Is embroidery thread biodegradable? ( 5 materials of embroidery thread)

This blog shall answer the question, “is embroidery thread biodegradable?”

Other areas which shall be covered include:

  • Types of embroidery threads.
  • Biodegradability of different embroidery threads.
  • Eco-friendliness of different types of embroidery thread.
  • Other uses of different types of embroidery threads.

Is embroidery thread biodegradable?

Yes, embroidery thread acquired from natural materials is biodegradable. However, embroidery thread acquired by the synthetic technique is non-biodegradable.

Natural embroidery thread is that which has been acquired from animal or plant products.

Synthetic embroidery thread is that which has been acquired through chemical processes using materials that are not naturally available.

What are the types of embroidery thread?

Embroidery thread is acquired from different types of fibers.

Different types of threads are dependent on the following thread materials.

  • Wool.
  • Cotton.
  • Silk.
  • Acrylic.
  • Viscose.
  • Rayon.


This is a textile fiber obtained from sheep and other wooly animals such as goats, bison, and rabbits.

Wool contains a mixture of proteins and lipids.

Characteristics of wool depend with:

  • Breed of animals.
  • Chemicals used in processing.
  • The tensile strength.
  • Color used in processing.

Properties of wool.

  • It is elastic.
  • It readily absorbs moisture.
  • It ignites at a higher temperature.
  • It does not melt or drip.
  • It can cause allergic reactions depending on the user’s immune system.

Uses of wool textile.

Embroidery thread acquired from wool has the following uses:

  • Making clothes.
  • Making blankets.
  • Making horse rugs.
  • Making wool carpets.
  • Making insulators and upholstery.
  • Making cloth diapers.
  • Making soil fertilizers since it produces nitrogen.


This is a soft fluffy fiber that grows in a boll around the seeds of cotton plants.

It is mainly made of cellulose but can have small amounts of fats, pectins, wax, and water 

There are 4 distinct types of cotton depending on the cotton plant species. They include:

  • Gossypium hirsutum; accounts for almost 90% of the world’s production.
  • Gossypium barbadense is also called extra-long-staple cotton. It accounts for almost 8% of the world’s production.
  • Gossypium arboreum; also called tree cotton. It accounts for less than 2% of the world’s production.
  • Gossypium herbaceum; also called levant cotton. It accounts for less than 2% of the world’s production.

Properties of cotton.

  • It has a high luster.
  • It has high tensile strength.
  • It has low resilience to chemicals.
  • It decomposes under high temperatures.
  • It is non-irritating to the user.
  • It is hypoallergenic.

Uses of cotton textile.

Thread made from cotton has the following uses.

  • Making bath towels and robes.
  • Making denim for blue jeans.
  • Making socks and underwear.
  • Making bed sheets.
  • Making embroidery thread for crochet and knitting.
  • Making fishing nets.
  • Making coffee filters.
  • Making tents.
  • Making cotton papers.


This is a natural protein fiber that is mainly made up of fibroin and sericin.

It is produced by insect larvae of mulberry silkworm, Bombyx mori.

The worm is commercially reared for silk harvesting.

Silk produced contains fibroin as the main structural protein and a sticky sericin that protects the silk.

On exposure to light, sericin dries up and forms a hardcover on the silk.

Properties of silk.

The following are the properties of silk.

  • It reflects light at different angles.
  • It has a smooth and soft texture.
  • It is not slippery like many other natural fibers.
  • It is one of the strongest natural fibers.
  • It has a good moisture retention capacity.
  • It has low elasticity.
  • It is susceptible to insect and microbial attacks.
  • It has poor conduction of electricity.
  • It is resistant to acid corrosion except for sulfuric acid.
  • It is destroyed by chlorine bleach.

Uses of silk textile.

Silk thread is used in the following ways.

  • Used in making clothes such as shirts, ties, blouses, lingerie, pajamas, robes, and linings.
  • It is used to make fabrics resistant to mosquito and horsefly bites.
  • It is used in furnishing applications such as making wall coverings, rugs, and beddings.
  • It is used to make parachutes, bicycles, and motor tires.


This is a synthetic fiber made from polyacrylonitrile monomers and co-monomers such as vinyl acetate or methyl acrylate.

Properties of acrylic textile.

Acrylic textile has the following properties.

  • It is lightweight.
  • It is soft and warm.
  • Acrylic resembles wool in its texture.
  • It is highly resilient to chemical solvents.
  • It is resilient to insect digestion or microbial degradation.

Uses of acrylic textile.

Acrylic textile is used in the following ways.

