The continuous search for better, sustainable, and environmentally friendly fabrics has led to some interesting inventions. One of such is the Lyocell fabric – commonly known as Tencel. Let’s see its origin and properties.
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Lyocell is a natural, artificial material that comprises wood, cellulose, or pulp. First developed at the American Enka facility in 1972, Lyocell was created using an advanced solvent spinning process. Later, the material began being marketed across the United States under the name Tencel, as provided by the Courtaulds.
After being sold to the Austrian company Lenzing AG, the Tencel division ceased operations. The versatility of Lyocell fabric, however, can still be observed in the many things it is used for. Bed linens, denim, shirts, t-shirts, trousers, and towels to name a few
A fiber made of cellulose
Despite its roaring success, there remains some confusion as to which category of material best characterizes Lyocell. You may be wondering exactly how this confusion has arisen, or how it continues to persist after decades of production. The issue lies in a lack of familiarity. There are many people who, owing to their lack of knowledge of different fabrics, presume that only two categories exist. That is natural fibers like wool, hemp, cotton, ramie, and silk and artificial fibers synthesized from petrochemicals, like Polyester and nylon. The reality of the situation, however, is that Lyocell falls somewhere in-between.
Its main raw material, cellulose from wood pulp (obtained from Eucalyptus, Oak, and Birch trees) is chemically broken down into a sludge-like mixture, then pumped out into more easily woven fibers. Thus, Lyocell can be more accurately referred to as a recovered or regenerated fiber.
Characteristics of the lyocell fabric
As aforementioned, Lyocell is an extremely versatile fabric and is used as the main component in the creation of bedding, shirts, t-shirts, and trousers.
We must ask, therefore, what it is that makes products with this fibre more favorable than traditional materials like cotton and linen?
The answers below may surprise you, so let’s dive into them!
The Texture of the Fabric: Elastic
Lyocell boasts a stunningly smooth service, with a beautiful visual appearance. Soft, breathable, light, and comfortable, it comes as no surprise that this is one of the most popular materials on the market. As if that wasn’t enough, Lyocell is designed to last. With its great elasticity and strength, it is perfect for the creation of durable items, which is why this fiber is a strong contributor in the sportswear production sphere. Though slightly more expensive than cotton or linen, it is easy to see why it would be worth the investment.
With a better moisture absorption rate than cotton, Lyocell is perfect for those prone to enhanced perspiration or skin irritation. The same is true for those living in rainy climates. Products manufactured using Lyocell eliminates the need to renew materials as the climate becomes moister, helping to save time and money, without having to compromise on comfort.
Using controllable fibrillation, Lyocell can be molded into various shapes, from a soft, silky finish, to a consistency similar to that of suede. For those of you not so familiar with the technicalities of controllable fibrillation, we are referring to the very fine hairs found on the outer surface of fiber strands. It is their versatility that attracts manufacturers, allowing them to explore several design options without sacrificing the quality of the final article.
Perfect for Sensitive Skin
As the heightened absorbency of Lyocell helps to keep skin dry, and the smooth surface of its fibres makes it soft to the touch, this fabric is simply perfect for those with sensitive skin.
Lyocell is a biodegradable product that creates no harmful by-products during production. Cellulose, the material’s main component, is obtained only from well-managed forests, making it a fantastic source of renewable fibre. Unlike cotton, the cultivation of these trees requires no irrigation or pesticide use and is far less toxic than traditional sourcing methods.
Advantages of using lyocell fabric
Owing to its moisture management properties, Lyocell is said to be an effective anti-bacterial.
Lyocell has an incredibly smooth, soft surface that drapes beautifully. It is soft, breathable, lightweight, and comfortable.
With a greater moisture absorption rate than cotton, Lyocell is perfect for those prone to enhanced perspiration or sensitive skin.
Appropriate for sensitive skin
The wicking abilities of Lyocell help to keep the skin dry, while its smooth fiber surface creates a soft-to-the-touch sensation. Simply perfect for those suffering from sensitive skin.
Owing to its incredible controllable fibrillation, Lyocell can be arranged in various shapes, from a silky smooth finish to a suede-like softness.
