What is Lyocell Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (2022)

Fabric nameLyocell
Fabric also known asTencel
Fabric compositionWood cellulose and synthetic substances
Fabric possible thread count variations300-600
Fabric breathabilitynVery breathable
Moisture-wicking abilitiesHigh
Heat retention abilitiesMedium
Stretchability (give)Low
Prone to pilling/bubblingMedium
Country where fabric was first producedUnited States
Biggest exporting/producing country todayEurope and China
Recommended washing temperaturesCold
Commonly used inDenim, dress shirts, underwear, towels, conveyor belts, medical dressings, specialty paper

What is Lyocell Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (1)Organic Bamboo Lyocell

What Is Lyocell Fabric?

Lyocell is a semi-synthetic fabric that is commonly used as a substitute for cotton or silk. This fabric is a form of rayon, and it is composed primarily of cellulose derived from wood.

Originally developed by American Enka in 1972, lyocell burst into popularity in the latter decades of the 20th century, and it is still relatively popular around the world. Since it is primarily made from organic ingredients, this fabric is seen as a more sustainable alternative to fully synthetic fibers like polyester, but whether or not lyocell fabric is truly better for the environment is questionable.

What is Lyocell Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (2)H&M Long Lyocell Shirt – Blue

At American Enka, lyocell fabric only made it through the pilot phase of development before the project was abandoned. It wasn't until the 1980s that a British company called Courtaulds Fibres picked up the pieces and created a new fabric called Tencel based on lyocell research. These two fabrics are chemically identical, and the terms Tencel and lyocell can be used interchangeably.

Consumers generally find lyocell fabric to be soft to the touch, and many people can't tell the difference between this fabric and cotton. Lyocell fabric is very strong whether it is wet or dry, and it is more resistant to pilling than cotton. Textile manufacturers like the fact that it's easy to mix this fabric with other types of textiles; for instance, it plays well with cotton, silk, rayon, polyester, nylon, and wool.

Buy high-quality, low-priced lyocell fabric here. If you are UK based, you can buy it here.

How Is Lyocell Fabric Made?

What is Lyocell Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (3)

Tencel is almost chemically identical to rayon, but a somewhat different process is used to make this rayon derivative. Unlike the rayon production process, the lyocell fabric production process involves the use of a direct solvent instead of an indirect solvent. A solvent spinning technique is used to create Tencel, which means that unlike the case in the production of rayon, the Tencel production process doesn't cause any significant chemical changes to the chemical structure of cellulose.

(Video) Lyocell : Eco-friendly fabric What it is? How it's made? #Lyocell #ไลโอเซลล์ #เส้นใยไลโอเซลล์

While fabrics derived from cellulose have been around for nearly 200 years, they have only been in mass production since the beginning of the 20th century. These fabrics were originally designed as substitutes for silk, and pioneers of cellulose fabrics attempted to recreate the process that silkworms use to make real silk.

The first cellulose fabric to be mass-produced was rayon, and to this day, rayon is made with an extrusion method. As one of the newest cellulose fabric production methods, production of lyocell improves on the production methods used to make rayon. It is more efficient, it produces less waste, and it results in a product that is less synthetic than rayon.

Shop a wide variety of lyocell fabrics here for US and rest of world here and here if you are UK based.

The Production Process

Chips of hardwood like oak or birch are used as the raw materials for the cellulose that is used in this fabric. The trees used for these purposes are usually grown on managed tree farms. Once the trees arrive at a Tencel production facility, they are broken down into chips and loaded into a vat of chemical digesters, which soften the chips into pulp.

This pulp is then washed in water, and bleach may also be used to sanitize it. Next, it is dried in a sheet, and it is rolled into spools. Most cellulose rolls are enormous and weigh about 500 pounds.

These sheets are then broken into squares measuring approximately one inch across, and these squares are placed in pressurized and heated vats of amine oxide, which is the primary solvent used to make lyocell fabric. Once the cellulose has dissolved into a clear liquid, it is filtered and pumped through spinnerets.

As it is forced through spinnerets, cellulose is turned into long, thin fibers. The resulting fibers are immersed in a vat of diluted amine oxide to set, and they are then washed with demineralized water.

