are very breathable and the textile absorbs sweat very efficiently. It also does not wear out easily after washes if we go by the instructions. Moreover, it is also interesting, that through time and every wash hemp clothes get gentler and softer.
Blending Hemp and Other Materials
We can blend hemp textiles with other materials as well, to exploit the advantages of other materials. The best examples are hemp and cotton, or hemp and silk. If it is combined with other natural materials, the combination can also stay biodegradable. You can enjoy the benefits of durability and additional comfort, without hurting the environment. Antibacterial Effect
Researchers found hemp activity against certain bacteria (including MRSA and E.Coli) and fungal strains. Hemp fibres contain a wide spectrum of antibacterial properties. Moreover, due to hypoallergenic properties, hemp is perfect for sensitive skin and allergies.
Hemp Textiles are Cost-Efficient
On of the current hemp disadvantages is its cost. You are probably wondering how it can be cost efficient? This part is connected more to its potential than the current state.
We already mentioned hemp requires less water to grow and grows very fast. Furthermore, the plants growth helps the soil. The reason for this is that hemp returns up to 70% of nutrients back to the soil. Consequently, theoretically we can easily increase the production drastically.
Now companies can start with larger productions of hemp products, which can decrease the costs and prices of the products. There is only one type of hemp textile. Of course, it varies in quality, feel, and texture, however the basic process is the same. This fact makes mass production even simpler.
LET’S REVIVE THE PAST
It is not correct to talk about hemp as a “magical” or “perfect” material. It also has its disadvantages, which are not a deal breaker. On the other hand, there are many advantages of hemp. Currently, hemp textiles are still relatively expensive, however with larger demand and production the price will decrease in time.