What is Lyocell Fabric?

These days, Lyocell is a pretty big deal within the fashion and textile industry. This eco-friendly fabric is created using sustainable methods, and offers a range of amazing benefits to the wearer. At SiteSee, we’re huge fans of Lyocell garments — and after you’ve read about all its amazing features and functionality, we’re confident you will be, too!

What is Lyocell fabric?

Lyocell is what’s known as a semi-synthetic fabric, and was originally developed by American Enka in 1972. Made from cellulose-derived wood pulp, Lyocell often serves as an eco-friendly alternative to fully synthetic fibers (like polyester), as well as a sustainable substitute for cotton or silk. Lyocell is raved about for being soft to the touch, resistant to pilling, and incredibly versatile — demonstrated by its ability to be used in linens, towels, T-shirts, denim, and more.

How is Lyocell fabric made?

Lyocell starts as cellulose from wood pulp, which has been harvested from trees like eucalyptus, oak, and birch. This pulp is broken down through a special chemical process, and then ‘spun’ dry before it’s pushed through a series of small holes. From there, it’s chemically treated and reformed into threads, those threads are turned into yarn, and finally, the yarn is woven into regenerated fibers that form the fabric itself.

How does Lyocell impact the environment?

It doesn’t emit harmful by-products

Lyocell is a naturally biodegradable material, and one that doesn’t emit any harmful by-products that can have a negative impact on the planet. The cellulose used to make Lyocell is collected from well-managed forests that don’t call for the use of irrigation or pesticides (as is true of growing cotton). In addition, the amine oxide solvent that dissolves the initial wood pulp is non-toxic, and is continually recycled throughout the entire production process.

It uses a closed-loop process

The perpetual recycling of amine oxide is known as a ‘closed-loop’ process; unlike other regenerated fabrics, Lyocell’s manufacturing reuses the same solvent to extract multiple batches of pulp. In comparison, producing viscose rayon involves numerous chemical processes that do not use a closed-loop system, and ultimately, these chemicals are re-introduced into the environment via contaminated water.

It’s much less wasteful overall

As you can probably tell, Lyocell production is significantly less toxic and wasteful overall. In addition to avoiding common labor-intensive practices, the total manufacturing time for Lyocell is relatively short. It takes just about two and a half hours from chopping down the wood to the textile carding — that is, separating the individual fibers and removing any impurities. For this reason, Lyocell uses much less water and energy than its fellow man-made materials.

4 benefits of wearing Lyocell

Outstanding comfort and softness

Lyocell is recognized as being even softer than cotton, due to its incredibly smooth surface. Not only does this level of comfort provide a feeling of wellbeing, but it’s non-irritating for those with sensitive skin. Whereas cotton sheets can sometimes get a bit scratchy, Lyocell linens are guaranteed to stay soft to the touch (and give you a good night’s sleep!).

Highly durable for long-term use

Because it’s so light and comfortable, people sometimes underestimate how durable Lyocell is, as well. But the truth is, the durability of Lyocell fibers is nearly unmatched; on top of having great elasticity, it’s also resistant to unwanted wrinkles. Lyocell has been designed to last through tons of wear, and this strength makes it a fantastic option for athleisure garments.

Amazing flexibility and variety

Lyocell fabric boasts something called ‘controllable fibrillation,’ which in simple terms, means it’s super flexible and can take on a variety of forms — from a soft, silky finish, to a nice suede-like texture, and so much in between. Clothing manufacturers love working with Lyocell because it offers all kinds of molding options without sacrificing the quality of the final piece.

Superior moisture absorption 

The superior absorbency of Lyocell makes this material much fresher and more hygienic than others on the market. Lyocell has a natural breathability, as well as 50% greater moisture absorption than cotton. And thanks to this incredible moisture management, Lyocell is also antibacterial, which makes it the perfect choice for all types of climates or outings.

How to take care of Lyocell

Hand wash

Since Lyocell is a rather delicate fabric, ideally it should be hand washed in cold water using a gentle detergent. If you really need to use the machine, you can wash Lyocell items on the gentle cycle with cold water, as well. Sustainably speaking, washing in cold water is the way to go for all your garments, since it uses much less energy than hot water requires.

Hang dry

Once your clothes are clean, you can hang them on a clothesline or separate them along a drying rack. If you space everything out, you’ll allow for better air circulation and faster drying times; placing clothes near a fan or heat vent will do the same thing. Opting to hang dry (rather than machine dry) again uses less energy, and extends the life cycle of your garments, too.

Iron sparingly

While it’s best to avoid the iron as much as you can, if you have to get rid of a few wrinkles from time to time, use the lowest setting that will produce steam. Whatever you do, don’t go above a medium setting, as high temperatures can scorch cellulose fibers! Be sure to iron on the ‘wrong’ side of the fabric (i.e. inside out), and use a pressing cloth between the garment and the iron.

Lyocell fabric FAQs

Is Lyocell natural or synthetic?

Lyocell is a natural fiber that’s made with wood pulp from sustainable tree farms. The manufacturing of Lyocell uses a closed-loop extraction process, which recovers or decomposes all chemical solvents and emissions so there are zero harmful by-products.

Is Lyocell better than cotton?

In many ways, Lyocell outshines cotton, seeing as it wrinkles less and is easier to maintain. In contrast to cotton, Lyocell clothing is less likely to shrink when washed, and it won’t lose its weight over time. In addition, Lyocell is much softer and more absorbent, and its production doesn’t involve the pesticides or labor-intensive practices associated with manufacturing cotton.

What does Lyocell feel like?

Although Lyocell can have a number of different textures, the standard fabric is wonderfully soft and smooth on the skin. Lyocell is also hypoallergenic, antibacterial, and highly absorbent, which is why it’s often used in activewear and athleisure collections.

 

Meredith is a freelance copywriter based in Des Moines, Iowa, not far from where she grew up. She earned a degree in journalism from Belmont University, and has been writing remotely for a variety of brands and businesses over the last seven years. To read more of Meredith's work, check out her portfolio here.

 

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