The lyocell fibers are then dried, and a lubricant, such as silicone or soap, is applied. The fibers are now considered to be in a state called tow, and these bundles of tow are placed in a crimper that compresses the fiber. Next, they are carded, which separates and orders the strands. Lastly, the fibers are cut, and they are then ready to be turned into a variety of different products.

Compared to rayon, the Tencel production process requires far fewer steps and takes much less time. Also, since the amine oxide used to make this fabric can be recovered, making lyocell fabric is much less wasteful than making rayon.

(Video) What is Lyocell/Tencel Fabric? | Kinds of Fabric

How Is Lyocell Fabric Used?

What is Lyocell Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (4)

Tencel is usually used as a substitute for cotton or silk. This fabric feels like soft cotton, and it is used to make everything from dress shirts to towels to underwear.

While some garments are made entirely from lyocell, it is more common to see this fabric mixed with other types of fabrics like cotton or polyester. Since Tencel is so strong, when it is mixed with other fabrics, the resulting composite fabric is stronger than cotton or polyester on its own.

In addition to garments, this fabric is used in a variety of commercial settings. For instance, many manufacturers have substituted lyocell for cotton in the fabric parts of conveyor belts; when belts are made with this fabric, they last longer, and they are more resistant to wear and tear.

Furthermore, Tencel is quickly becoming a favorite fabric for medical dressings. In life or death situations, having a fabric that is highly tensile is very important, and Tencel has proved itself to be stronger than fabrics that were used for medical dressings in the past. This fabric's high absorbancy profile also makes it an ideal material to use in medical applications.

What is Lyocell Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (5)Tencel lyocell sheet

Soon after its development, scientific researchers recognized the potential of lyocell as a component in specialty papers. While you wouldn't want to write on Tencel paper, many different types of filters are made primarily from paper, and since this fabric has low air resistance and high opacity, it is an ideal filtration material.

Since lyocell fabric is such a versatile substance, it may also be used in a variety of specialty applications. Research into this fabric is ongoing, which means that more uses for Tencel may be discovered in the future.

Where Is Lyocell Fabric Produced?

What is Lyocell Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (6)

(Video) # Lyocell Filament Manufacturing # Properties # Applications

When lyocell fabric was first created, it was only produced at the American Enka factory in Enka, North Carolina. When Enka stopped producing this substance, however, production moved entirely to the United Kingdom when Courtaulds Fibers branded this fabric as Tencel.

Eventually, Tencel production expanded to the Courtaulds plant in Mobile, Alabama, and until the late 1990s, this fabric was not made anywhere else in the world. In 1998, however, Courtalds was sold to Akzo Nobel, which is a Dutch international corporation specializing in paints. Akzo Nobel went on to sell the rights to Tencel to a private equity firm named CVC partners, which promptly sold its Tencel division to Lenzing AG, which is an international textile corporation based in Austria.

What is Lyocell Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (7)Bamboo Lyocell Pj Pants

While Lenzing AG has a variety of different factories in Europe, a great deal of their production has moved overseas to countries like China and Indonesia. While some Tencel is still produced in countries like Austria, the United Kingdom, and the USA, the majority of this fabric is now produced in China.

Since Lenzing now holds the Tencel patent, it remains the largest producer of this textile in the world. A variety of smaller companies may also make this fabric in minuscule quantities, but if you've worn a lyocell garment, chances are it was made by Lenzing AG in one of their Chinese factories.

How Much Does Lyocell Fabric Cost?

Rayon and other cellulose fabrics were originally produced as cheaper alternatives to silk. While silk production is all-natural and relatively sustainable, it's hard to produce silk in large quantities, which prompted the birth of the "artificial silk" revolution that ultimately resulted in the development of modern rayon.

While it's true that cellulose fabrics remain cheaper to produce than silk, the same can't be said for cotton. While prices of cotton and cellulose fabrics fluctuate, cotton has been significantly cheaper to produce in the last decade or so. If global economic trends remain stable, cotton will remain less expensive than lyocell and similar fabrics from a production standpoint.

What is Lyocell Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (8)Organic Bamboo Lyocell fabric

However, the difference in price between cotton and Tencel is nearly negligible, and some manufacturers may prefer the process of producing cellulose fabrics to the process of manufacturing cotton. Lyocell, in particular, is one of the simplest cellulose fabrics to produce, and it generates very little waste.

