Hibiscus is a 4000-year-old crop that is native in ancient Africa and has a long history of being planted

and used by human beings. Hibiscus is a native plant to hot and humid regions and has been cultivated in some countries such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, Sudan, Cuba, Brazil, Thailand, Argentina, Italy, Russia and Hungary for centuries. It is a member of the hibiscus family (Hibiscus cannabinus L) and related to cotton and jute. It was considered as an alternative crop and the products from it were simple and cheap. Because of its biodegradability and environmental compatibility, the usage of hibiscus has increased
esta is common word used for both hibiscus cannabinus and hibiscus sabdariffa which produces good fibre of commerce. Hibiscus cannabinus is popular in the Western world as hibiscus. Hibiscus cannabinus is known by various names in India such as Bimli, Deccanhemp, etc. Hibiscus has a good potential of becoming an excellent source of fibre in the manufacturing of pulp, paper, and other textile products. Research proved that one acre of hibiscus can produce 10 to 20 times more usable fibre than an acre of pine. Conceptually, hibiscus is having potential in the textile industry in manufacturing fabrics similar to the ramie/cotton blends. The idea of making fabrics from hibiscus has been practiced since the early 1990s. But the quality of hibiscus fabric was not good enough for making apparel. If processed properly, hibiscus is more lustrous, has greater tensile strength, and has greater resistance to rot when compared to jute. Hibiscus production is less costly and less time-consuming than other raw crops, given that it produces a high yield with minimal use of chemicals. Traditionally, bast and leaf fibres, especially jute, abaca, pineapple, and hibiscus, have been used for products, such as ropes, twine, and


burlap. But natural fibres have become more prevalent in fashion over the last decade. Today hibiscus has become a potential natural fibre source for both apparel and industrial applications.

Processing of hibiscus fibre
Hibiscus has a single, straight, unbranched stem consisting of two parts: An outer fibrous bark and an inner woody core. Hibiscus grows quickly, rising to heights of 12 – 16 feet (4-5 m) in a four - five month growing season and 25-35 mm in diameter. The core is the spongy tissue pith below the bark of the plant. Raw hibiscus fibre is obtained from the outer bark. Hibiscus contains approximately 65.7 per cent cellulose, 21.6 per cent lignin and pectin, and other composition. Lignin must be extracted to separate the fibres. Hibiscus fibres are produced when the core of the hibiscus is separated from the fibrous outer layers. Hibiscus fibres tend to be stiff because of the lignin content. In order to convert hibiscus fibres into a fibre for valuable textile products, they must be either chemically or bacterially retted. The retted hibiscus fibre is blended with cotton and can be carded and spun into yarns that can be made into woven or knitted fabrics.

When fibre separation techniques (mechanical, chemical, or bacterial) were considered, mechanically separated fibres were deemed too stiff for processing into yarns, thus chemical and bacterial retting were compared. Bacterially retted fibres, degummed with 1 per cent NaOH, produced the smoothest fabrics before finishing. Cotton/ hibiscus fabrics can be further improved in softness and hand. The effects of different fabric treatments such as enzymes, bleaching, and mercerisation were compared and measured for softness of hand. Hibiscus fibres are very short and therefore have to be spun in bundles. Also hibiscus fibres are coarser and more brittle than cotton. So it is necessary to blend hibiscus with cotton in order to be able to use the spinning machine, which is designed for longer and stronger staple fibres like cotton.

Major properties of hibiscus fibre
The physical dimension of the fibre is one of the most important factors in apparel industry. Kenaf single fibres are only about 1-7 mm long and about 10-30 microns wide thus too short for textile processing. Few studies show that finer yarns and

Hibiscus fibre

Hibiscus yarn

Procedures of hibicustiliaceus Cutting hibiscus tiliaceus Pealing the shell Pealing the skin Combing fibre Soaking the fibre in water for two days Cleaning the fibre Drying fibre Scouring Bleaching Arranging fibres into bunches Twisting yarns Plaiting yarns Process of fabric production Preparing weft (cotton) and warp (hibiscus tiliaceus fibre) Intertwining weft Weaving into fabric

Hibiscus fibres are also having antimicrobial properties and high resistance to mildew and rot which are useful in active wear which offers the end user odour control benefits.

Applications of hibiscus fibre
Research shows that apparel and upholstery quality yarns and fabrics can be made using retted hibiscus in blends with cotton. Hibiscus is a superior option for garments. Nearly 50 per cent of the plant stalk contains fibre that can be extracted for a number of applications, such as knitted or woven textiles. Hibiscus has also been found to work exceptionally well blended with cotton, and is also suitable for a number of applications including active wear and outerwear because of its natural absorbency and fireretardant properties. The light weight plain weave hibiscus/cotton blend fabric is aesthetically pleasing and gives look of linen, but at the same time it is too scratchy for apparel. The untreated fabrics are rough, but hibiscus’s good tensile property and resistance to mildew and rot, is opening up markets for functional apparels. The fabric hand can be improved with the help of enzyme and mercerisation treatments. Such hibiscus/ cotton blends are an inexpensive, natural fibre alternative to linen. Fashion designers are always looking for novel interesting textures and textiles. Cotton/ hibiscus blends can provide a new texture for textiles to be used in apparel and home furnishing industry.

Nearly 50 per cent of the plant stalk contains fibre that can be extracted for a number of applications, such as knitted or woven textiles. Hibiscus has also been found to work exceptionally well blended with cotton, and is also suitable for a number of applications including active wear and outerwear because of its natural absorbency and fire-retardant properties.

Currently, one of the major challenges in the textile industry is a related environmental problem. Textile industries are facing great pressure to reduce pollutant emissions. This drives textile manufactures to seek new approaches to producing environmentally friendly products, such as recyclable and biodegradable textile materials. More and more attention has been drawn to agricultural products, wastes, and derivatives because of their renewability. One of the crops being investigated is hibiscus, an old crop with many uses. Further, growing hibiscus could also be a solution to global warming as it is having ability to absorb more CO 2 than any other plant. As an alternative to petroleum based synthetics, hibiscus bast fibre offers clear sustainability advantages as well as increasing cost savings as fuel prices continue to rise

fabrics can be made using retted kenaf blended with cotton. But the kenaf fibres could not exceed more than 30 per cent of the blend. After blended, the yarn strength is weaker, stiffer, and less recoverable than 100 per cent cotton, but displayed very high air permeability. Elongation at break and tear resistance is also less, but still pass the requirements for apparel applications.

Environmental benefits of hibiscus fibre
Hibiscus is claimed to be one of the most sustainable fibre plants in existence, due to its growth rate and excellent ability to replenish the environment it grows in. It can be grown in several places including the US, converting more CO2 than 2 acres of tropical rain forest during its growing season whilst also improving soil structure and fixing nutrients into the soil. The plant requires minimal amounts of water, nearly no fertilisers or pesticides and grows extremely rapidly to its full 15 feet in only 150 days. As a natural material, hibiscus is completely biodegradable since neither cultivation nor processing requires synthetic chemicals.

Hibiscus was determined by a 1999 the US Naval Study to be the most absorbent natural material on Earth, and it is that unparalleled absorbency that is at the core of many of hibiscus’s performance and environmental benefits.

By Vasant R Kothari, Assistant Professor, NIFT, Bangalore (Author can be contacted @ www.vasantkothari.com)

Flame retardant
Hibiscus fibres are having excellent flame retardant properties.



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