Yes and no. Flannel is not vegan when it is made out of wool. However, it is vegan when made out of other fabrics like cotton or synthetic materials. Vegans should avoid traditional wool flannel and aim for alternatives that are cruelty-free and suitable for a vegan lifestyle. Wool production is linked to unethical and inhumane practices and is not considered vegan.
What is Flannel?
Flannel is a soft fabric with a loose weave and a napped finish. It is usually made from cotton, wool, or synthetic fiber.
The loose weave allows the fabric to have more air pockets in the fibers and provide more insulation than other types of fabric, making it good at keeping in heat. This, combined with its softness, makes it a popular choice for sleepwear, blankets, and winter bedsheets.
Flannel is also commonly used to make casual clothing pieces, for example, the iconic plaid flannel. Just because it is plaid, does not make it flannel, however – plaid is any fabric with a tartan pattern, flannel is the material.
How is Flannel Made?
The first step consists of acquiring the base material. If the flannel is made from wool, this involves shearing sheep, (a process not considered vegan) and then creating yarn from the wool. Cotton is harvested from cotton plants, while synthetic materials, such as polyester, and created using chemical reactions involving petroleum derivatives.
Once the fiber has been obtained, flannel fabric is made using either twill or a plain weave. The weave is loose, and the material is then napped with a metal brush to soften the fibers. If the flannel is made from synthetic materials, a flame retardant coating is normally added.
Is Flannel Sustainable?
Flannel’s sustainability depends on the fabric that was used to produce the flannel:
- Synthetic fibers come from non-renewable sources, rarely biodegrade, and release harmful microfibers when washed.
- Wool is considered sustainable but is not vegan. It is also biodegradable and can be recycled.
- Cotton, with the exception of organic cotton, requires a lot of water to be cultivated and involves the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers.
Additionally, the chemical dyes that are applied to flannels to change their color may also contain toxic components. Some more sustainably-minded fashion companies use organic cotton and vegetable dyes to create their flannel, and this is the best option for vegans.
Verdict: Should Vegans Buy Flannel?
Vegans can buy flannel. We recommend you stick to organic cotton and aim for fabrics that use vegetable dyes or other sustainable dyes. Always check the label if you are unsure.