(Video) Lyocell Twill

Even if cellulose fabrics become less popular than cotton due to price fluctuations, lyocell fabric is much more useful than cotton in a number of applications. This textile's tensility is off the charts, and it is highly durable in commercial applications. Manufacturers are more than happy to pay slightly higher prices for these benefits.

What Different Types of Lyocell Fabric Are There?

What is Lyocell Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (9)

There is, from a chemical point of view, only one type of lyocell fabric. Even when this substance is called Tencel, it has the same chemical composition, and it is made using the same process.

However, there are a couple of fabrics that are very similar to lyocell fabric that you should be aware of as you learn more about this textile. Examples of these similar fabrics include:

  • Viscose rayon: This fabric was the first type of cellulose textile to rise into popularity. Viscose rayon has been produced since the first few decades of the 20th century, and it was preceded by a number of cellulose fabric prototypes that were discontinued due to flammability or untenable production processes.
  • Viscose rayon remains a popular fabric, and it is produced around the world. However, the viscose production process is much more complicated than the process that is used to create lyocell, and it is much more impactful on the environment. In some cases, viscose rayon may be cheaper to produce than Tencel, but it's clear that this fabric is technologically outdated.

  • Modal rayon: This type of rayon is relatively similar to Tencel in a number of ways. It is made with a simpler process than viscose rayon, and it is significantly more tensile than other types of cellulose fiber. This rayon production method was discovered in the 1940s, and it represents a technical leap forward in cellulose fabric production. However, many manufacturers around the world still produce viscose rayon instead of modal rayon.

How Does Lyocell Fabric Impact the Environment?

Compared to other cellulose textiles, lyocell is much better for the environment. While the process of producing this fabric is similar to that which is used to make rayon and other cellulose fabrics, production of Tencel doesn't introduce any toxins into the environment if it is done correctly.

What is Lyocell Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (10)Overall aus Lyocell

Unlike similar textiles, lyocell production employs a "closed loop" extraction process, which means that the same batch of amine oxide is used to extract multiple batches of Tencel. For comparison, production of viscose rayon involves a number of different chemical processes that do not employ a closed loop system, and these chemicals are then introduced into the environment in the form of contaminated water.

It is, however, important to remember that lyocell is made from trees, and a great deal of tree material is wasted in the production of this fabric. If trees for Tencel production are not grown sustainably, production of this material could have a negative environmental impact, and not all Tencel producers are guaranteed to follow the sustainable closed-loop extraction model.

(Video) WHAT IS TENCEL™️ LYOCELL? | S2:E5 | Fibers & Fabrics | Beate Myburgh

Lyocell Certifications Available

What is Lyocell Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where (11)

Lyocell can be certified as organic under certain circumstances. To receive this certification, producers of this fabric must use organic practices to produce the trees that they use for cellulose, and they must avoid using certain toxic chemicals in the production process.

Unlike rayon, the structure of Tencel isn't altered by any chemicals, which means that the cellulose-based fabric that is produced and labeled as Tencel is technically made solely from cellulose derived from trees. However, since amine oxide is used in the Tencel production process, some purists may not view this fabric as completely organic.

FAQs

What are the properties lyocell fabric? ›

Lyocell fiber is similar to viscose rayon fiber in many physical aspects, but exhibits enhanced properties in terms of softness, drapability, dimensional stability, dye uptake, and colorfastness. Moisture regain of lyocell fiber is around 11%, slightly lower than that of viscose rayon (Hongu & Phillips, 1997).

How is lyocell made? ›

Lyocell, originally trademarked in 1982 as Tencel, is a form of rayon. It consists of cellulose fibers, made from dissolving pulp and then reconstituting it by dry jet-wet spinning. The fiber is used to make textiles for clothing and other purposes.

What is lyocell in material? ›

What is Lyocell fabric? Lyocell is a type of rayon fabric that is made from dissolving cellulose or wood pulp using an innovative spinning process. It is used in virtually everything from denim to towels, lyocell sheets, and other bedding, causing many to wonder, does lyocell shrink or wrinkle?

Is lyocell a man made fabric? ›

Unlike other man-made fibers, rayon, modal, and lyocell are not synthetic. They are made from cellulose, commonly derived from wood pulp, and more recently from bamboo.

