How Sustainable Are Mohair Wool Fabrics? A Life-Cycle Analysis

How Sustainable Are Mohair Wool Fabrics? A Life-Cycle Analysis

By
Quynh Nguyen

Read Time:19 Minutes

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Mohair fiber is long, lustrous, strong, and resilient, making it a desirable textile material. Specifically, its resistance to odors and stains helps reduce the washing frequency, saving energy and water. Yet, the industrial farming of Angora goats to provide raw materials for mohair wool fabric raises many ecological and ethical concerns. So, we had to ask: How sustainable are mohair wool fabrics?

Mohair wool is generally not a sustainable fabric. Large Angora goat herds, promoted by the demand for mohair wool, are associated with land degradation and elevated greenhouse gas emissions. Also, in many settings, shearing the goats for mohair fibers leads to goats’ ill health or death.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the life-cycle of mohair wool fabrics used for clothes and household items. Then, we will evaluate its sustainability, potential, and shortfalls. And in the end, we’ll show you tips for buying sustainable products made with mohair wool fabrics.

Here’s How We Assessed the Sustainability of Mohair Wool Fabrics

Mohair wool is generally considered an unsustainable textile material. The demand for this lustrous and durable material leads to overgrazing and other land-degrading practices in goat herding. Elevated greenhouse gas emissions are another concern during the life-cycle of mohair wool fabric. 

It is also important to take note of the inhumane treatment subject to Angora goats, whose hair is used as the raw material for mohair wool. In some industrial settings, animal cruelty is widespread, which questions the ethics of using some mohair wool products. 

“Sustainable: The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level | Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”

Oxford Dictionary

To understand the sustainability of mohair wool fabrics, we must assess their life-cycle and each stage’s sustainability. This life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a method for evaluating the environmental impacts of products and materials. Over the years, companies have strategically used LCA to research and create more sustainable products. So, let’s have a look at the LCA of mohair wool fabrics!

In this article, we’ll use the cradle-to-grave perspective of the LCA, examining the five stages of the life-cycle of clothing items and accessories made with mohair wool fabrics. When applicable, we also look at cradle-to-gate assessments

The life-cycle stages of mohair wool fabricsEach stage’s sustainability
Sourcing of mohair wool fabricsThe sourcing of Angora goat’s hair as the raw material for mohair wool fabrics is generally unsustainable.​​ The two main adverse environmental impacts of farming Angora goats, especially in large industrial-sized herds, are global warming and land degradation. However, when sustainable and ethical management practices are in place, angora goat’s hair could be considered a renewable resource. 
Manufacturing of mohair wool fabricsManufacturing mohair wool fabrics is typically not very sustainable. Manufacturing processes are mostly mechanical, which often require a significant amount of energy and water. Also, the shearing of the Angora goat at the beginning of the manufacturing process is, in many cases, painful and stressful for the animal. Shearing could lead to ill health or even the death of the Angora goat. Animal cruelty in mohair production is widespread, largely because of the push for a higher yield to meet the demand for this material.
Transporting of mohair wool fabricsTransporting can be a carbon-intensive stage in the life-cycle of clothing items made with mohair wool fabrics due to the distances covered and emissions associated with transporting vehicles. Mohair wool fabrics typically travel from pasture lands, where the mohair’s coats are collected, to processing and finishing factories, then sorting centers, shops, and consumers’ homes before going to recycling centers or landfills. 
Usage of mohair wool fabricsThe usage of mohair wool is generally sustainable. Mohair wool requires less frequent washes because it is a breathable, odor-resistant material with excellent moisture-wicking abilities. 
End-of-life of mohair wool fabricsThe end-of-life stage for mohair wool is generally sustainable because untreated mohair wool fabric is fully biodegradable and compostable. 

Overall, we can say mohair wool is not a sustainable material. However, the actual environmental impact of a particular product, like a winter hat or a two-tone suit, depends on more specific factors, including: 

  • the sourcing of mohair fibers
  • the manufacturing process
  • the distance and mode of transportation 

Let’s dive deeper into each life-cycle stage and find out how you can buy mohair wool fabrics more sustainably. 

