Natural Rubber/Latex

How is Natural Rubber fabric made?

Natural rubber is made from the organic compound Latex which is derived from tree sap. The trees that it is usually found in are the Genera Hevea and Ficus families.

Natural Rubber Manufacture

Natural Rubber is an elastomer, which means it is an elastic hydrocarbon polymer. This is a very environmentally friendly material as it doesn’t release any pollutants into the atmosphere. The latex is a milky colloid found in the sap of some trees. To obtain this latex, the tree must be tapped. To do this an incision is made in the tree bark so that the sap can be collected and converted into a useable rubber.

This converting is done by placing the latex onto flat vessels so that the sap congeals and the water and rubber particles separate. The rubber particles separate from the water and create a pulpy layer on the surface, which can then be lifted off. This material made of pure rubber particles is known as ‘Crude Rubber.’ This Crude Rubber is then made into thin sheets, sprinkled with water and dried and preserved using woodfire smoke. Crude Rubber is the material from which natural rubber is derived. Usually, Rubber trees can be tapped 2-3 times throughout their lifetime. The latex sap is collected in a metal cup.

Because of the feel and appearance of Natural Rubber, it is usually covered with yarns of another fibre. It can also be blended with other fibres as it is woven straight into the fabric.

Properties of Natural Rubber Fabric

  • Solid molecular structure means that Natural Rubber is resistant to wear and tear
  • Comfortable
  • Subtle
  • Retains its Elasticity well
  • Very Stretchy
  • Shock Absorbance
  • Flexible
  • Waterproof
  • Under cold temperatures Natural Rubber can be very brittle and will shatter easily
  • Low dye acceptance
  • Easily damaged by Age, sunlight, oil and perspiration

End uses of Natural Rubber

  • Household and Industrial uses
  • Hoses
  • Belts
  • Flooring
  • Gloves
  • Balloons
  • Rubber bands
  • Pencil Erasers
  • Foundation Garments

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Written by Kelly Mitchell

Kelly Mitchell, extremely competent and reliable, she is currently in her third year at the University of Lincoln UK, studying Fashion. Kelly is responsible for the Fabrics, Fibers and Leathers sections of our Dictionary

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