What is "Retting" - Definition & Explanation
Last Updated on: 19-Mar-2023 (11 months, 9 days ago)
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Retting: Transforming Plants into Textile Treasures

Retting in Textile: Unveiling Nature's Fiber Preparation Process

Retting is a natural fiber preparation process that has been practiced for centuries to extract fibers from plant sources. In this article, we delve into the meaning, types, tips for handling, and profile some of the top international users of retting in the textile industry.

Introduction and Origin

Retting is a technique used to separate fibers from the woody stalks of plants, such as flax, hemp, jute, and nettle. The process dates back to ancient civilizations, where fibers were manually extracted from plant stems to create textiles. Over time, different methods of retting have been developed, each yielding distinct fiber characteristics and qualities.

Types of Retting

Retting can be classified into two main types:

  1. Dew Retting: Dew retting relies on the moisture present in the environment to break down the pectin that binds the fibers to the plant stem. Stalks of the harvested plants are spread out on the ground and exposed to dew or rain. The process can take several weeks, during which natural fermentation occurs, resulting in the separation of fibers.
  2. Water Retting: Water retting involves the immersion of plant stalks in water to facilitate the bacterial or microbial degradation of pectin. The stalks are submerged in ponds, rivers, or tanks for a specific duration until the retting process is complete. Care must be taken to prevent over-retting, which can weaken the fibers.

Tips for Handling Retted Fibers

Proper handling of retted fibers ensures the preservation of their quality and facilitates further processing:

  • Drying: After retting, fibers should be thoroughly dried to prevent mold or mildew growth. They can be laid out in a well-ventilated area or gently dried using low-temperature settings.
  • Storage: Retted fibers should be stored in a clean, dry environment to maintain their integrity. Protection from moisture and pests is essential to prevent damage.
  • Cleaning: Before spinning or weaving, retted fibers may require additional cleaning to remove any impurities or remaining plant debris. This can be achieved through hand-picking or using appropriate combing tools.

Top International Users of Retting in Textile

Retting is widely practiced across the globe by various textile manufacturers and artisans.


Retting, an age-old technique, plays a vital role in the textile industry by extracting natural fibers from plant sources. With its various types, such as dew retting and water retting, retting offers diverse fiber characteristics and qualities. By following proper handling tips, the quality and usability of retted fibers can be preserved. The top international users and manufacturers of retting continue to embrace this traditional method, creating unique and sustainable textiles that celebrate the beauty of nature.

Various processes used in extraction of linen fibers from the flax plant stem and bark.
(flax) The subjection of a crop of flax or deseeded flax straw to chemical or biological treatment in order to make fibre bundles more easily separable from the woody part of the stem.
Retting is a stage in the manufacturing of vegetable fibers. It is the process of submerging plant leaves such as flax or hemp in water, and soaking them for a period of time to separate the fibers from the other components of the leaves. Then they are removed and washed to remove the soft tissue and then dryed so that all that remains are the fibres.
The process of separating the fibre from the wood in flax. This is done either chemically or biologically (rotting down of the crop). A messy process.

Some other terms

Some more terms:

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