How Sustainable Is the Sourcing of Raw Materials for Mohair Wool Fabrics

The sourcing of Angora goat’s hair as the raw material for mohair wool fabrics is generally unsustainable.​​ The two main adverse environmental impacts of farming Angora goats, especially in large industrial-sized herds, are global warming and land degradation. However, when sustainable and ethical management practices are in place, angora goat’s hair could be considered a renewable resource. 

What Raw Materials Are Used for Mohair Wool Fabrics

The raw material for mohair wool is the silky coat of the Angora goat, which is not to be mistaken for the Angora rabbit—the animal species used for Angora wool

Angora goat is a breed of domestic goat, originating in ancient times in the district of Angora—an area in modern-day Turkey. 

Angora goats were developed over hundreds of years by selection for a single trait: the production of mohair fibers. These fibers come from the animal’s uniform, silky coat of hair. 

Controlled breeding has eliminated most of the protective outer coat, which contains undesirable coarse hair. This is different from cashmere goats which still have two distinct coats, and only the fine hair of the undercoat is desirable as the raw material for the cashmere wool

In the following section, we will examine the environmental impact of raising Angora goats to provide raw materials for mohair wool fabric. 

How Do the Raw Materials Sourced for Mohair Wool Fabrics Impact the Environment

Mohair wool fabrics are made with the hairy coat of Angora goats. This raw material bears the environmental impacts of farming Angora goats, which are made worse by overgrazing and uncontrolled sizes of goat herds. 

Mohair wool fabrics are made with the hairy coat of Angora goats. This raw material bears the environmental impacts of farming Angora goats, which are made worse by overgrazing and uncontrolled sizes of goat herds. 

The three main environmental impacts of mohair goat herding are as follows: 

  1. Global warming 
  2. Land degradation
  3. Ground and waterway contamination 

However, it is important to note through providing sustainable and ethical farming practices, mohair fiber can be considered a renewable resource. 

Goat Farming Emits Methane – A Potent Greenhouse Gas 

The sourcing stage—raising Angora goats for their silky coat—contributes to an elevated carbon footprint of mohair wool fabrics. As such, it could be higher than other fabrics made with plant-based fibers like cotton, hemp, or linen

Ruminant animals, goats included, belch enteric methane (CH4) as they digest their food. 

In comparison to other ruminant animals like cows or sheep (whose fleeces are also used to make sheep wool and lambswool fabrics), goats emit the least enteric methane per body weight

Goat Farming Causes Land Degradation

Large industrial-size herds of Angora goats could cause serious land degradation, which, when caused by keeping Angora goats in particular, could come from the following sources: 

  • Damage to the soil structure: The hooves of angora goats cause soil compaction if they repeatedly graze in the same area. 
  • Damage to the vegetation: Angora goats eat various plants, from grasses to shrubs to trees. Besides grazing, these goats tend to strip shrubs and trees of their leaves, tender shoots, and protective barks. They have the ability to stand on their hind legs and reach the higher branches and new shoots. Because Angora goats can eat and destroy plants in several layers, the soil has much less protection from wind and rainfall. 
  • Ineffective use of land: To produce 1 pound of mohair, Angora goats must be fed between 40 and 50 pounds of high-quality feed grown on land that could otherwise be used to grow crops to feed humans.

Irreversible damage to vegetation can also cause the loss of other animal species that feed on such vegetation. 

Goat Farming Contaminates the Grounds and Waterways 

With the increasingly large Angora goat herds, excessive amounts of manure and other toxins enter the ground, degrading soil quality and contaminating waterways. This contributes to problems like eutrophication.

Mohair Fibers Can Be Considered a Renewable Resource 

Angora goats produce large quantities of fiber per unit of body weight. Each shearing of an Angora goat can result in 4.5 to 8 lbs (2 to 3.6 kg) of mohair fibers. The coat of Angora goats can be shorn twice a year during the lifespan of approximately 10 years

Here are some examples of other wool fiber harvests for comparison: 

The repeated harvest and relatively long lifespan make it possible to consider mohair fibers a renewable resource, providing that sustainable and ethical farming practices are in place. 

