The sustainable fiber of the future is being hailed as Lyocell. Let’s break down the pros and cons of lyocell for climate-conscious shoppers.
Although it has a scientific name and a heavenly silkiness, is the material that is appearing everywhere—from catwalks to your wardrobe—really as sustainable as we are being led to believe? I’m talking about Lyocell!
Like any good eco-journalist, I want to know all the specifics regarding this fabric, which seems to be hot off the press. Join me as we embark on a journey to discover the specifics of Lyocell as well as its advantages and disadvantages.
What is Lyocell Fabric?
The semi-synthetic fabric called Lyocell is frequently used as an alternative to cotton or silk. This fabric is a type of rayon and is primarily made of cellulose that is obtained from wood.
Lyocell, which was created by American Enka in 1972, gained popularity in the last few decades of the 20th century and is still widely used today. Although it is largely made of organic materials, lyocell fabric is thought to be a more environmentally friendly alternative to fully synthetic fibers like polyester.
Consumers generally find lyocell fabric to be soft to the touch, and many people can’t tell the difference between this fabric and cotton. The fabric made of lyocell is much stronger than cotton, both when dry and wet. It is also less likely to pill. Textile manufacturers like the fact that it’s easy to mix this fabric with other types of textiles; for instance, it plays well with cotton, silk, rayon, polyester, nylon, and wool.
Pros of Lyocell Fabric
Below are the pros of lyocell fabric:
Lyocell is Made Using a Renewable Resource That Sequesters Carbon
Eucalyptus trees are used to produce the majority of lyocell. However, some lyocell is made with bamboo, while other batches are with oak, birch, and other kinds of wood.
Bamboo and eucalyptus are excellent options for making lyocell because they grow quickly, require few resources (including a lot less water than cotton), and store carbon as they develop. Bamboo and eucalyptus grow well in conditions that are unfavorable for plant crops.
Additionally, they spread out more densely, requiring only about a fifth of the land needed for cotton. Eucalyptus and bamboo don’t need pesticides or irrigation, in contrast to conventional cotton, which is another benefit! Bamboo lyocell is another lyocell fabric.
The majority of lyocell is also produced using wood from sustainably managed forests, which is typically verified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Lyocell is 100% Biodegradable and Compostable
Non-toxic solvents are used to create lyocell from wood. This means that lyocell takes only a few months to fully degrade under the right circumstances if it isn’t blended with synthetic fibers. In contrast to nylon, polyester, and other fibers made of plastic, which can take more than a century to even start decomposing, it is very similar to cotton, hemp, and linen.
Lyocell is Made Using Non-toxic, Closed-loop Manufacturing
Since the solvents used in lyocell production are non-toxic, no harmful byproducts are produced during the process. Additionally, since lyocell is produced in a closed-loop system, 99.5% of the solvents are recycled up to 200 times, resulting in very low waste output.
What types of solvents are used to produce lyocell? N-methyl morpholine-N-oxide, an amino oxide that is recyclable and safe for human health, serves as the primary solvent.
Lyocell is Strong and Soft
Like hemp, lyocell is incredibly robust. Even when lyocell is wet, this is the case. The strength of lyocell may even increase when it is moist. Due to its excellent properties for use in medical settings, lyocell is even used to make conveyor belts and safety gear.
Despite being super strong, lyocell is also very soft. Because of this, it has gained popularity as a fabric for sateen sheets, soft towels, clothing, and other household items.
Lyocell is Great for Regulating Temperature and Wicking Away Moisture
Because of its tiny, hydrophilic fibers, Lyocell absorbs moisture extremely well. This means lyocell helps us to feel dry and comfortable even when we’re sweating or conditions are humid. No wonder lyocell is increasingly popular for bed sheets and gym clothes!
These moisture-wicking properties also make lyocell useful for bath towels and even diaper inserts, especially because it feels soft, doesn’t irritate sensitive skin, and is breathable too.
Lyocell is a More Hygienic Fabric Than Many
Lyocell is more unlikely to harbor bacteria and develop a musty odor due to its breathability. This is one of the reasons lyocell is becoming more and more popular among gym goers and for use in moist areas like bathrooms.
You won’t need to wash your lyocell items as frequently as you would the equivalent cotton or synthetic items (which quickly become odorous and unhygienic! ), which is another benefit of their breathability.). Fewer washes translate into less water and energy consumption over the course of a product, which is frequently the most important aspect of a fabric’s true sustainability.
