Demystifying Cupro Fabric: Everything You Need To Know About The Semi-Synthetic Material

Cupro, made from cotton waste, is both sustainable, being biodegradable, and potentially harmful, as its production generates toxic waste, posing environmental and health risks.

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Demystifying Cupro Fabric: Everything You Need To Know About The Semi-Synthetic Material

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Key takeaways

  • Cupro is a semi-synthetic textile derived from cotton.
  • Cupro is prized for its smooth texture and lightness, and it’s viewed as an eco-friendly alternative to silk.
  • While it’s touted as a sustainable material, cupro has some negative impacts on the environment.


As more consumers, designers, and textile manufacturers embrace sustainable fashion, cupro has rapidly become an eco-friendly alternative to conventional fabrics like silk. Coveted for its exceptional blend of elegance and eco-friendliness, cupro has captivated consumers, designers, and textile producers.

But what exactly is cupro? And why is there plenty of buzz about it? In this article, we'll explore the fascinating world of cupro, shedding light on its properties, various uses, impact on the environment, and more. 

Whether you're a conscious consumer, fashionista, or just an intrigued individual looking to learn more about cupro, this article will walk you through all the essentials you need to know about cupro fabric.

What Is Cupro Fabric?

Cupro, also called cuprammonium rayon, cupra, Bemberg, or ammonia silk, is a luxurious and versatile semi-synthetic fabric that's part of the rayon family. While rayon is derived from wood pulp, cupro is made from the cellulose fibers found in cotton linter — a soft, fluffy material surrounding the cottonseed.

What’s the History of Cupro Fabric?

The history of cupro dates back to the late 19th century when it was invented. At the time, scientists were seeking innovative ways to use cellulose fibers. Eventually, in 1904, a Swiss chemist named J.P. Bemberg improved the initial formula used to create cupro, resulting in a material comparable to natural silk. This breakthrough paved the way for the use of cupro in the textile industry.

The commercial production of cupro began in the 1930s, primarily in Japan and later in Europe. The semi-synthetic fabric rapidly became an alternative to silk due to its similar properties. It was highly sought-after during the Second World War as silk became scarce and costly.

Over the years, the demand for cupro fabrics has risen as environmental consciousness grows. Today, many leading fashion brands include cupro in their garments due to cupro's eco-friendliness and unique properties.

How Is Cupro Produced?

Cupro undergoes a series of intricate steps that transform its cellulose fibers into a luxurious textile. Manufactured almost exclusively by the Asahi Kasei Corporation, a Japanese company, here are the key steps involved in cupro’s production:

Harvesting and Processing of the Cotton Plant

Cupro is extracted from the cotton plant. After the cotton fibers are separated for textile use, the remaining short fibers that cling to the cottonseed, known as linter, are gathered. These linters consist of cellulose, the main raw material for cupro fabric.


After it's collected, the cotton linter is immersed in a mixture of ammonium and copper, which breaks down the fibers and transforms them into a viscous solution. This solution is often referred to as cuprammonium.


The cuprammonium solution is then dropped into caustic soda and extruded through tiny spinnerets, resulting in fine, continuous filaments. These filaments are gathered and further processed to remove excess moisture and harden them into thread-like strands.


The filaments are then gathered and further processed to remove excess moisture, copper, ammonia, and caustic soda and solidify them into thread-like strands.

Spinning and Weaving

The filaments are then spun into yarns, which can be woven or knitted into fabric by textile manufacturers. This process involves intertwining the yarns to form a cohesive and stable textile structure. The weaving or knitting process determines the texture, thickness, and appearance of the cupro fabric.


After the fabric is woven or knitted, it undergoes finishing to enhance its properties. Finishing may involve washing, dyeing, or applying special coatings to the fabric to improve its appearance or durability.

What Are the Properties of Cupro?

Cupro has various exceptional properties that make it a popular alternative to silk. From its luxurious texture to its eco-friendly nature, cupro is highly prized for many reasons. 

Here are some of the key properties that make cupro a preferred fabric for consumers, designers, and textile manufacturers:

Smooth Texture

Cupro fabrics offer a lavish smooth, soft texture comparable to silk. Like silk, cupro is incredibly soft and gentle against the skin, and it drapes gracefully, flowing elegantly with every movement.


Cupro is a breathable fabric that allows air to circulate freely. This quality ensures optimal comfort, especially in warmer climates or during physical activity. Cupro also has stellar moisture-wicking properties that keep the wearer cool and dry.

Great Dye Retention

Cupro absorbs colors easily. The fabric has a natural affinity for dyes and retains its color brilliance even after multiple washings. This property allows designers and textile manufacturers to explore a broad spectrum of hues and create striking garments with vivid shades.


Cupro’s versatility makes it suitable for a variety of garments. From dresses and blouses to skirts and shawls, Cupro is perfect for a wide range of light clothes.


Cupro is a relatively eco-friendly fabric. It’s made from cotton linter, a by-product of the cotton plant. Additionally, while some textile manufacturers generate plenty of waste to produce cupro, others use a closed-loop manufacturing process which minimizes chemical waste and reduces cupro’s environmental impact.

However, while cupro has all these excellent properties, it isn’t a perfect fabric. Here are some of its downsides:

  • Care requirements: Cupro has specific care instructions that must be followed to maintain its quality and lifespan. Generally, it must be hand-washed or machine-washed using a delicate cycle. Additionally, it can't be washed in hot water, as hot water could damage the fabric.
  • Limited availability: Cupro isn’t as readily available as widely used fabrics like cotton or polyester. It may be challenging to find a variety of cupro options, particularly in smaller retail outlets.