Where Are the Raw Materials for Mohair Wool Fabrics Usually Sourced From 

Angora goats were originally raised solely in Turkey. The growing demand has led to this breed of goat being imported and farmed in various countries outside Turkey, most significantly South Africa, Argentina, the US, Australia, and New Zealand

Land degradation could be a serious ecological issue in places where farmers keep Angora goats in herds too large for the land. For example, in South Africa, Angora goat overgrazing can lead to the degradation of some thicket types within the subtropical thicket vegetation, which is irreversible without intervention, according to a study. 

How Sustainable Is the Manufacturing of Mohair Wool Fabrics

Manufacturing mohair wool fabrics is typically not very sustainable. Manufacturing processes are mostly mechanical, which often require a significant amount of energy and water. Also, the shearing of the Angora goat at the beginning of the manufacturing process is, in many cases, painful and stressful for the animal. Shearing could lead to ill health or even the death of the Angora goat. Animal cruelty in mohair production is widespread, largely because of the push for a higher yield to meet the demand for this material.

How Sustainably Is Mohair Wool Fabrics Generally Manufactured

Here are the standard steps in manufacturing mohair wool fabrics

  1. Collecting the mohair fibers: This can be done by shearing the whole fleece of the animal. Unlike cashmere goats having two coats of hair, Angora goats have a single uniform coat containing fine silky hair that can be used to make mohair wool fabrics. Shearing happens twice a year, in the spring and in the fall. Some farmers use scissors; others adopt electric shearing devices.
  2. Scouring: The raw, greasy mohair fibers (wool) are cleaned to remove natural grease, dirt, vegetable matter, and other natural residues. Lanolin oil is what makes some wool fibers—mohair included—greasy. Most large wool producers use chemical catalysts to remove lanolin from the hair, though there are other ways. 
  3. Carding: Wool fibers are sorted into grades and combed into long, thin strings. 
  4. Spinning: The carded fibers are fed into a spinning machine, which twists the wool fibers to form yarn. 
  5. Weaving or knitting: The mohair wool yarn is woven or knitted into fabric. 
  6. Finishing and post-treatment: The mohair wool fabric is occasionally dyed and subject to chemical treatments for bleaching. Note that mohair fiber takes dye very well, making the dyeing process more efficient. 

The manufacturing process of mohair wool fabrics is relatively standard for textiles made with natural fibers. In most cases, mohair manufacturing doesn’t involve toxic synthetic chemicals. However, mechanical processes require energy and water resources. 

Mohair Wool Manufacturing Is Energy-Intensive 

Energy is needed to heat water for cleaning and to produce the electricity needed to run machinery (spinning, weaving, or knitting). And if fossil fuels are the main source of electricity, it will increase the manufacturing carbon footprint. 

Mohair Wool Manufacturing Might Cause Wastewater Pollution 

Scouring and dyeing are the key processes causing wastewater pollution. 

The scouring removes grease, pesticides, and other organic matter (including feces) from the Angora goat’s coat. In particular, removing lanolin oil from the wool fibers involves using potent cleaning agents and a large quantity of heated water. 

After washing, some chemicals and organic matter may become suspended in the wastewater. If not treated properly, they contaminate the freshwater supply. 

Also, the dyeing process can contaminate surface water with heavy metals like chrome. Using natural dyes will avoid this contamination, though these expensive dyes aren’t always opted for by mohair fabric producers. 

Where Are Mohair Wool Fabrics Usually Manufactured

South Africa is the world’s largest mohair fiber producer, accounting for about half of the world’s mohair wool fabrics. Significant amounts of mohair wool fabrics are also produced in the US (mostly in Texas) and China. 

A key issue with these manufacturing locations is the relatively low share of renewable energy used in the rather energy-intensive production of mohair wool. According to Our World in Data, the renewable energy shares in these three countries are as follows: 

  • South Africa: 3.41% renewable energy
  • US: 10.66% renewable energy
  • China: 14.95% renewable energy

Because manufacturing mohair wool is energy-intensive, using renewable energy (solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass) would significantly reduce carbon emissions at this stage. 

