Tencel™ lyocell vs Rayon clothing: Millennial Grandchild vs Old-school Grandparent

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:

  1. Is Tencel™ lyocell more sustainable than rayon?
  2. Is Tencel™ lyocell a better fabric than rayon?

Is Tencel lyocell more sustainable than rayon?

Yes, Tencelis 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, Tenceluses 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.  

Easy face-off

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 Tencelvs rayon face-off.  

My favorite ethical clothing brands with Tencel™ lyocell clothing


Check it out on Amazon

Read my detailed review of Prana’s sustainability.


Check it out on Amazon


Check it out on Amazon

This is what Synergy is doing to be sustainable

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  Tencelbranded 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 Tenceland 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 Tenceland 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?


Features Tencel™ lyocell Rayon
Raw material eucalyptus trees from FSC-certified forests various woods, bamboo – source not always traceable
Chemicals used low toxicity N-methylmorpholine N-oxide highly toxic chemicals, e.g carbon disulfide
Manufacturer Lenzing makes the Tencelbrand of lyocell Various manufacturers
Certifications USDA-biopreferred, Oeko-Tex 100 certified certifications depend on manufacturer
Eco-friendliness Manufactured in a closed-loop process Usually not closed-loop
Cost relatively expensive cheap
Maintenance wrinkle-resistant easily wrinkled
Stretchable No Yes
Moisture-wicking Yes No
Anti-bacterial Yes No
Anti-body odor Yes No
Recommended for eczema-sufferers and those with sensitive skin No one (personal opinion)
* FSC – Forest Stewardship Council


Further reading: How to take care of your Tencel™ lyocell clothing the eco-friendly way

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™. 





Sharon James
Latest posts by Sharon James (see all)

3 thoughts on “Tencel™ lyocell vs Rayon clothing: Millennial Grandchild vs Old-school Grandparent”

  1. Pingback: Tencel lyocell clothing: The best eco-friendly fabric in 2021

  2. Pingback: Is Tencel breathable?

  3. Pingback: Is Tencel vegan?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *