Coir – the Natural Fiber from Coconut Husk

Coir coconut fiber is a natural cellulose fiber which is obtained from coconut husk. It is the fibrous material that is found between the outer coat of a coconut and the hard internal shell. Copra is the dried coconut kernels from which coconut oil is obtained. Coir coconut fiber comes from a natural and renewable source and is one of the latest eco-friendly alternatives for textiles.Coconut trees and husks

Coconut farming usually focuses on coconut oil, milk and water and other coconut products like desiccated coconut with the coconut husk being discarded as waste.

By using coconut husk, which is a bi-product of coconut farming, a waste product can be converted into eco-friendly and sustainable products.

Coconut Cultivation

Coconut palm trees grow in many coastal tropical areas of Central America, Asia, Oceania and Africa and has been cultivated for more than four thousand years. The three top producers are Indonesia, Philippines and India and together they account for around 89 percent of world production.

Coconuc husk

Coconut palms flower monthly and each fruit takes a year to ripen. Harvesting is done on an ongoing basis with each tree annually yielding 50 to 100 fruits.

Coconuts are primarily a food crop but also provide fiber, fuel and building material. The coconuts that we generally see and buy, are the seeds of the fruit of the coconut palm tree.

There is an external leathery skin and a thick (5 to 8 cm) intermediate layer of fibrous pulp that surrounds the seed. The fiber that is obtained from the pulp is called coir. Depending on the thickness of the husks, each coconut or copra yields 80 to 150 grams of husk fibers.

Coir Coconut Fiber Production

Coir coconut fiber is obtained from the husks through conventional retting or mechanical and biological means. Retting is the action of micro-organisms and moisture to dissolve or rot cellulose tissues and pectin away from bast-fiber bundles.

  1. Conventional process: to soften the fibers, the husks are retted in brackish water for three to six months or in saltwater for ten to twelve months. During retting micro-organisms break down the plant tissues around the fibers to loosen them. The fibers are separated through decortication and beating and then hackled and washed. These produce the best quality fibers. Coconut Husk Shredder
  2. A mechanical process has been developed to decorticate or defribillate the husks but the quality is not as good as conventional retting. Through the mechanical process retting can be shortened or even eliminated. Ripe husks can be processed in a crushing or shredding machine after only seven to ten days of retting. Immature husks can be dry milled without retting but produces only short fibers.
  3. A biological means of retting through enzymatic processes have also been developed, whereby enzymes are used to separate the fibers. The process is cleaner and milder than the mechanical process and can be done without any water pollution. It produces a better quality fiber than through mechanical processes.

Traditionally the retted pulp is beaten with a wooden mullet to separate the fibers from the pith and outer shell. In recent years the fibers are separated either by hand or in a rotating drum that has spikes on the inside.

Fiber categories

Coir coconut fibers are either white or brown, depending on the age or maturation of coconuts on harvesting. Coconut

  • White fibers come from immature or green coconuts which are harvested after six to twelve months on the plant. These fibers are weaker than brown fibers, but smoother and finer. White fibers can be spun into yarn which can be woven into mats or twisted into rope or twine. Green coconuts are retted in seawater or artificially salinated water.
  • Brown fibers are obtained from fully ripened and mature coconuts. The coconuts are harvested when the nutritious layer around the seed is ready to be processed into copra and desiccated coconut. It produces coarse but strong fibers and the fibers have a high abrasion resistance. Ripe coconuts are retted in fresh water.

Fibers from both brown and white coir range in length from ten to thirty centimeters. Long fibers that are at least twenty centimeters long, are called bristle fiber and the shorter fibers are called mattress fiber. About a third of the coir coconut fiber that each coconut will yield, is bristle fiber. Shorter fibers have a finer texture and is normally spun into yarn.

Coir pith is the residue that is left behind after the fibers have been extracted.

Eco-friendly innovations with Coir Coconut Fiber

1. Coir Textiles

coir making

“Cocona” fabric is a textile that has been created from recycled coconut shells. Activated carbon is taken from the coconut shells and added to fibers, yarns and fabrics. The result is clothing that dries quickly, stays cool, absorbs odors and provides UV protection. It makes Cocona fabric ideal for sports wear.

By replacing synthetic polyester fibers with coconut husk fibers, consumption of petroleum will be reduced by two to four million barrels per year and carbon emissions by 450,000 tons per annum.

2. Coir Building Boards

A method has been developed in the Philippines to use the fibrous husk of coconuts to produce high quality building boards called “Ecocoboards”. Eco-friendly technology is used and no chemical adhesives are added. Panels and boards can be used for building and furniture applications and can be substituted for wood.

The Philippines has a shortage of wood so the use of Ecocoboards will reduce the amount of wood that has to be imported. The commercial use of coconut husks would increase the profitability of coconut farming and contribute to the export and economy of the Philippines.

Benefits of Coir Coconut Fiber:

  • Coir coconut fiber is eco-friendly and bio-degradable. It comes from a renewable source and the fibers or fabrics are 100% bio-degradable.
  • It is hard wearing and durable. Coir coconut fiber is water resistant and is the only fiber that is resistant to saltwater damage.
  • Coconut husk fibers have a quick drying time. It absorbs moisture 50% faster than polyester.
  • It eliminates odors – coir coconut fiber naturally absorbs odors and can minimize bad smells without additional treatments and chemicals.
  • Coir coconut fibers absorbs harmful ultraviolet rays even after several washes, so provides UV protection.
  • It is very strong. Coir Coconut Fiber

Disadvantages of Coir Coconut Fiber

There is concern about the amount of water that is used in retting and extracting coir coconut fiber from the husks. Traditional retting generates water pollution with many organic pollutants left behind in the water. These include pectin, tannin, fat, pectosan, toxic polyphenols and several types of bacteria including salmonella.

Scientists are experimenting with treatment options to reduce the amount of water pollution, with some manufacturers claiming that they are treating the effluent water. Biological retting is a cleaner process and doesn’t pollute the water.

Uses of Coir Coconut Fiber:

There are many versatile uses for coir in products like brushes, mattresses, upholstery padding, doormats and floor mats, rope, sacks, insulation, tiles, fishing nets and many more. Coir doormat

Coir coconut fiber makes perfect nets for harvesting shellfish and ropes for marine applications as it will not be damaged by seawater. Coir Planter

Coir is used in horticulture as a soil less growing medium and is an alternative to peat moss and vermiculite. It is used in hydroponics and make perfect linings for hanging baskets. Coir bricks or chips will add drainage and absorbency to potting soil and will absorb up to ten times it’s weight in water.

Coconut biomass has the potential to be used to generate energy. A new coconut power plant in Thailand has been designed specifically for the combustion of all forms of coconut waste and also conventional biomass.

The Future

As technology improves and production increases, new uses for coir coconut fiber are found and promoted. Coir is becoming a popular choice for making geotextiles. Geotextiles are permeable fabrics which when used in conjunction with soil, have the ability to filter, separate, protect, reinforce or drain. As more people turn away from non-biodegradable synthetics, use of natural fibers and geotextiles will increase.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave your comments below and I will get back to you.

 

20 thoughts on “Coir – the Natural Fiber from Coconut Husk”

  1. I knew coconut fiber could be used to make clothes, however until I saw the picture of the flower basket, I have the exact same one at home and I’ve always thought it was vines or some kind of wood, and door mats as well, a lot of these things I’ve been using but had no idea it was coconut. Thanks a lot for the information, would like to hear from you in the future more about coconut husk products. Cheers!

    Reply
  2. I really like your page. It seems like you really put a lot of effort into the style and the articles themselves are full of imagery and research. The color scheme is great and I myself am a lover of Coconut! Nature provides us with so many gifts. I have written some articles on super-foods myself. There’s a lot more to many of these foods like Coconuts than just eating or drinking from them! I like that you’re presenting us with creative ideas that help us sustain and make the most of the environment around us! Thank you! 

    Reply
    • Hi There, thank you for your kind comments. It is so true that nature provides us with an abundance of natural products and we need to make the best use of it while also looking after mother earth.