Another big concern in mohair production is the ethical farming practices at some locations. For example, very cruel treatment of Angora goats has been reported in farms across South Africa, the world’s largest mohair wool producer. After an investigation into animal cruelty, various high-street brands have moved to ban mohair apparel in their collections. 

How Sustainable Is the Transportation of Mohair Wool Fabrics

Transporting can be a carbon-intensive stage in the life-cycle of clothing items made with mohair wool fabrics due to the distances covered and emissions associated with transporting vehicles. Mohair wool fabrics typically travel from pasture lands, where the mohair’s coats are collected, to processing and finishing factories, then sorting centers, shops, and consumers’ homes before going to recycling centers or landfills. 

In the life-cycle of mohair wool clothing items, transportation typically occurs: 

  • from pasture lands, where the mohair’s coats are collected, to fiber factories, 
  • from fiber factories to textile manufacturers, 
  • from textile manufacturers to sorting centers/physical shops, 
  • from sorting centers/physical shops to the consumer’s house, 
  • and from the consumer’s house to the centers for recycling and/or disposal.
Traveling Distances of Mohair Wool Fabrics Vary Depending on the Supply Chain

It is not uncommon for mohair wool fabrics to have their supply chain spreading globally, meaning that goat farming, yarn processing, and finishing might happen in various towns, countries, or even continents. 

Here are some scenarios for transporting mohair wool fabrics: 

  • Mohair wool manufacturers can source the coat of the Angora goat from Australia and ship the fiber to China to be scoured, in Vietnam to be spun, in Cambodia for garment-making, and across the Pacific for US consumers.
  • Angora goats are raised and shorn in the US. The fibers are processed, made into garments, and sold locally. 
  • Mohair wool manufacturers source and process mohair fibers in South Africa. Mohair wool is then made into clothes in China and sold worldwide. 

You can reduce the transporting carbon footprint by choosing mohair wool fabrics that travel shorter distances.

The Carbon Footprint of Transporting Mohair Wool Fabrics Depends Largely on the Vehicle of Transportation 

During its life-cycle, a piece of mohair wool clothing can be transported using various types of vehicles, including: 

  • large container ships 
  • planes 
  • freight trains 
  • long-distance trucks 
  • short-distance delivering vans 

And these various types of transportation vehicles have different carbon footprint impacts: 

For example, as a consumer, you can choose not to pick the fast delivery option when ordering mohair wool clothing items and accessories to reduce the carbon footprint of your order. 

How Sustainable Is the Usage of Mohair Wool Fabrics

The usage of mohair wool is generally sustainable. Mohair wool requires less frequent washes because it is a breathable, odor-resistant, and crease-resistant material. 

Due to washing, drying, and ironing, the usage phase is a main source of energy consumption in the life cycle of clothing. Compared to many other textile materials, using mohair wool fabrics would be more sustainable because of the less frequent need for washing, low washing temperature requirements, and suitability for air drying practices. 

Mohair wool fabrics are odor-resistant. Thus, mohair wool clothing requires fewer washes than many other textile materials. (Also, the fabrics are supposed to wash in cold water, further saving energy for heating.) 

Additionally, alpaca wool fabrics are resistant to creasing, so very little ironing is required, which further saves energy during the usage stage. 

As a consumer, you can reduce your usage’s environmental impact by maximizing the wear between washes and avoiding unnecessary hot machine washes or machining drying. Also, you can prevent full washing by airing and spot-cleaning mohair wool garments. 

Besides, mohair fibers are durable and resilient. Using long-lasting clothing items is generally more sustainable because you don’t need to replace them too frequently (thus, no need for more resources to make the new one). Also, the longer you use a piece of clothing, the lesser the environmental impact will be for each wear. 

How Sustainable Is the End-of-Life of Mohair Wool Fabrics

The end-of-life stage for mohair wool is generally sustainable because untreated mohair wool fabric is fully biodegradable and compostable. 