Disadvantages of the lyocell fabric
Lyocell is more expensive to produce than traditional fibers like cotton. This is because of the technology that is required for processing. As it costs more to produce, this is then transferred to buyers.
Why Lyocell is environmentally-friendly
- Lyocell fabrics are naturally biodegradable.
- The production of Lyocell produces no harmful by-products.
- Lyocell’s main ingredient, cellulose, can be obtained with ease from managed tree farms.
- Its amine oxide solvent is non-toxic.
- The farming of trees to produce Lyocell materials does not require irrigation or pesticides.
- The amine oxide is recyclable. After using it to break down the cellulose setting, the amine oxide can be re-used in the manufacturing process.
- When compared to the manufacturing process of other cellulose fibers, Lyocell production is significantly less toxic and wasteful.
- The amine oxide solvent that is used to produce Lyocell is non-toxic, and because most of it is recycled during production, it is not released into the environment.
- The production of Lyocell is short. It takes about two and a half hours from chopping the wood down to the carding. Thus, compared to the production of other manmade fibers it uses less water and energy.
These properties make Lyocell a star in the realm of fashion and textiles.
However, we cannot talk about Lyocell without comparing it to cotton. For the most part, cotton is still thought of as the gold standard. This is mainly because of the price. Besides, cotton is way cheaper to buy compared to Lyocell.
Lyocell compared to other materials
Lyocell vs Cotton
Lyocell and cotton might seem similar, however, the two have many differences. While Lyocell is made from natural materials through a closed-loop manufacturing process, cotton is a natural fiber. Both offer top-quality bed sheets that are soft to the touch. These differences are observed.
Lyocell is softer than cotton. This derives from its extremely smooth surface. It not only provides a feeling of well-being, but it also creates a non-irritating environment perfect for sensitive skin. It compensates for one of the most common disadvantages of cotton sheets. That is their tendency to scratch.
Lyocell comprises small hydrophilic fibres, which translates to “water lovers”. This allows the fabric to absorb moisture from the skin. However, cotton is also very breathable, generally non-irritating, and hypoallergenic. So, if you do not have any major problems with cotton sheets, it may not be necessary to switch.
Lyocell’s hydrophilic qualities make it a highly effective method of maintaining a low body temperature during sleep. It is extremely breathable, allowing sweat to be absorbed by the body all night long, regardless of the climate.
This freshness can be a decisive factor for people with high body temperatures and sleeping difficulties. Though not as absorbent as Lyocell, cotton also provides comfort in terms of its warmth.
4. Environmental impact
Tencel (Lyocell) is generally obtained from eucalyptus. The manufacturing process of fabrics derived from wood pulp is far more efficient than that of cotton plans, requiring fewer pesticides and irrigation cycles both during growth and cultivation. This makes Lyocell a less damaging material for the environment when compared to more traditional fibers.
Lyocell is less prone to wrinkles than cotton, is easier to maintain, and requires minimal effort to wash. Being less likely to shrink during cleaning, Lyocell is extremely resistant and tends to maintain its original weight.
6. The price
Compared to cotton, Lyocell is more expensive. This additional cost primarily results from the heightened complexity of the latter’s manufacturing process. However, Lyocell sheets are generally more durable, requiring less time to wash and iron, making the cost difference difficult to quantify.
The higher rate of absorbency obtained by Tencel (Lyocell) makes the fabric softer, fresher, and more hygienic. Though cotton appears rough and matt when compared to Tencel, it absorbs colour well and is not excessively prone to wrinkles and creases.
Lyocell vs Polyester
Lyocell and Polyester require different methods for creation. Unlike the former, Polyester is derived from recycled plastics and petroleum. It is an extremely popular textile that is used by manufacturers across the globe. Let’s take a look at their differences in a little more detail.
- Lyocell is a lot more breathable than Polyester.
- While Lyocell is made from wood cellulose, Polyester is made from polymers.
- Lyocell is less stretchy than Polyester.
- While Lyocell must be washed in cold temperatures, Polyester has no specific requirements.
- Lyocell offers high moisture absorption, unlike Polyester which provides low moisture absorption.
- Being one of the most expensive materials on the market, Lyocell will set you back more than Polyester
Lyocell vs Rayon
Though Lyocell and Rayon are both obtained through wood cellulose, there are a few differences between the two which require observation.
