Understanding What is Flax Fiber with Its Properties 

Md Mahedi Hasan


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What is Flax Fiber?

Flax is the most popular bast fiber. We get this fiber from the stalk of a plan. Amongst all-natural fibers, flax What is Flax Fiber is the oldest fiber crop in the world. The Flax fiber is classified as natural, cellulosic, bast, and multicellular fiber. we can call linen flax.

Flax Fiber
All About Flax Fiber

Lilen is the term applied to the yarn spoon from the flax fibers. Flax was probably the first plant fiber to be used by man for making textiles at least in the western hemisphere and traditionally used for bed sheets, underclothes, and table linen.

History of Flax

 About 5000 years ago, flax was cultivated in India and China. From prehistoric times we use fabrics, which is made from flax fiber. In ancient Egypt, flax was cultivated. In Egypt, the temple walls were paintings of flowering flax. At that time, flax fiber was considered a symbol of purity, that’s why Egyptian priests wore linen only.

History of Flax
A Historical Picture of Flax

Egyptian linen was traded by the Phoenicians.  Mediterranean and Romans used it for their sails. As the Roman Empire declined, so did flax production. In the middle ages, Eventually, Flanders became the major center of the European linen industry. In North America, flax was introduced and flourished by colonists. During the 17th century, in many Western Europe, linen manufacture was established as a domestic industry. 


Flax fiber is cultivated on a commercial scale in Russia, Belgium, Holland, England, and Ireland.

Flax production region
Flax produced region

The most valued variety is Courtrai flax, which is contained in Belgium. In 2020, Kazakhstan produced 3.4 million tonnes of flax. 



It needs plain and well-plowed land and a moist climate to cultivate flax. Mineral water is needed for cultivation.

Cultivation Of Flax
Flax Cultivated in Land

Flax seed is a cold-season crop grown in both the northern and southern regions of India. It is also grown in loamy deep soil which is fertile, silty, and well-drained. Flaxseed can be sown as per utera system of cropping, sowing flaxseeds before harvesting of standing paddy crop so that it will utilize moisture efficiently under a rainfed agro-ecosystem. And flax crop requires a relative humidity of 50-60% with 7-8 inches of rain.

Land preparation

Flax fiber roots go deeper into the soil, so prepare the land by proper deep plowing. 2-3 ploughings can be done.

Sowing of Flaxseed

The required seed rate for this crop is 30-40 seeds kg/ha. And seeds can be sown according to the line sowing method with uniform distribution. And seeds must be placed 4-5 cm below the soil.

Spacing between each row can be kept as 20-30 cm and between each crop can be kept as 10 cm.  The moisture level must be good as this crop requires more moisture. Make sure moisture is maintained in the germination phase and in each development phase, so proper irrigation practices must be done.


Since the bast fibers are an integral part of the stem structure, they are not directly available for spinning.

Retting of Flax
Retting of Flax

They must be separated from the other issues by a process, which is known as retting. There are various methods of retting such as

  1. ‌Dam Retting 
  2. ‌Water Retting /Tank Retting
  3. ‌Dew Retting 
  4. ‌Chemical Retting

‌Dam Retting:

The flax plants after being cut down are tied up in sheaves or beets and immersed for about 10 days in water in special dams or ponds dug into the ground. This method is no longer practiced in Egypt. This method is commonly used in Ireland.

‌Water Retting:

In water retting, the stalks are tied in bundles and covered with water in a tank. Putrefactive fermentation is caused by bacteria. This gradually softens the stems by destroying the less-resisting issues and rendering the intercellular adhesive substance soluble. When the fermentation has reached the appropriate stage, the flax fibers can be separated quite easily. This operation takes about 3 weeks.

‌Dew Retting:

Dew retting is similar in action to water retting but slower. Sometimes water retting starts the fermentation and the stalks are then taken out and laid on the grass to complete the process. It may be used in regions where water is in short supply. It is commonly practiced in Russia and Europe. 

‌Chemical Retting:

Chemical retting consists of softening the tissues by boiling them with diluted oxalic acid or alkali either in the atmosphere or at high pressure. It is more costly than biological retting. 

Composition of Flax

  • Cellulose: 76%
  • Wax: 2.5%
  • Lignin:2.7%
  • Protein:2.5%
  • Pectin’s: 2.0%
  • Ash: 0.8%
  • Unidentified parts:13.5%
  • Physical Properties :
  • ‌Length: Average length 45-60 cm
  • maximum length 100cm.
  • ‌Length to breadth ratio: For longest flax, the breadth ratio is 15000:1. For short flax breadth ratio is 15000:1 or less
  • ‌Handle and appearance: Its surface is Rough. 
  • ‌Color and Iusture: It is brownish or yellowish, white or grey in color. It has natural Iusture. 
  • ‌Elasticity: Flax is an elastic fiber.
  • ‌Effect Of Moisture: 12%
  • ‌Specific Gravity:1.54

Chemical properties 

Chemical properties of flax
Flax Chemical properties 
  1. Effect of Acid: Flax will withstand dilute, weak acids but is attacked by hot diluted acid and cold concentrated acid
  2. ‌Effect of heat: Highly resistant to decomposition up to about 120°C
  3. ‌Effect of Sunlight: Gradual loss of strength on exposure. 
  4. ‌Conductivity: It is a good conductor of heat.
  5. ‌Insects: Moth grubs or other insects do not attack flax.

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