Biodegradable Fabrics Explained

Biodegradable Fabrics Explained

By The Modern Style

Biodegradable fabrics decay naturally and in a way that isn’t harmful to the environment. When choosing vintage clothing, considering how long the fabric takes to decay at the end of It’s life helps to reduce It’s environmental impact. 

All fabrics eventually biodegrade however the length of time it takes varies greatly from one month to up to 600 years. How biodegradable a material is depends on many different factors from whether it’s natural or synthetic to the dyes and chemicals that are used in the production process. Natural fabrics such as wool, organic cotton and linen are the quickest to biodegrade whilst synthetic fabrics such as nylon, polyester and acrylics that contain plastics often take the longest, plus man-made fabrics are full of chemicals, using up natural resources and burning fossil-fules.

Although we passionately believe in caring for our clothes so they last as long as possible, like all things, eventually they could end up in landfill, so here are three biodegradable fabrics to consider when shopping for vintage clothing.


Wool has a relatively low environmental impact compared to other fabrics. It comes from the fleece of a sheep’s winter coat, which is naturally shed in warmer months and collected for fibres. Natural Wool takes just 3-4 months to completely biodegrade making it one of the most sustainable fabric choices.

Organic Cotton

Cotton is a natural fibre that comes from the ball of a cotton plant. It is one of the world’s most widely used materials. Organic cotton is made without the use of chemicals, dyes and harmful pesticides making it a more sustainable choice than non-organic cotton. It takes around 5 months for organic cotton to biodegrade and longer if dyes have been used.


Linen is a natural fabric, spun from the fibres of the flax plant. It’s temperature regulating qualities make it a popular choice during warmer months. Due to it’s lightweight nature Linen can biodegrade in as little as two weeks.


Silk is created naturally from the fibres used by silk worms when they spin themselves cocoons to become moths. Despite It’s delicate appearance, silk is surprisingly strong and durable. It completely bio degrades within 4 years. 

Synthetic fabrics such as Lycra, Nylon and Polyester can take upto 200 years to completely biodegrade which is why at The Modern Style we endeavour where possible to choose vintage pieces that are made of the highest quality biodegradable material. Shop the latest collection here.