Where is lyocell from? ›

Most commonly, lyocell is made from eucalyptus trees. In some cases, bamboo, oak, and birch trees are also used. This means that lyocell fabrics are naturally biodegradable!

Is lyocell the same as cotton? ›

Lyocell is a semi-synthetic fabric that is commonly used as a substitute for cotton or silk. This fabric is a form of rayon, and it is composed primarily of cellulose derived from wood.

Is lyocell a natural fibre? ›

Lyocell is a natural, man made fibre. Made with wood pulp from sustainable tree farms, lyocell textiles are created through the use of nanotechnology in an award-winning closed-loop process that recovers or decomposes all solvents and emissions.

Is lyocell eco-friendly? ›

Lyocell is arguably the most eco-friendly fabric. Not only is it sourced from organic and renewable sources, but it is processed via a low energy, low water, closed-loop system that recycles over 99.5% of the chemicals/solvents used in production, with the remaining 0.5% discharged as non-hazardous effluent.

Is lyocell better than polyester? ›

The benefits of lyocell vs polyamide and polyester

Polyester is not as breathable as Lyocell and it provides low moisture absorption. Lyocell is more delicate than polyester and therefore it requires specific care of the garment or product (for example, it can only be washed with cold water).

Is lyocell a cheap fabric? ›

Honestly, the main con of Lyocell is its price. As I mentioned a few paragraphs above, this fiber can be somewhat pricey compared to other mass-produced fibers due to production costs. If blended with other fibers such as polyester or spandex, the fabric won't be compostable. It's only fully compostable on its own.

Why is lyocell better than cotton? ›

Lyocell fibers are hydrophilic, which means water-loving. In terms of bedsheets, this means they move water particles away from the body. This means they're far less likely to become mildewed and smell off. Lyocell sheets likely need less frequent washing than cotton.

Is lyocell good for skin? ›

Cellulose Fabrics (Bamboo)

TENCEL™ lyocell reduces static electricity buildup, regulates body temperature, leaving you with a ridiculously-soft feel which is ideal for those who have sensitive skin. Our ECOSHEEX Bamboo Origin Sheet Set is another great option for those with sensitive skin.

Is lyocell good for hot weather? ›

Breathability: Incredibly light and breathable, lyocell clothing has great applications for normal day-to-day use as well as for sports. It has great moisture-wicking properties that allow you to stay cool and dry even on a hot summer day, without the clothing sticking to your skin.

Is lyocell washable? ›

Lyocell may be hand-washed in cold water with a gentle detergent. Drip dry. Lyocell will shrink about 3% with the first washing, and will resist shrinking from then on. Machine washing, using the gentle cycle, is appropriate and drip drying is preferable to machine drying.

Does lyocell wrinkle easily? ›

Lyocell is a semisynthetic form of rayon, commonly referred to as its brand name, Tencel. It's soft and strong, drapes nicely, is machine-washable, and (most importantly) resists wrinkling.

What are the properties of Tencel? ›

TENCEL™ branded fibers can offer a range of features: botanic origin, sustainable production, gentle on skin, long-lasting softness, contributes to breathability, color retention and biodegradability.

Is lyocell good for hot weather? ›

Breathability: Incredibly light and breathable, lyocell clothing has great applications for normal day-to-day use as well as for sports. It has great moisture-wicking properties that allow you to stay cool and dry even on a hot summer day, without the clothing sticking to your skin.

Is lyocell better than polyester? ›

The benefits of lyocell vs polyamide and polyester

Polyester is not as breathable as Lyocell and it provides low moisture absorption. Lyocell is more delicate than polyester and therefore it requires specific care of the garment or product (for example, it can only be washed with cold water).

What is the difference between Tencel and Lyocell? ›

Tencel and Lyocell are the same in all but name. Tencel is actually just a brand name. What we mean by this is that the name Tencel™ refers to branded lyocell fibres created by Austrian textile company Lenzing AG.

Videos

1. Lyocell 💯 Manufacturing Process 💃💯
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2. TENCEL™ Lyocell: combining sustainability and comfort
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3. Everything You Need to Know about Sustainable Fabrics
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4. Innovative by nature: How wood-based cellulosic fibers are made at Lenzing
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5. Manufacture of Lyocell fibres, properties & applications
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