A  guide to natural and biodegradable fibres that are safe to compost and can be  washed without shedding tiny plastic microfibres that go on to pollute the sea.

What Are Fibres & Bristles

Fibres are thin strands that can be spun to form one continuous thread that can be used a rope or thread or if fine enough woven into cloth. They can also be stiff and hard and used in brushes.

Bristles are short stiff animal hairs or feathers. However the word bristle is often used to describe the stiff vegetable fibres used in brushes.

Plant derived fibres/bristles include everything from the finest cotton to the hairiest thickest coconut coir rope to the stiffest bassine

Animal derived fibres/bristles range from fine silk to boar bristle hair brushes.


These natural fibres can be used for sweeping, brushing, scrubbing and scouring.

Sweeping brushes can be made from a whole range of natural fibres including

Animal Derived Bristles

Boars hair is used for hairbrushes. But almost every other animal hair, feather or bristle can be used for something it seems.

Camel Hair Brushes
Feather Brushes
Goat Hair Brushes
Hog / China Bristle Brushes
Horse Hair Brushes
Ox Hair Brushes
Pony Hair Brushes
Red Sable Brushes
Sabeline Brushes
Squirrel Hair Brushes

Natural Fibres For Industry

Copied from Natural Fibres

Abaca -Once a favoured source of rope, abaca shows promise as an energy-saving replacement for glass fibres in automobiles

Coir -A coarse, short fibre extracted from the outer shell of coconuts, coir is found in ropes, mattresses, brushes, geotextiles and automobile seats

Jute -The strong threads made from jute fibre are used worldwide in sackcloth – and help sustain the livelihoods of millions of small farmers

Sisal -Too coarse for clothing, sisal is replacing glass fibres in composite materials used to make cars and furniture

Natural Fibres For Fabrics

Plant Derived includes cotton, animal derived is stuff like silk and wool.

Read more about fibres for fabrics here and why I prefer natural fabric over synthetic, (and not just the obvious reasons!)

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