  • It is used in upholstery.
  • It is used to make warm jumpers.
  • It is used to make blankets and duvets.
  • It is used to make gloves and tracksuits.
  • It is used to make socks.
  • It is used to make carpets.


This is a semi-synthetic fiber made from natural cellulose from wood and animal products and other chemical substances.

Properties of rayon textile.

These are the properties of rayon textile.

  • It is more slippery than natural fibers.
  • It has the same texture like silk, wool, and cotton depending on the chemicals used to process it.
  • It is easily dyed into different colors.
  • It is smooth, soft, and has high adsorbent properties.
  • They have low durability as compared to other fibers.

Uses of rayon textile.

Rayon textile is used in the following ways.

  • Used to make bedsheets.
  • Used to make clothes such as sarees, blouses, dresses, and socks.
  • Used to make curtains.
  • Used to make blankets.
  • It is used to make carpets.
  • It is used to make bandages and surgical dressings.


This is a thermoplastic synthetic fiber made from petrochemical products, with the main monomer used being diamine acid.

It is one of the most used fabrics in industries today.

Properties of nylon.

Nylon has the following properties.

  • High abrasion resistance.
  • High tensile strength.
  • It is highly elastic.
  • High resistance to sunlight.
  • It is highly durable.
  • It is hygroscopic; it absorbs water.
  • It is less crystalline.
  • It is clear and transparent.
  • It can be dyed into different colors.
  • It has a high melting point.
  • It is less flammable.

Uses of nylon textile.

Nylon is used in the following ways.

  • To make stockings.
  • To make yoga pants.
  • To make sportswear.

Is embroidery thread biodegradable?

Biodegradation is the breakdown of organic or natural material by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi.

Microorganisms do not break down petrochemicals or synthetic materials.

Embroidery thread would be broken down depending on the material from which it is made.

Natural source.

As covered earlier, some embroidery threads are made from natural products.

Natural products are those derived from plants or animals.

Natural products which make embroidery threads are:

  • Wool.
  • Cotton.
  • Silk.

Embroidery thread made from these materials will be biodegradable since wool and silk are derived from animals and cotton is acquired from plants.

Synthetic or semi-synthetic sources.

Embroidery thread can be made from synthetic or semi-synthetic sources.

Synthetic materials for embroidery thread include nylon while semi-synthetic materials include rayon and acrylic.

Embroidery thread made from nylon will be 100% non-biodegradable since fungi and bacteria do not break down petrochemical products.

Embroidery thread is made of semi-synthetic material; rayon and acrylic will be partially degraded depending on the concentration of the natural textile in the thread.

Is embroidery thread eco-friendly?

Much like biodegradation, the eco-friendliness of embroidery thread depends on the material used to make the thread.

Synthetic nylon is 100% non-biodegradable and as such, it is not eco-friendly. 

When disposed of, it will lead to environmental pollution by accumulating in the environment.

Semi-synthetic acrylic and rayon will undergo partial degradation. 

They will also cause environmental pollution but to a lesser degree as compared to nylon textile.

According to a study, natural textiles such as wool, silk, and cotton undergo 100% biodegradation.

This means that natural biodegradation will not lead to environmental pollution since they will be broken down by microorganisms.


This blog has answered the question of whether embroidery thread is biodegradable.

It has also covered other areas such as:

  • Types of textile materials.
  • Properties and uses of different textile materials.
  • Eco-friendliness of textile materials.

For any comments or questions, use the comment section provided below.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs): Is embroidery thread biodegradable?

Is embroidery thread biodegradable?

Yes, embroidery thread from natural products such as wool, cotton, and silk is biodegradable.

However, embroidery thread made from synthetic or semi-synthetic materials will undergo either partial or zero biodegradation depending on the concentration of non-biodegradable material used.

What is the most eco-friendly thread?

The most eco-friendly thread is that which is made from 100% natural products.

Wool-based, cotton-based, and silk-based threads are the most eco-friendly ones.

Can 100% cotton be composted?

Yes, cotton is a purely natural material and it will be completely broken down by bacteria and fungi.


Mohanty, A; Misra, M; Henrichsen, G (March 2000). “Biofibres, biodegradable polymers, and biocomposites:An overview”. Macromolecular Materials and Engineering. 276: 1–24. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1439-2054(20000301)

Yashas. GT, Sanjay. MR, Jyotishkumar. P, Suchart. S. ( 27 September 2019). Natural Fibers as Sustainable and Renewable Resource for Development of Eco-Friendly Composites: A Comprehensive Review.

Retrieved from:

Loasby, G. (1951). “The Development of the Synthetic Fibres”. Journal of the Textile Institute Proceedings. 42 (8): P411–P441. doi:10.1080/19447015108663852.

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