What is Milk Cotton Yarn? And How Is It Produced?


Have you ever come across the term “milk cotton yarn” and wondered what it is? Today, I will share my journey of discovering milk cotton yarn and address some questions about its production process, eco-friendliness, and sustainability.

It All Started with Some Second-Hand Yarn

A few months ago, while searching for second-hand yarn deals on the Facebook Marketplace, I stumbled upon an intriguing post. A lady from Den Haag was selling yarn in delightful colors, advertising it as “Milk Cotton.” Curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to purchase it, assuming it was just cotton yarn.

The Surprisingly Soft and Luxurious Yarn

When the yarn arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by its exceptional softness and squishiness. Its texture made it hard to believe that it was pure cotton. Upon inspection, I suspected that it was a blend of cotton and acrylic. However, since the label was in Chinese, determining its exact composition proved challenging.

Uncovering the Composition of Milk Cotton Yarn

Turning to Google for answers, I scanned the label using Google Translate. The translated result revealed that the yarn contained 50% long-staple cotton, 30% silk cotton, 20% milk cotton, and 10% moisture regain. It became clear that the label mentioned milk and cotton as the key ingredients, piquing my curiosity even further.

Understanding Milk Cotton Yarn

Further research confirmed that milk is indeed the foundation of milk cotton production. Specifically, milk cotton is derived from the casein proteins present in milk. Casein refers to a group of milk proteins that make up the majority of milk’s protein content.

Milk cotton is often described as a soft fiber with bacteriostatic, breathable, absorbent, thermo-regulating, and hydrating properties.

The Journey of Milk Cotton Through the Years

The production of milk cotton initially began in Italy and the United States during the 1930s. Commercial names like Lanital, Merinova, and Aralac were used to market milk fibers at that time. However, the popularity of milk fibers declined after World War II, as fully synthetic fibers gained traction.

In recent years, milk cotton has experienced a revival, mainly due to two reasons. Firstly, milk cotton is hypoallergenic, making it an appealing alternative for individuals with wool allergies. Secondly, milk cotton production is considered 100% sustainable, as evidenced by the Oeko-Tek Standard 100 certification obtained by the milk fiber industry in 2004.

The Production Process of Milk Cotton

Although milk cotton is derived from natural proteins, it is not entirely a natural fiber. The manufacturing process involves chemically transforming casein into a fiber.

The Italian chemist Antonio Ferretti invented the milk fiber manufacturing process around 1936, alongside similar developments in the United States. Proteins undergo denaturation in an alkaline bath, followed by coagulation in an acid bath. The resulting dense material is then pressed to create fibers.

To enhance stability, additional tanning with aluminum salts and formaldehyde was traditionally employed. However, in modern production, acrylonitrile replaces formaldehyde. While acrylonitrile raises concerns regarding health and environmental hazards, it is worth noting that it is also used in the production of various acrylic fibers.

The Semi-Synthetic Nature of Milk Cotton

Based on the production process, milk cotton is more accurately defined as a semi-synthetic fiber.

The Eco-Friendliness of Milk Cotton

Producers have recently claimed to have developed a milk cotton production process that excludes acrylonitrile. An acrylonitrile-free process would undoubtedly enhance the eco-friendliness and sustainability of milk cotton. However, as this new process is not yet public, it is challenging to draw a definitive conclusion.

Considering Milk Consumption and Sustainability

While milk fibers are currently a niche product, increased demand for milk-based clothes and fabrics may raise concerns about the sustainability of milk production. However, some producers, like Qmilk, only use waste milk proteins for their fiber production, ensuring no impact on the food chain.

Nevertheless, it is worth pondering whether reducing overall milk consumption should still be a goal.

Share Your Opinion

Now that we have explored the world of milk cotton yarn, I would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below and share your opinion on milk cotton.

Where to Buy Milk Cotton Yarn?

If you’re interested in trying out milk cotton yarn, Rowan offers a product called Milk Cotton Fine. While it can be challenging to find milk cotton yarn in Europe due to most production being in China, I recommend searching for local sellers you trust or exploring platforms like Etsy.

Further Reading

For more in-depth information on milk cotton yarn, I recommend reading the blog post by Exchanging Fire and the article by Boris Hodakel on seport.com. These resources provide valuable insights into the world of milk cotton yarn.

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