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What Is Fluff Pulp?

By Lakshmi Sandhana
Updated May 17, 2024
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Fluff pulp is a chemical pulp that is usually made of bleached cellulose fiber obtained from wood that has long fibers. Also known as fluffy pulp, comminution pulp, and fluffing, this pulp is made from trees classified as softwood, which means they belong to the conifer family, such as pines. Fluff pulp is produced worldwide in huge amounts. Some estimates put annual production in the range of 3.5 million tonnes. It is available in a large variety of grades and is used to create a large array of personal hygiene products.

Slash pine and other trees that yield softwood are treated chemically until they break down into fluffy pulp. Some companies eschew using fluffy pulp because of the huge toll it takes on the environment. Trees harvested to make pulp may come from natural forests, and once cut down, they can take more than a decade to grow back. A few prefer to use natural cotton instead of fluffy pulp to create hygiene-related products because cotton cultivation has less of a negative impact on the ecosystem.

This pulp is used as the absorbent core in products like baby diapers, sanitary pads, and incontinence pads. They are also used to make food-grade absorbent pads and air laid products, which are fibrous webs that are thicker and more absorbent than paper. Air laid products made of fluff pulp are used in a variety of applications, such as making dry and wet wipes, cooking paper, baby wipes, and training pants. To make air laid products, the fibers in the pulp need to be freed from each other before they are processed in a paper machine; this process is called defibration. The greater tensile strength and tear resistance of air laid products made from fluff pulp make them excellent choices for multiple disposable absorbent applications in both the industrial and consumer markets.

This pulp is distinguished by several characteristics, such as its absorption properties and uniform runnability, which is a combination of properties that allow the material to be processed smoothly. Even quality, uniform disintegration, and good core strength are some of the other characteristics taken into account by fluff pulp manufacturers. The pulp is rolled into rolls or reels for transportation and storage, and the reels are directly converted by manufacturers into air laid or hygiene products. Fluff pulp may be used exclusively or combined with synthetic or superabsorbent polymers to create absorbent personal products that can retain fluids and distribute liquids.

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Discussion Comments

By anon254254 — On Mar 12, 2012

In response to the above comments: The end use product made from wood and the sensitivity of a forest site are two unrelated topics. The wood from any site can used to be produced copy paper, fluff pulp, pencils, cardboard boxes, rayon for clothes, etc. The forestry practices of the last 60 years have done a tremendous job at protecting and limiting destructive practices to environmentally sensitive sites.

For example, the advent of herbicide (synthetic growth hormones that carry caution labels) have greatly reduced the destructive practices of using heavy equipment on sloped areas to prepare a site for planting, (heavy equipment disturbs thew soil and roots holding the soil).

All states have passed laws requiring loggers to leave SMZ (stream management zones) of at least 200 feet to prevent stream runoff. Forest management practices have greatly improved the overall health of the environment as compared to no management at all.

If you left it to nature, all forest fires would be left to burn and natural succession would take place and we would have drastically fewer trees in this country than we do now.

Fluff pulp describes an end use of wood cellulose that depends on the manufacturing process and has nothing to do with where the fiber comes from.

By Mammmood — On Oct 09, 2011

@nony - Well, I don’t think the pulp market would be too interested in baby diapers and other kinds of hygienic pads.

Fluff pulp is made of wood, yes, but it’s been reduced to a point where it’s mostly like fabric. It’s been bleached, too, so I don’t think that in this state it would still be useful, or recyclable.

By nony — On Oct 08, 2011

@MrMoody - I wonder if it’s possible to recycle fluff pulp, since it’s made of wood?

I know you can recycle paper, so why not fluff pulp? Considering that it’s so abundant in so many of our household products I think we’d have an abundant supply of the stuff.

By MrMoody — On Oct 07, 2011

While I appreciate the usefulness of fluff pulp in so many household products, I would prefer that fluff pulp production not involve wood from environmentally sensitive areas.

I am certainly not against all production made from wood – it is, after all, a renewable resource. But some forests are less ecologically balanced and therefore deforestation takes a greater toll than in other forests.

For these forests, I don’t believe that fluff pulp production should take place on any scale. I would treat these areas as sanctioned environmental preserves.

I would only allow fluff pulp to be made in areas where the trees are bountiful and companies are actively planting new trees, and monitoring their growth.

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