There are certain natural substances that are used widely in textile industry. The most common ones are cotton, wool, jute, silk etc. that are used for making various textile products including apparel garments. There are other items like natural dyes made from herbs and other natural ingredients. There are many others that are not very common in public knowledge but very useful for the fabric companies is one of such naturally occurring substances that is used in the textile finishing processes for improving the quality of finished fabric. It is present in the outer skeleton of insects, crabs, shrimps, and lobsters. It is a polymer, abundantly available in nature, only second to cellulose. From chitin is obtained chitosan. The primary source of chitin and chitosan is the shrimp and crabs industry for which they are wastes. Apart from textile industry, chitin is also used in other industries such as health and beauty, water purification, biomedical applications, agriculture, biotechnology, and nutrition.
In textile industry, chitosan is used in pretreatment and finishing processes of textiles. As it is biodegradable and is distributed into the environment in a dispersed manner, it has come up as an environmental alternative for the textile chemical companies who have to meet certain guideline while manufacturing textile chemicals for protecting environment. Chitin is used both for pretreatment as well as after treatment of fabrics. During pretreatment process, it is used on yarns before the yarn is woven into fabric. Alternatively it used in pretreatment of fabrics having neps on them. Neps are the small knots or fiber entanglements on the surface of fabrics and appear as white specs on the surface of dyed fabric, especially cotton and wool. The fiber with neps is pretreated with a mixture of chitosan, a non-ionic wetting agent, and sodium sulfate. It increases the dyeing ability of direct and reactive dyes and eliminates differences in color between dyed immature and mature fibers thus improving the quality of overall fabric. When applied in after treatment process, chitin is used for covering neps on rejected fabric's surface. This process also results in all those benefits that are obtained from pretreatment of fabric with chitin.
Now the only hindrance that remains in the way of its popularity is that the textile manufacturers are not aware of the benefits accruing from chitins application. Awareness about chitin- the eco friendly textile finish, is essential so that it finds its due place in the textile industry.