Milk silk, clothing from milk

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In recent years, the clothing industry has made enormous efforts to create a more environmentally friendly process for making clothing. This also includes the search for new products. One of the latest innovations that is often put forward is the use of fibers made from milk. But is this really that innovative?

The history

In recent years, reports have regularly appeared in the press about clothing made from milk. It is invariably presented as a new discovery and a completely new production process. Nothing could be further from the truth. The actual production process was discovered and described decades ago. In the 1930s, the chemist Antonio Ferretti developed a technique to turn the protein Casein into a fiber. The milk fiber was given the name lanintal. During the war years, due to the scarcity of natural fibers, the fibers were used to make clothing. When the normal clothing fibers were back in stock, they were forgotten, only to be picked up again as the latest novelty.

What is casein?

Casein is a protein found in large quantities in milk. This substance is almost the most important component of natural milk. In practice, the effect of casein is visible in every living room, as it causes sour milk to clump. It also plays an important role in cheese making. The curd is formed under the influence of this protein, which is why it is also popularly called cheese dust.

How is the fiber made?

A biochemical process is required to turn milk into clothing fiber. The milk is first skimmed and dehydrated. This is followed by a process of polymerization and cutting of the protein strands. This creates amino acids that can ultimately be used to make clothing fibers. The fibers then undergo a special heat treatment to make them more resistant to fungi and bacteria.

The milk used in the production process is milk that does not meet the nutritional standards. As a result, milk that would normally end up in the waste cycle now ends up in the clothing industry. A summer dress can be made from six liters of milk. If the production process is kept as green as possible, this is a potentially very ecological product.

The clothes

In Japan and China, T-shirts, dresses, scarves and the like have been produced from casein for years. Sometimes these are made entirely from milk fibers and sometimes they are used together with the more common fibers. Mixing the fibers creates fabrics with very different properties, which is of course interesting for the fashion industry to experiment.
The clothing made entirely from these milk fibers feels like silk, hence the popular English name Milk Silk or Silk Milk. Recently, people in Europe have also discovered the fabric and some designers have started working with it. The automotive industry is also becoming more and more interested in processing the fibers in the interior lining. The more interest there is in this fiber, the lower the production price can be brought, and only then will there be a future for clothing made from milk.