- Though crafted from the same material, Lyocell production uses a different solvent.
- There are fewer chemicals used to produce Lyocell than Rayon.
- Lyocell is more eco-friendly than Rayon.
- While Lyocell is lightweight, Rayon resembles a composition similar to that of linen or cotton.
- Rayon offers thermal regulation which is something Lyocell cannot achieve.
- Lyocell is better at cooling than rayon.
- Besides the above, Lyocell is also non-creasing.
Lyocell vs Tencel
There exists a lot of confusion as to whether Lyocell and Tencel are the same things. So, don’t be alarmed if you too are yet to understand the distinction. To put it simply, Tencel is a brand name for a type of Lyocell, just like Dyson is a brand name for a type of vacuum cleaner.
Though both fabrics are wood-based cellulose fibers, Lyocell is made from bamboo pulp, while Tencel is made from wood pulp. As Lyocell is crafted using a closed-loop system, it has a minimal effect on the environment. Tencel, on the other hand, is even more sustainable, as bamboos require far less water for growth than trees. Another difference worth noting is that Tencel can be easily fixed with other fabrics like rayon or cotton.
Why buy Lyocell sheets ?
We understand that, when it comes to buying the perfect bed sheets, it is important to select a material that works for you. Besides, our sleep directly affects our health, so we must take proper care of it. Though there are several options to choose from, the differences between them may seem minimal. That’s why we have provided the below advice to help you make the correct decision.
One of the biggest problems we have observed with the use of cotton is its huge disparity in quality. Egyptian Cotton and Peruvian Pima are often considered the best on the market. Though, contrary to popular belief, yarn counting is not enough on its own to meaningfully determine the quality of fabric. There may, in reality, be something better suited to your needs than cotton, and this material could be Tencel.
Although Lyocell (Tencel) does not share the same popularity as cotton, it remains an ideal choice for people with sensitive skin. Working to eliminate moisture, this ecological fibre is smooth to touch and can adapt to temperature fluctuations.
Despite being a synthetic fibre, Lyocells origins are natural. The wood used to build its fibres come from eucalyptus or oak, which are grown within sustainably managed forests. These fibres are then spun to form a yarn, which is woven to create a soft, durable, and highly breathable fabric. In some products, Lyocell is mixed with hemp, wool, and other natural materials.
Where to buy lyocell clothes and sheets?
You can find lyocell/tencel products in a variety of physical and online stores. We will mention some below, but the list is far from exhaustive.
Amazon, the global e-commerce giant, is home to a diverse portfolio of cotton sheet options. GhostBed and DTY Bedding are great examples.
Eucalypso, a pioneer in the production of high-quality Lyocell fabrics, has an online shop with excellent delivery times, and very good value for money.
The Made Trade organization offers free delivery to any location in the United States upon the completion of a sale for Lyocell products.
For those of you more accustomed to major brands, try H&M, Levi’s, Victoria’s Secret, PBteen, Ted Baker, and Hanes. Each commands an impressive catalogue of Lyocell products.
In 2019, the clothing market saw a rapid growth in the emergence of Lyocell products. Each listed presently represents the highest quality and best value for money from the industry-leading actors.
Whichever you choose, you are guaranteed maximum comfort, quality, and durability. So, we invite you to give Lyocell fiber products a chance. Once you have made the plunge, you will never want another fabric again!
How to wash lyocell fabric?
Whether you are sewing clothes or simply buying products made of Tencel, learning how to keep them clean can aid you in maintaining their fine texture.
Garments like bed linens, tops, trousers, and scarves that are made entirely from Lyocell should be hand washed in a container of warm or cool water using a mild detergent. This reduces the likelihood of damage and is much gentler on the fabric. It is important to never twist or squeeze the fabric when wet, and to always air dry it with a hanger. Undesired stiffness can be removed by placing the garment into a dryer with a towel on a low setting.
Some garment manufacturers combine Lyocell with other materials like cotton or nylon to reduce cost. Washing garments of this composition can be tricky. So, it is important to read the label on the garment first. If it says you should dry clean, then dry clean.
However, for treated Lyocell fabrics, you can use a washing machine and dryer. Just make sure it’s on the low or medium setting.
