What is TENCEL?: The Introductory Guide

You’ve likely seen a sustainable brand highlighting their use of TENCEL fibers fabric.

But what is it?

Why is it classed as a sustainable material?

In this article, we’re going to show you what TENCEL™ is, the pros and cons of it, and everything else you need to know.

Let’s jump into it.

What is TENCEL™?

Firstly, what is Tencel?

Tencel is a brand creating branded lyocell and modal fibers for use in clothing and other fabric-based products.

They are created through an environmentally friendly process, and the materials are created from sustainably sourced, natural wood.

A common misconception is that the fabric is called TENCEL.

In fact, TENCEL is a brand owned by the Austrian textile brand, Lenzing AG. Under that brand, they produce lyocell and modal fabrics.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll use TENCEL and Lyocell interchangeably however you should remember that the material’s true name is Lyocell.

How is Tencel Lyocell made?

Lyocell is a type of rayon, which is cellulose from broken down and bleached wood pulp.

The solvents used to break down the wood are non-toxic, and approximately 99% of the material is turned into lyocell.

Tencel Lyocell fibers
TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers

Compared to other synthetic or manufactured fabrics there is very little waste when producing lyocell.

Due to it still being used in fewer clothes than popular materials such as cotton, it does cost more to produce which is one of the reasons clothes made from Tencel lyocell can be priced slightly higher than their counterparts.

Pros and Cons of Tencel Lyocell

Benefits of Tencel Lyocell

There is a range of reasons why you should consider buying clothing made from Tencel.

1. Environmentally Friendly

The number one reason to pick out clothes made from Tencel is the reduced environmental footprint.

Tencel Lyocell is produced from wood pulp from sustainable sources. Lenzing AG’s material and processes have earned themselves a BioPreferred® designation from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Combining the sustainable sourcing of wood, with the eco-friendly transformation process of that wood into lyocell, it’s a great alternative to other popular clothing materials.

Lyocell is also very economical when it comes to land usage. For an equivalent amount of final material, it uses 5x less land than cotton production.

When your lyocell clothing items are nearing the end of their life, if you don’t choose to donate or turn them into something new, then you can still dispose of them in an environmentally friendly way. According to Vinçotte, lyocell is biodegradable and compostable in industrial, home, and soil conditions.

2. Soft and Comfortable to Wear

Considering you wear your clothes every day (at least, most people do), comfort is an amazing benefit to have.

Lyocell is made from nanofibrils (i.e. very small fibers), which in turn makes it very soft. This is a key factor why it’s becoming a popular material for a range of uses, including bedsheets.

3. Breathability & Moisture Absorption

As well as being environmentally friendly, it’s breathable and has a high moisture absorption threshold.

Lyocell has a liquid absorption rate that’s 50% higher than that of cotton, making it a much better alternative than cotton as an activewear material. It helps your body regulate your core temperature more easily, as well as wicking any moisture (i.e. sweat) away from your skin.

If you’re looking for eco-friendly activewear, you can trust that an item will perform well if it’s made from lyocell.

Drawbacks of Tencel

1. Cost

As Tencel lyocell only accounts for a small portion of material production and costs more to produce than cotton, this is reflected in the price.

Lyocell currently comes with a higher price tag than an equivalent item of clothing made from cotton, or a similar material and that cost is, inevitably, passed onto the consumer.

2. Chemicals used can agitate sensitivities

One of the main concerns with Tencel lyocell is that it does require a significant amount of chemicals in the production process in order to be turned into clothing.

While we’ve seen that these are non-toxic, they can still agitate your skin if it’s particularly sensitive to chemicals.

Recap: What is Tencel Lyocell?

So, if you’re looking to start shopping in a more sustainable way, then looking out for clothes made from Tencel or Lyocell is a great start.

Remember, Tencel is simply a brand name for the material, which itself is called Lyocell.

Look out for our upcoming guides showing you some popular brands integrating lyocell into their range of materials!

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