As a natural fabric, mohair can be left to degrade naturally in a landfill or be composted. Decomposing time depends on many environmental factors and if the fabrics are treated and blended. It takes one to five years to decompose textiles made with animal hairs (mohair wool fabrics included). Note that animal-derived fibers tend to take longer to degrade than plant-based fabric such as jute, hemp, or cotton. Plant-based fibers often start to break down after a few months. 

How Circular Are Products Made of Mohair Wool Fabrics

In the textile industry, a circular economy is designed to keep products and materials in use for as long as possible, especially through reusing and recycling. It also covers regenerating natural systems that support the industry and reducing polluted waste released into such systems.

“The circular economy is a systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution.”

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

As a whole, the textile industry is almost linear: 97% of the input is new resource.

Recycling mohair wool fabrics involves putting alpaca wool waste, both pre- and post-consumer, back into the supply chain, either as standalone garments or materials serving other purposes. 

It reduces the drain on natural resources, leading to stabilized flock numbers, diminishing methane emissions, and lessening the grazing pressure on lands so they can regenerate. 

How Can You Buy Mohair Wool Fabrics More Sustainably

The key to sustainably buying mohair wool products is to check on relevant environmental and original certifications. 

  • USDA ORGANIC: This certificate is applied to growing the crop (raw material), ensuring natural agricultural products are produced that can be certified as “organic.” 
  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): A globally-recognized certification system that ensures a certain threshold of organic content has been met. It covers manufacturing, packaging, labeling, transportation, and distribution (but not what happens in the grasslands where goats are raised). 
  • The Responsible Mohair Standard (RMS): An all-encompassing certification that ensures all sites, from farms through to the seller in the final business-to-business transaction are held to the highest standards. RMS farmers and ranchers must meet animal welfare, land management, and social requirements. 
  • Recycled Claim Standard (RCS): The Textile Exchange RCS was originally developed as an international, voluntary standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of Recycled input and chain of custody. (For recycled mohair wool fabrics) 
  • The Global Recycled Standard (GRS): The Global Recycled Standard (GRS) is an international, voluntary, full product standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of Recycled Content, chain of custody, social and environmental practices, and chemical restrictions. It can be used for any product with more than 20% recycled material.(For recycled mohair wool fabrics) 
  • OEKO-TEX® Standard 100: OEKO-TEX® labels aim to ensure that products pose no risk to human health (i.e. containing banned chemicals). 
  • Fairtrade International: A Fair Trade certification includes social, economic, and environmental standards that apply to the full supply chain from the farmers and workers to the traders and companies bringing the final product to market. 
  • FAIR TRADE USA: Fair Trade USA works closely on the ground with producers and certifies transactions between companies and their suppliers to ensure that the people making Fair Trade Certified goods work in safe conditions, protect the environment, build sustainable livelihoods, and earn additional money to empower and uplift their communities. Unlike Fairtrade, they will certify just one part of the supply chain, which is properly labeled on the consumer-facing label. 

Some certifications are signaling brands’ efforts toward lowered environmental impacts and a circular economy are: 

  • B Corp Certification: The label B Corp is a certification reserved for for-profit companies. Certified holders are assessed on their social and environmental impacts. 
  • Cradle2Cradle certification: Cradle2Cradle provides a standardized approach to material circularity. It assesses whether products have been suitably designed and made with the circular economy in mind covering five critical categories: material health, material reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness.

Where to Buy Sustainable Mohair Wool Fabrics 

Throughout the life-cycle assessment, we have established that mohair wool fabrics are generally unsustainable. This is largely because of the negative impacts regarding climate change, the risk of land degradation, and the unethical practices in many Angora goat farms. 

However, such challenges can be addressed via: 

  • sourcing recycled alpaca fibers to reduce the strain on natural resources,
  • opting for using renewable energy in production, and/or
  • using natural dyes to finish alpaca wool fabrics. 

