Is felt biodegradable? (5 applications of felt textile) 

This article shall answer the question, “is felt biodegradable?”.

It shall also cover other areas such as:

  • Definition of felt textile.
  • Properties and uses of felt textile.
  • Advantages and disadvantages of felt textile.
  • Other types of textile materials.
  • Eco-friendliness of felt textile.

Is felt biodegradable?

Yes, felt made from organic materials such as wool, wood pulp, or animal fur is  100% biodegradable because these materials are susceptible to microbial degradation.

Felt is a textile material that is made from natural or synthetic materials. Synthetic materials are acquired from petroleum and they are not susceptible to microbial degradation.

Biodegradation is the breakdown of organic matter into small particles which are not harmful to the environment.

Biodegradation is carried out by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi.

Organic matter is broken down into small biomass and water, carbon dioxide, or methane gases are produced. 

Carbon dioxide or methane gas production depends on the presence or absence of oxygen. When bacteria or fungi use oxygen to break down organic matter, the process is called aerobic digestion (biodegradation) and carbon dioxide is released.

When microorganisms break down organic matter in absence of oxygen, methane gas is produced. This process is called anaerobic digestion ( biodegradation).

Both aerobic and anaerobic biodegradation reduce organic matter into small biomass which they then use to support their metabolism.

Aerobic digestion is very fast as compared to anaerobic digestion although anaerobic digestion is more efficient than aerobic digestion.

What are the properties and applications of felt textile?

Felt textile contains the following properties.

  • It is highly resilient.
  • It is elastic.
  • It has good vibration damping abilities.
  • It has a good sound insulation property.
  • It is a good thermal insulator.

The uses of felt fabric include:

  • In making hats.
  • In making slippers.
  • In making garments and drapery.
  • In making insulators.
  • In making packaging and polishing materials.

What are the components of felt textile?

Felt textile is made up of different fiber materials. The fiber materials are matted, condensed, and pressed together to form felt textile.

Fibers used can be either natural or synthetic. Natural fibers most commonly used are wool, animal fur, or wood pulp while synthetic fibers mostly used include acrylic or acrylonitrile.

Wool fiber.

This is a textile fiber obtained from sheep and other wooly animals such as goats, bison, muskrats, beavers, 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 and crimped.
  • 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 fiber.

  • 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.

Advantages of wool fiber.

The following are the advantages of wool fiber.

  • It is natural and so readily available in animals such as sheep, goats, and rabbits.
  • It is biodegradable and therefore does not pollute the environment.
  • It is a renewable source of fiber since animals will always produce wool.
  • It is breathable; it allows air to penetrate through it.
  • It is static resistant. It does not create static electricity charges like synthetic fibers.
  • It is strong, elastic, and resilient to weather.
  • It is an excellent natural insulator.
  • It has good absorbency and so it reacts well with dye.
  • It is a flame retardant.
  • It is easy to clean since it contains a protective layer that does not absorb dirt.
  • It is anti-wrinkle, it returns to its shape even after being bent.
  • It is eco-friendly since it is biodegradable and renewable.

Disadvantages of wool fiber.

The following are the disadvantages of wool fiber.

  • It is very material due to its processing cost.
  • It is prone to distortions when under high temperatures.
  • It has a high absorbency and as a result, it stains easily.
  • It is sensitive to alkaline chemicals with a pH above 9.5.

Animal fur fiber.

Fur is a hair covering on the bodies of animals, mostly mammals like cows, bears, horses, donkeys, etc.

Fur may be covered by the hair to provide different purposes to the animal.

The different hairs include:

  • Bristles are long hairs usually for signals; like the lion’s mane.
  • Velli insulates young and newborn mammals.
  • Spines are used for defense like in porcupines.
  • Vibrissae are sensory hairs, like whiskers.
  • Pelage hair contains guard hairs.

Mammalian fur may contain different colors for different reasons.

  • For camouflage like in leopards.
  • For sexual selection.
  • For communication.
  • For temperature regulation.

Properties of fur.

Different fur from different animals contains different properties.

But the general properties of fur fiber used in making felt textile are;

  • It should have the heat-retaining ability.
  • It should be resistant to wear.
  • It should be elastic.
  • It should be durable.
  • Should be resistant to chemicals.
  • Should have high tensile strength.

Uses of fur.

  • The main use of fur fabric is to make clothes.
  • It is mixed with other fibers to make textiles like felt.
  • It is used to make pillow covers.
  • Used to make rugs and mats.
  • Used to make shawls and blankets.