Note: for garments that are 100% Lyocell-based, do not use a washing machine or a tumble dryer. Soaked Lyocell fibers lose almost half of their tensile strength and thus become prone to tears.
It is advisable to use oxygen-based bleach to whiten and remove stains on Lyocell fabrics, though some can endure diluted chlorine bleach. See the garment label first.
How to iron lyocell ?
Use the lowest temperature setting that produces steam (medium setting max). Always iron on the wrong side of the fabric.
Use a pressing cloth between the Lyocell fabric and the iron. Note: ironing at high temperatures can scorch cellulosic fibers.
How is Lyocell made?
Making the pulp.
Eucalyptus, Oak, and Birch trees are harvested from farms or forests before being sent to the mill to be debarked and chopped. These wood pieces are then put into chemical digesters to soften them into a wet pulp. Later, the pulp is washed with water and, in some instances, bleached. It is dried and rolled up onto spools.
Dissolving the Cellulose:
The next step is to dissolve the cellulose by breaking it into small pieces and loading it into heated, pressurized containers filled with amine oxide.
When the cellulose in the solvent dissolves into a clear solution, it is squirted out through a filter to ensure all the chipped cellulose is dissolved.
At this stage, the solution is pumped through spinnerets. Spinnerets look like showerheads, so when the cellulose is forced through it, long fiber strands come out. This will set the fiber strands and they will later be washed with de-mineralized water.
Dry and Lubricate:
Here, the water in the Lyocell fiber is removed through heating. The fiber strands pass through a finishing area, where a lubricant like soap, silicone, or some other agent is applied. This helps to untangle the fiber strands and facilitate the process of carding and spinning.
During carding, the tow (that is the dried and finished fiber strands) are compressed by a crimping machine to provide texture and bulk. A machine will then card (comb) the fiber to separate the fiber strands. Last, the carded fiber strands are rolled up and shipped to a fabric mill.
Does Lyocell Shrink?
As Lyocell is a delicate fabric, it requires hand-washing in cold water. When you first wash Lyocell, you will notice it will shrink by about 3 percent. Though, if you continue to use a gentle detergent and cold water, it will resist any further shrinking. If you feel the need, you may wash Lyocell in a washing machine on a gentle cycle, but it is better to opt for drip drying than machine drying. Similarly, you can only use a warm iron to give the garment a bit of a touch-up. If you apply too much heat, it might scorch the fabric. Always follow washing requirements to prevent shrinkage.
Is Tencel Breathable?
Now, you might be wondering whether tencel is breathable or not. It is a natural fiber that is made from wood pulp. Since tencel performs very well in breathability tests, it is easily one of the most breathable fabrics. Besides, its microfiber composition is designed to ensure exactly that.
Tencel has a low ecological impact. Despite being synthetic, its raw materials are just as natural as any other substance. However, it uses even fewer resources. Gone are the days where people felt restricted to cotton to achieve breathability. Tencel has become a popular alternative as it does an even better job. It allows your skin to breathe and prevents you from feeling sweaty.
Is Lyocell Stretchy?
Lyocell is a stretchable fabric that does a great job at holding its original shape no matter how often you stretch. It bounces right back to its original shape and size. This helps ensure there is no bagging or dropping. However, you should bear in mind it is not a miracle fabric. Therefore, you should not expect its stretching to be as good as spandex, nylon, rubber, or elastic. You simply cannot compare Lyocell to these fabrics. Lyocell has been designed with comfort in mind. It offers a smooth feel that is hard to rival. From the moment you put it on, you will feel irresistible.
Is Lyocell Warm?
Finally, a common concern among people is whether Lyocell is warm. As Lyocell contains hydrophilic fibers, you will experience far less sweat on your body when you sleep. This makes it the ideal fabric for hot sleepers or those of you who live in very humid countries.
If you are tired of having to switch on the air conditioner every night and want a good night’s sleep, Lyocell is just the fabric you need. When you use a lyocell bedsheet, you will not sweat as much and will be able to enjoy your bedtime. The main reason Lyocell does a fantastic job at keeping you cool is that it pulls moisture away and promotes cooling. It also pulls heat away from your skin. Thus, you get to remain dry throughout your sleep.