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  3. This is such a fascinating article that helps us to learn even more about reducing unnecessary waste, so hearing that we can utilise the coconut even more is something I find really interesting. I would never have known that you could do so much with the husk if I had not have read your article.

    I will be ensuring I look in to this further for my future purchases.

    Thank you for taking the time to share this invaluable information.

    Reply
    • Hi Emma, Coconut is indeed a very versatile plant. From using the fibers to the food products like coconut milk and oil, there are heaps of things we can do with coconuts and the husks. And even better that it is a natural product. 

      Reply
  4. this is serious, in most countries the coconut husk are not even considered to be useful, I noticed that most people who cultivate coconut only extract the water/and the edible skin (fruit). This review has greatly reveal how big the coconut faming can boost an economy and also lead to a sustable eco friendly society.
    Petroleum product has been the major source of inflation and if it can be replaced according to this review, the price of things will drastically go down. Also the effect of carbon into the environment will be easily controlled.

    Thanks for sharing such an educative information.

    Reply
    • Hi there, I am not so sure about prices going down drastically, but if we can utilse what mother nature has given us in a more efficient way, it can lead to a lower carbon footprint being left behind. 

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  5. Hey nice article you have there. I so much love your site , as it always encourage maximization of natural resources. I must say I am just hearing about the Coir coconut fiber for the first time, it’s indeed an interesting fact about the coconut. I have learnt a  whole lot from your site and this article precisely, thanks for that, keep the good work, Regards.

    Reply
    • Hi there, Thank you for your kind comments and I do enjoy writing and researching what is available in nature and how we can utilise those, rather than petroleum based products. 

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  6. Hi there! this is an amazing review you have got here. I totally agree with everything you have said here especially the usefulness of coir in textiles as it can  be used for fishing nets, thanks to its resistance to salt water which makes it super cool for the fisher men.

    However, I prefer the brown coir to the white one as its stronger.

    Reply
    • Hi there, Coir indeed has numerous beneficial applications and both the white and the brown have their place and uses. To use coir for fishing nets are a thousand times better than nylon, or other plastic. 

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  7. Hello Cowley! My mom uses this coir to make coconut fiber pots and also ground down to really fine particles to use them in our garden as it improves water holding capacity which acts as sponge to hold water in the root zone so that the plants can use it when they need it.

    Coir is very useful in my house.

    Reply
    • Hi there, What a great idea to ground down the coconut husk and use it in the ground to improve the water retention. Coir is great for lining hanging baskets and pots, as well as many other applications. It certainly sounds as if you are making full use of coconuts and what they provide us with. 

      Reply
  8. Hello there thanks for this review it was really helpful. There’s no waste product in coconut and it is interesting to know coconut husks can be this useful. Sincerely speaking I have seen most of these fiber materials but who would have thought that they were actually made from coconut husk. I must commend you for this article  

    Reply
    • Hi there, Coconut is very versatile and it is good that we not only use it as a source of food, but also use the husks for many applications. Coir is far more beneficial than any petroleum based products. 

      Reply
  9. I know that finding a good article does not come by so easily so i must commend your effort in creating such a beautiful website and writing an article to help others with useful information like this,who did imagined that coconut husk would have lots of benefits such as these,wow!Coconuts naturally possess a compound that encourages the development of beneficial bacteria, known as lignin. Coconut husk can also be used as bio fuel which is a source of charcoal. When processed, coconut husks can be used to produce various house hold products such as carpets and others.you’re the man.thanks and keep it up

    Reply
    • Hi Wilson, Coconut and coir indeed have many application and are far better for the envirnment than chemicals and man-made synthetic products. 

      Reply
  10. Thank you for sharing this article. It is educating and I must admit that I have gotten a great deal of knowledge regarding coir. How amazing it is that stuffs that look useless end up becoming very useful, as in the case of the coir. Coconut is one of my favorite fruits and I also love coconut oil. Coir has so many uses and application and this is absolutely incredible for me initially.

    Reply
    • Hi there, Coconut is indeed a very versatile fruit and is also extremely healthy to eat. To use coir in products is far better than synthetic fibers. 

      Reply

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