Lyocell Can Be Blended With Other Fibers (synthetic and Natural)
Lyocell is an excellent fiber in and of itself, but it can also be combined with other fibers to give a fabric-specific property. It combines particularly well with silk and merino wool to produce soft fabrics that are more enduring, stretchy, and simple to maintain.
Additionally, lyocell can be blended with natural fibers like cotton, hemp, and linen as well as man-made fibers like polyester, nylon, and acrylic.
Lyocell is Quick and Efficient to Produce
Although the process of making lyocell may seem difficult, it is actually very quick and effective. The entire process, from collecting wood to creating spun fibers ready to be knitted into fabric, can be completed in less than three hours. This is superior for a semi-synthetic fiber and is faster than raising and shearing sheep or alpacas, then cleaning, carding, and spinning the wool into yarn.
The result of this speedy process is greater potential yields of fiber and more efficient use of water (about 20% less than for cotton), energy, and human resources. Additionally, it makes lyocell a good on-demand fabric that can be produced quickly and efficiently in a variety of locations with the right technology.
Lyocell Can Be Easily Dyed With Non-toxic Dyes
Lyocell is very absorbent, which makes it perfect for use in towels and also makes it very simple to dye. Unlike some natural fibers, like wool, lyocell doesn’t need to be treated with chemicals to make it more amenable to taking on color. Lyocell can be colored similarly to cotton, negating the need for dangerous azo dyes and toxic chemicals.
The Cons of Lyocell Fabric
Lyocell has a very limited number of drawbacks. In actuality, I can only come up with three!
Lyocell Can Be a Bit More Costly Than Other Fabrics
Lyocell can be more expensive to produce than some other fibers like wool or hemp because it requires specialized equipment and knowledge. That said, depending on where you set up production, there can be huge savings in the transportation of raw materials.
Lyocell also offers opportunities for savings in terms of energy, human resources, water, and other inputs. Finally, lyocell’s durability makes it a wise investment for the end user. Lyocell can be a little more expensive, but compared to fast-fashion throwaway items made with subpar fibers, its price per year will be much lower.
Lyocell Can Be a Bit Delicate and Need Special Care
Lyocell can be somewhat delicate despite being extremely strong and resilient. The fibers can be damaged by high heat and rough use. This indicates that it is best to avoid using direct high heat to iron lyocell and to reduce machine drying.
The good news is that lyocell barely wrinkles, so you won’t need to iron the lyocell much. A pressing cloth should be placed between the iron and the fabric and low heat should be used for only a few seconds if you do want to iron a lyocell-containing item, such as a piece of blended fabric. You may wonder whether lyocell shrinks.
If possible, handwash 100% lyocell items with a mild soap before gently wringing out the excess water and hanging them to dry. Use a hanger to dry tops or sweaters so they can quickly regain their shape and avoid twisting or wringing lyocell fabrics. If the garment feels stiff after drying, a few minutes in the dryer with a dry towel can help soften it up.
You can usually machine wash items made of lyocell and other fibers on a gentle cycle and dry them on a low-heat cycle. Always follow the care instructions where available.
Lyocell is Vulnerable to Greenwashing
Lyocell is especially susceptible to greenwashing, which is less a problem with lyocell itself and more a marketing issue. This is so that businesses can make certain sustainability claims without having to be open and honest about their sourcing, manufacturing, and other processes.
Even if it only makes up a small portion of a product or garment, lyocell may be the main focus of branding and marketing. If the rest of the item comprises virgin synthetic fibers or conventional cotton, the overall sustainability is very poor.
Conclusion: Pros and Cons of Lyocell
Lyocell is made from wood pulp but isn’t a natural fiber like cotton or hemp. The environmental benefits of Lyocell are its greatest advantage. This fiber uses a closed-loop manufacturing process, is made with much less water than other natural fibers, and is derived from sustainable sources like bamboo pulp and eucalyptus tree wood pulp.
However, Lyocell’s price is by far its biggest drawback. As I mentioned a few paragraphs above, this fiber can be somewhat pricey compared to other mass-produced fibers due to production costs.
Is Lyocell a Good Fabric?
Lyocell is highly breathable, even more than fabrics like cotton. The texture of the fabric: Silky smooth, with good drape and a soft, airy feel against the skin. It has excellent moisture-wicking abilities that will keep you dry, clean, and comfortable. a summer-friendly fabric.
Is Lyocell the Same as Cotton?
Lyocell is a semi-synthetic fabric that is commonly used as a substitute for cotton or silk. This fabric is a type of rayon, and the main ingredient is cellulose, which comes from wood.