Pro

– is a very strong and resistant fiberĀ 

– is durable

– has a fine, delicate and smooth texture

– is lightweight

– keeps its qualities and smoothness over time

– takes on dyes well

– neutral smell

– alternative to plastic in industrial context

Cons

– cannot be spun into yarns or fabrics

– very coarse fibers

Advice

Work with transparent fiber suppliers with high ecological and social standards.

Ixtle

Ixtle, also known commercially as tampico fiber, is a natural cellulose leaf fiber. Ixtle is the general name for several agave species and related plants producing short, coarse, hard fibers. Ixtle is harvested in northern and central Mexico where agave plants are native to the land. The ixtle fiber is won from the argave lechuguilla plant, which is also known as Mexicofiber.

For centuries ixtle has been exported all over the world to manufacture cords, ropes and stricks or to be used as a filler in the brush making industries for brushes, scrubbers and brooms for industrial and personal use. Starting in the 1970s, ixtle fell out of fashion in favor of plastic products, which are less expensive to produce. Now, ixtle is making a comeback as an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic.

The agave plant requires calcareous soil in a harsh climate. There the plants grows leaves up to 3 metres in size. It typically takes 8 to 15 years before an agave plant is mature enough to be cut for ixtle, but on plantations the agave plants can be ready to harvest starting from 3 years, 3 to 4 times a year.

The ixtle fiber is exceptionally resistant. The fiber is considered resistant to acids, alkalis and heat. It is uniformly light yellow in color. The individual fibers are 30-50 cm long after harvesting. The material is elastic and absorbs water optimally, with holding and release properties of 65% more water absorption than plastic fillings.

The fibers are recovered by hand scraping and drying. Ixtle is rarely spun into yarn because of its stiff and thick characteristics, using its durable features rather as bristles than fabrics. It is mostly used to make scrubbing brushes, mops, bath and dishwashing brushes. Ixtle is essential where high heat resistance is required.

Untreated ixtle is completely compostable. Things like dye, toxic chemicals, blended fibers and trims can hinder its compostability.