Most people probably haven’t heard of Lyocell or TENCEL before.
If they have, they probably don’t know the specific details about these fibres or types of fibres.
This is a short guide about what TENCEL and Lyocell are, how they are made, and more.
(Note – Lyocell is a general type of fibre. TENCEL is a specialised brand and type of the fibre Lyocell. A fabric must be a minimum of 30% TENCEL® to be able to use the brand name – but, many people now generally refer to all types of Lyocell as TENCEL, even though there’s a technical difference between the two.)
What Is Lyocell?
- Lyocell is a form of rayon which consists of cellulose fibre made from dissolving pulp (bleached wood pulp) using dry jet-wet spinning.
- Lyocell falls somewhere in-between [a natural fibre and a synthetic fibre].
- The raw material for lyocell is cellulose from wood pulp which is broken down chemically in a soupy sludge that is squirted out a showerhead spinneret and reformed as fibers.
- Lyocell is more accurately described as a recovered or regenerated fiber, although … Lenzing Fibers make a distinction between regenerated fibers and lyocell which they describe as a “solvent spun fiber” that keeps the cellulose structure closer to that found in nature.
- Lyocell is made from cellulose found in wood pulp which has been harvested from tree farms. Cellulose is the natural polymer that makes up the living cells of all vegetation.
There might be several lyocell producers in the world – but, TENCEL (owned by Lenzing Fibers Inc) are the main/best known one, who produce their own type or specialisation fiber of lyocell, and have their own sustainable growing and production procedures and methods.
What Is TENCEL?
- TENCEL® is the brand name owned by Lenzing Fibers of Austria for a recently improved fabric from a fiber generically called lyocell.
- The name “Tencel” has gained popular acceptance but the fabrics that are popularly called “Tencel” are actually lyocell.
- According to Michael Kininmonth, a spokesman for Lenzing Fibers, “the blend composition of a fabric must be a minimum of 30% TENCEL® to be able to use the brand name.”
You can check out TENCEL’s website at https://www.tencel.com/general
What Is Lyocell/Tencel Used For?
- As of 2010, Lyocell is more expensive to produce than cotton or viscose rayon.
- It is used in many everyday fabrics.
- Staple fibres are used in clothes such as denim, chino, underwear, casual wear, and towels.
- Filament fibres, which are generally longer and smoother than staple fibres, are used in items that have a silkier appearance such as women’s clothing and men’s dress shirts.
- Lyocell can be blended with a variety of other fibres such as silk, cotton, rayon, polyester, linen, nylon, and wool. Lyocell is also used in conveyor belts, specialty papers, and medical dressings.
- It is primarily found in the garment industry, particularly in women’s clothing.
- It is an extremely strong fabric also with industrial uses such as in automotive filters, ropes, abrasive materials, bandages and protective suiting material.
You can view the ranges of TENCEL products on their website, such as general fabric, denim, intimates, active, Home, REFIBRA, Luxe and footwear ranges.
Where Is Lyocell/Tencel Fibre Made & Produced?
As of 2005:
- There are currently only four manufacturing facilities that produce lyocell fibers: one in the U.S., two in Europe, and one at the Birla Industries plant in India. Processes, including the chemicals that they use for finishing, can vary.
How Is Lyocell Processed & Made/Manufactured Into Fabric?
- [Lyocell] fiber is produced via an advanced ‘closed loop’ solvent spinning process, with minimal impact on the environment and economical use of energy and water.
- As with conventionally manufactured cotton fabric, there are many steps and processes involved in taking lyocell from fiber to fabric. The major steps are:
- Creating a solvent solution from wood pulp
- Spinning lyocell fiber from the solvent solution
- Washing lyocell fiber to remove solvents
- Dyeing fiber and producing yarns
- Finishing to produce lyocell fabric
- While production of lyocell fibers is generally eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable, the transformation of lyocell fibers into fabric and garments can use many or the same harsh, and even toxic, chemicals and processes used in conventional garments.
- This is because of two properties of lyocell: it doesn’t always accept dyes well, and it has an inherent tendency to fibrillate or “pill”. In wet processes the surface of lyocell fibers begins to peel away. These hairs on the fiber surface are called fibrils. When controlled in the correct way, the fabric is given a “peachskin” surface.
- [Because lyocell can use synthetic chemicals, dyes and sometimes bleaches – lyocell is not the same as an organic piece of clothing that doesn’t use them.]
You can read more about the manufacturing process for Lyocell at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyocell
Where Is TENCEL Derived From, & How Is It Manufactured?
- TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers are derived from sustainable wood sources – natural forests and sustainably managed plantations. Wood and pulp used by the Lenzing Group is harvested from certified and controlled sources.
- TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers have … an environmentally responsible closed loop production process, which transforms wood pulp into cellulosic fibers with high resource efficiency and low ecological impact. This solvent-spinning process recycles process water and reuses the solvent at a recovery rate of more than 99%.
- TENCEL™ Modal fibers are mainly manufactured from the renewable source of raw material beech wood, sourced from sustainable forests in Austria and neighboring countries.
- The production of TENCEL™ Modal fibers … is environmentally sound … by the use of renewable energy and by the recovery of process chemicals.
Viscose vs Modal vs Lyocell Fibre – What’s The Difference?
According to undershirts.co.uk:
- The differences between viscose, modal and lyocell are subtle. It comes down to the manufacturing process and structure of the filament.
- Viscose and modal are made using a very similar process with similar chemicals used at each stage of production. Viscose production has been continuously refined over the past 100 years to make a textile which is soft yet easy-care. However, modal fibres are treated slightly differently after spinning to make the filaments stronger. For example, the fibres are also stretched to increase molecular alignment. This means that modal fibres have the potential to be lighter and finer and can be tumble dried without damage. Other than that, viscose and modal are similar products.
- Lyocell is still the same plant-based fibre as viscose and modal, but it is made using a slightly different process. Lyocell production uses a different solvent to extract the cellulose from the wood: sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) is replaced by a non-toxic organic compound with the catchy name N-Methylmorpholine N-oxide (NMMO for short). This organic solvent is easier to filter and re-use in a closed loop, which is better for the environment. The Austrian firm Lenzing go a step further by only making their lyocell, branded as Tencel®, from fast-growing Eucalyptus trees from sustainably managed forests.
Two Main Types Of TENCEL™ Fibres (and other fibres they can be blended with)
Lyocell, and Modal:
- Lyocell – TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers are versatile and can be combined with a wide range of textile fibers such as cotton, polyester, acrylic, wool, and silk to enhance fabrics in regards to their aesthetics, performance and functionality.
- Modal – TENCEL™ Modal fibers can be found in the collections of well-known brand manufacturers who have been loyal to this classic fiber for many years. Incredibly versatile, TENCEL™ Modal fibers can be blended with most fibers and processed using conventional machinery, offering endless design possibilities. Moreover, customized colors can be created using different ratios of blended fibers. TENCEL™ Modal fibers are a highly compatible blending partner for cotton and due to the fiber’s sleek cross section, adds long-lasting softness to fabrics, enhancing the touch even after repeated washing. Blending fibers with TENCEL™ Modal fibers significantly improves the softness and overall comfort.
Features Of TENCEL Fabric
According to TENCEL, their Lyocell and Modal fibres have the following features:
- Lyocell fibre is derived from sustainable wood sources
- Modal fibre is manufactured from the renewable source of raw material beech wood, sourced from sustainable forests in Austria and neighboring countries.
- Lyocell feels cool and dry, absorbs moisture, and has a level of thermal regulation (Lyocell)
- In comparison to polyester and synthetics, there is less available moisture formed on the surface of the TENCEL Lyocell fiber for bacteria to grow.
- Lyocell has an environmentally responsible closed loop production process, which transforms wood pulp into cellulosic fibers with high resource efficiency and low ecological impact. This solvent-spinning process recycles process water and reuses the solvent at a recovery rate of more than 99%.
- Modal has renewable energy and the recovery of process chemicals during the production process.
- Lyocell is a breathable fabric
- Lyocell is gentle and smooth on the skin
- Lyocell and Modal both have minimal static charge on the fibre surface
- Lyocell has a sleek surface area sheen compared to other fabrics
- Lyocell is strong, long lasting and durable
- Lyocell produces a smooth drape, creating a flattering appearance.
- Lyocell has a good color vibrancy
- Modal retains long-lasting color vibrancy more than conventionally dyed fibers, and are less prone to fade even after repeated washing.
- Modal is durable and able to survive repeated washing and drying
- Modal wood-based fibers offer textiles a long-lasting quality of exquisite softness.
- Due to the fiber’s sleek cross section, TENCEL™ Modal fibers enhance the soft touch of fabrics even after repeated washing.
Value Of The Lyocell Industry/Market
- The Lyocell Fiber Market size was over USD 850 million in 2016 and is anticipated to witness growth at a CAGR of around 8% over the forecast timespan owing to its extensive usage in various end-use industries including home textiles, apparels, and medical equipment.
- The global lyocell fiber market is expected to grow at a CAGR of close to 8% during the period 2018-2022, according to a new market research study by Technavio.