What Is Cupro Used For?

Cupro’s versatility and luxurious texture make it a suitable fabric for various fashion applications, particularly clothing. It’s a popular choice for dresses, blouses, skirts, and tops due to its lightweight nature and silky texture.

Cupro’s breathability also makes it suitable for activewear, sleepwear, and undergarments because it allows the skin to breathe and regulates temperature, enhancing comfort during sleep or exercise.   

Away from garments, cupro's properties also make it ideal for lightweight accessories like shawls, scarves, ties, and pocket squares.

Finally, because it blends well with other eco-friendly options like TENCEL, cupro is an excellent option for eco-friendly yoga clothes.

Is Cupro Fabric Eco-Friendly?

Cupro fabric is an eco-friendlier material compared to synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon, and elastane derived from petroleum. Unlike petroleum-based synthetics, cupro is biodegradable, so it decomposes over time without leaving harmful residues or contributing to microplastic pollution. 

Cupro is also more environmentally-friendly than many other fabrics because it's derived from cotton linter — a by-product of the cotton plant that would have otherwise been discarded if not reused.

Finally, cupro is a cruelty-free alternative, unlike silk or leather, as no animals are harmed during its production.

Nonetheless, while cupro may seem like a completely eco-friendly material, it has some negative impacts on the environment. Here are some of its harmful effects:

  • Potential water and soil contamination: The production of cupro involves using toxic chemicals like copper, ammonia, and caustic soda. The improper disposal of these toxic chemicals can cause water pollution and soil contamination, affecting ecosystems and surrounding communities. In fact it’s estimated that textile manufacturers are responsible for nearly 20% of global clean water pollution due to improper waste disposal (European Parliament, 2023).
  • Greenhouse gas emissions: While cupro production typically requires less energy compared to synthetic fibers like nylon, it still consumes a significant amount of energy throughout production. The energy-intensive nature of cupro production contributes to carbon emissions, particularly if the energy source is non-renewable. Currently, it’s estimated that the textile industry accounts for up to 8% of yearly global carbon emissions (International Labor Organization, n.d.) 
  • Water usage: The fashion industry consumes up to 93 billion cubic meters of water annually, representing about 4% of all freshwater withdrawn globally (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017). While cupro production consumes less water compared to other fabrics, it still requires a considerable amount of water, especially in the initial processing stages. Excessive water consumption can pose severe environmental and human concerns, particularly in areas where water resources are scarce.


Is cupro a good fabric?

Yes, cupro is generally considered a good fabric because of its numerous positive properties. It's highly prized among consumers, designers, and textile manufacturers because it has a smooth texture, is breathable, is versatile, readily accepts dyes, and is relatively eco-friendly compared to other synthetic textiles like nylon, polyester, and elastane.

Can cupro be washed?

Cupro fabric generally requires special care when it comes to washing. While it's best to refer to the specific care instructions on the garment label, hand washing is often recommended for cupro fabric to maintain quality and promote longevity.

Some cupro garments may also be machine washable, but always check the instructions on the garment label before machine washing. If machine washing is permitted, use a delicate or gentle cycle with cold or lukewarm water. Never use hot water to wash cupro fabric, as it could damage it. 

Is cupro natural or synthetic?

Cupro is a semi-synthetic fiber. It's derived from a natural material, cotton linter, as the starting material and is further synthesized using artificial chemical processes.

Which fabric has a low carbon footprint?

While cupro has a relatively lower carbon footprint than petroleum-based synthetics like nylon, polyester, and spandex, there are several fabrics with a lower carbon footprint. These fabrics include organic cotton, hemp, linen, Tencel (lyocell), and organic wool.

Is cupro better than cotton?

Cupro and cotton are different fabrics, each with unique advantages and disadvantages. While cupro absorbs dyes and offers a more luxurious texture than cotton, cotton provides better breathability and is easier to care for than cupro.

Ultimately, the best fabric between the two will depend on the needs and preferences of the consumer.

Is cupro material expensive?

While cupro is fairly inexpensive to manufacture, its pricing can vary depending on the brand, quality, availability, and manufacturing processes. Steps like dyeing, extra finishes, and fabric treatment can drive up the cost of cupro. Additionally, designer brands may command a higher price than mainstream options.

However, generally, cupro is considered to be in the mid-to-high range in terms of pricing. Its pricing can be compared to fabrics like silk and quality cotton.

Are cupro and ammonia silk the same fabric?

While cupro and ammonia silk are sometimes confused, they refer to the same fabric. Cupro is the generic term used to refer to cuprammonium rayon, while ammonia silk is often used on Chinese textile websites.


Cupro is a bit of a double-edged sword when it comes to sustainable fabrics. While it’s a biodegradable material derived from cotton linter that’s a cotton waste by-product, it also generates toxic waste during its manufacturing process. This toxic waste can pose severe risks to surrounding communities and the ecosystem if it isn’t disposed of properly. 

Therefore, textile manufacturers of cupro need to adopt sustainable manufacturing practices, such as closed-loop production, to mitigate the effects of cupro on the environment. Consumers may also want to explore other fabrics like organic cotton, hemp, or linen that may have even lower environmental impacts.


The impact of textile production and waste on the environment (infographics) | News | European

Parliament. (2023, May 6).

Taking climate action: Measuring carbon emissions in the garment sector in Asia. (n.d.).

A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning fashion’s future. (n.d.).

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Alyciah Beavers

Committed to promoting sustainability and am pleased to have the opportunity to share my enthusiasm with you.

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