Rayon has been around for eons and is widely used in all sorts of garments. Chances are your closet is filled with clothes made from rayon.
Tencel™ lyocell is the new kid of the block. You’ve hardly heard of it. Plus it’s expensive.
Do we even need to have this discussion?
Yes we do.
Because it’s time for rayon to die a natural death and for Tencel™ lyocell to take over the throne.
To understand why, we need to answer two basic questions:
- Is Tencel™ lyocell more sustainable than rayon?
- Is Tencel™ lyocell a better fabric than rayon?
Is Tencel™ lyocell more sustainable than rayon?
Yes, Tencel™ is more sustainable than rayon by a long stretch.
In a nutshell, Tencel™ is sourced from sustainable Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified forests while the source of rayon is often not traceable. And even though both are manufactured using chemical processes, Tencel™ uses a low toxicity chemical called N-methylmorpholine N-oxide (NMNO) in a closed-loop process. This means >99% of NMNO used is recovered and recycled.
Is Tencel™ lyocell a better fabric than rayon?
Yes, Tencel™ is leaps and bounds ahead of rayon in terms of quality.
There are some similarities between the two fabrics but Tencel™ is wrinkle-resistant, anti-bacterial, anti-body odor and non-toxic (Oeko-Tex 100-certified). Tencel™ is also recommended for eczema-sufferers and those with sensitive skin.
Rayon is none of these.
Tencel™ lyocell is better for the planet and for us. It’s time to cease production of rayon and shift the focus to newer, better and more sustainable fabrics.
Check out how Tencel™ is used by some of my favorite clothing brands. And if you want to know the nitty gritty details, scroll down for heaps more information about the Tencel™ vs rayon face-off.
My favorite ethical clothing brands with Tencel™ lyocell clothing
What is rayon?
In a nutshell, rayon is a generic name for any fabric that is made by dissolving tough plant materials using chemicals like carbon sulfide. The liquid is then spun into threads.
Rayon is also known as viscose.
What is Tencel™ lyocell?
Lyocell is a form of rayon made using the lyocell process. Wood pulp, usually beech or eucalyptus, is dissolved using N-methylmorpholine N-oxide.
Tencel™ lyocell refers to a specific brand of lyocell fabric produced by the Lenzing Group in Austria.
Find out why I am bias towards Tencel™ branded lyocell.
What are the similarities between Tencel™ lyocell and rayon?
- Tencel™ lyocell sits under the umbrella of rayon. As in, Tencel™ is a type of rayon but rayon isn’t Tencel™.
- The raw material for both fabrics come from plants. The plant pulp is dissolved using mechanical processes and chemical agents to form a liquid that is spun into threads.
- Both Tencel™ and rayon (depending on how it is made) can be soft, silky and luxurious.
- Both fabrics are super comfortable to wear. Both are more moisture-absorbent than cotton, drapes well, and is breathable.
- Both sit in the land between man-made (synthetic) and natural fabric.
- Importantly, both Tencel™ and rayon are very durable if taken care of properly and both are biodegradable.
This is where the similarities end.
What is the difference between Tencel lyocell and rayon?
|eucalyptus trees from FSC-certified forests
|various woods, bamboo – source not always traceable
|low toxicity N-methylmorpholine N-oxide
|highly toxic chemicals, e.g carbon disulfide
|Lenzing makes the Tencel™ brand of lyocell
|USDA-biopreferred, Oeko-Tex 100 certified
|certifications depend on manufacturer
|Manufactured in a closed-loop process
|Usually not closed-loop
|eczema-sufferers and those with sensitive skin
|No one (personal opinion)
To wrap up
Rayon was the first-generation of fabric made from wood pulp. While it has some benefits over purely synthetic fabric like polyester, its methods are old school.
Tencel™ lyocell uses the same basic principles but is eco-friendly and sustainably produced. I think it’s time to replace rayon with Tencel™.