Though many high street clothing brands have boycotted mohair because of the mistreatment suffered by Angora goats on many farms, we have found a couple of brands that commit to sourcing sustainable and ethical mohair. This small list is in alphabetical order: 

Why Is It Important to Buy Products Made of More Sustainable Fabrics

It is important to buy products made of more sustainable fabrics because a sustainable textile industry has a lower carbon footprint, helps save natural resources, and is better for forests, animals, and humans. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Reduces Your Carbon Footprint 

The production of clothing and footwear is estimated to contribute 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions—more than all international flights and shipping combined. If the fashion industry were a country, it would be the fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide

One way to reduce the carbon footprint of the clothes you buy is to opt for sustainable fabrics. Sustainable fabrics, which are often made with natural or recycled fibers, have relatively low carbon footprints compared to petroleum-based fabrics. For example, organic cotton made in the US has a carbon footprint of 2.35 kg CO2 (per ton of spun fiber)—a quarter of polyester’s carbon footprint

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Reduces Demand For Natural Resources and Waste Management

The textile industry uses water and land to grow cotton and other fibers. It is estimated that 79 billion cubic meters of water were used for the sector worldwide in 2015. For example, producing a single cotton t-shirt requires as much water as one person drinks for 2.5 years (2,700 liters of fresh water).

Worse yet, the textile economy is vastly more linear than circular: the largest amount of resources used in clothes ended up in landfill (instead of being recycled to remake clothes). According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation,

  • Less than 3% of materials used in the textile economy in 2015 came from recycled sources.
  • In other words, more than 97% of resources used in making clothes are newly extracted. 

When clothing items are disposed of within a short period of time—under a year in the case of half of the fast fashion clothes—the natural systems that provide raw materials for fabrics don’t have enough time to recover and regenerate, which could lead to ecological breakdown. 

Sustainable fabrics are made with less water and emissions while lasting longer:

  • Because they are durable, you don’t need to buy new clothes too often. 
  • Thus, you help reduce the pressure to extract more resources for making new items. 

Similarly, making and consuming sustainable fabrics made with recycled materials reduces the demand for virgin materials while helping tackle waste management. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Sustainable Management of Forests

Sustainable plant-based fabrics are made with raw materials from forests and plantations that are sustainably managed, such as complying with FSC standards

When you buy sustainable plant-based fabrics, you discourage unsustainable forestry practices like illegal logging. You can help reduce deforestation, biodiversity loss, and the effect of climate change. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Fairer Treatment of Animals 

The fashion industry is rife with animal mistreatment when it comes to making animal-based fabrics like cashmere or mohair. Every year, billions of animals suffer and die for clothing and accessories.

Buying sustainable vegan alternatives can help to reduce the pressure on raising more and more animals to meet the demand for animal-based fabrics while sacrificing their well-being and lives. 

Suppose you have to buy fabrics made with, for example, mohair or mohair wool; make sure you only choose brands committed to cruelty-free products. In that case, you help advocate better treatments for animals raised within the textile industry. 

Using Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Fairer Treatment of Textile Workers 

Recent statistics from UNICEF estimated that there are as many as 170 million child laborers worldwide, many of whom were engaged in some form of work in the textile industry. They don’t get paid minimum wages and often work long hours. 

When you buy sustainable fabrics from brands transparent about the working conditions at their factories, you discourage the use of child labor and help promote better working conditions for textile workers.

Final Thoughts

Mohair wool fabrics are currently considered unsustainable. The demand for this luxurious material leads to increased numbers of Angora goats, intensifying the adverse environmental impacts of raising these animals. 

Also, domestic animals are frequently subject to cruelty, while wildlife animals are at risk of losing their natural habitats. 

However, it is possible to produce mohair wool fabrics sustainably and ethically, with controlled grazing, animal well-being considerations, and less fossil fuel dependency. 

To make it even more sustainable, follow these steps:

  1. Buy second-hand, recycled, or upcycled mohair wool clothing items and accessories.
  2. While using mohair wool products, maximize the number of wear between washes, and keep the items as long as possible.
  3. At the end-of-life of alpaca wool products, upcycle the material to extend its usage and arrange for it to be recycled or properly disposed of. 

Stay impactful,



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