Acrylic fiber.

This is a synthetic fiber made from polyacrylonitrile polymers acquired from petroleum.

The fiber may contain other materials or comonomers such as vinyl acetate or methyl acrylate.

In the USA, acrylic fiber should contain at least 85% acrylonitrile monomer. Other modified types such as modacrylic may contain at least 35% and at most 85% acrylonitrile.

Vinylidene chloride or vinyl bromide are added to modacrylic fiber to increase flame retardancy.

Properties of acrylic fiber.

Acrylic fiber contains the following properties.

  • Highly durable since it has high wear and tear resistance.
  • It is resistant to sunlight and UV radiation.
  • It is resistant to chemical substances like acids and alkalis.
  • It is resistant to oxidation.
  • It is less flammable than cotton but more flammable than polyester and wool.
  • It has high carbon content and therefore is preferred for the synthesis of carbon fibers.
  • It does not stain and therefore can react with any dye.
  • It is resistant to microbial degradation.
  • It is lightweight with a wool-like feel.
  • It is soft and warm.

Uses of acrylic fiber.

Acrylic fiber is used in the following ways.

  • In making sweaters.
  • For making blankets.
  • For making shawls.
  • For making socks.
  • For making carpets, mats, and rugs.
  • For making boots and gloves lining.

Advantages of acrylic fiber.

  •  It is highly insulating.
  • It is the warmest of all man-made fabrics.
  • It is lightweight and has soft touch.
  • It is easy to clean.
  • It dyes fast and holds its color for a long.
  • It is wrinkle-resistant and holds its shape for a long.
  • It is resistant to microbial destruction.
  • It is hydrophobic and therefore doesn’t absorb water.

Disadvantages of acrylic fiber.

  • It is prone to peeling off.
  • It is prone to static cling.
  • It is impermeable to air hence trapping too much heat.
  • It is sensitive to heat and can melt at high temperatures.
  • Its processing produces toxic fumes.

Is felt textile toxic?

The safety of felt toxic depends largely on the materials used to make it.

Acrylic and wool are known allergens that cause allergic skin reactions. Wool contains lanolin protein, which is a strong allergen to some people’s skin.

There have been concerns over the ability of acrylic fiber to cause cancer, although the claims are yet to be substantiated.

The dying of acrylic fiber employs the use of formaldehyde as a preservative. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and also causes skin dermatitis. It also irritates the eyes and nose.

Is felt textile eco-friendly?

The eco-friendliness of felt depends on the fibers used to make it.

According to a study, felt is eco-friendly when natural fibers like wool and fur are used to make it, this is because these organic materials are easily degraded by microorganisms to form non-toxic particles.

Felt made from the acrylic fiber is not eco-friendly. Acrylic is a synthetic plastic that is non-biodegradable and therefore, it accumulates in landfills and water bodies.

Acrylic processing uses toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde which emit fumes that are irritant to the eye, skin, and noses.


This article has answered the question of the biodegradability of felt textiles.

It has also covered other areas like.

  • The components of felt textile, their properties, and their uses.
  • The toxicity of felt textile.
  • The eco-friendliness of felt textile.

Thank you for reading this article. For any questions or comments please use the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is felt biodegradable?

Is felt good for the environment?

Felt made from wool and fur is good for the environment because these materials are biodegradable and hence eco-friendly.

Felt made from acrylic fiber is not very good for the environment because acrylic is non-biodegradable and therefore pollutes the environment.

Is felt renewable?

Felt made from wool is renewable because wool is a renewable material.

Felt made from acrylic is non-renewable since acrylic material is a plastic material that can’t be renewed.

Is wool felt natural?

Yes, wool felt is natural because it is made from wool fiber which is a natural material obtained from animals such as goats, sheep, rabbits, and bison.


Von Moody, Howard L. Needles(2004). Major Fibers and their properties: Acrylic fiber.

Retrieved from:,organic%20solvents%2C%20and%20to%20oxidation

Chad Alice Hagen (2005). Fabulous Felt Hats: Dazzling Designs from Handmade Felt. Lark Books. pp. 8–. ISBN 978-1-57990-542-2

Napper, I. E.; Thompson, R. C. (2016). “Release of Synthetic Microplastic Plastic Fibres From Domestic Washing Machines: Effects of Fabric Type and Washing Conditions”. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 112 (1–2): 39–45. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.09.025

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