Pulp Faction: Knowing the Difference Between Rayon, Modal & Lyocell.

In my last post, I talked about the sustainable material, hemp. Today I’ll be talking about wood pulp and how it is used in fabrics. Let’s call today’s lesson PULP FACTION!! You know like Pulp Fiction, but faction because I’ll be dropping or chopping wood pulp facts??? Eh eh??



Okay okay Samuel, sorry!! Moving along! *clears throat* So ehrmmm anyways where was I? Oh yes, so there have been 3 well known types of fabrics made from wood pulp and I have them here for you in order of which was developed first. All of these materials are made from either beech, pine, bamboo or eucalyptus pulp, but have differing processes in how they are produced into fiber. I'll also be reviewing products that I own that are made with these various materials!


Rayon aka Viscose (1846 USA):

  • It is classified as a semi-synthetic fiber because although it originally comes from natural resources (trees), it is created into usable thread through a chemical process.

  • It is frowned upon by sustainable clothing companies because the process to manufacture rayon uses harmful chemicals such as sodium hydroxide.

  • Sodium hydroxide is used to treat the cellulose filaments obtained from wood to turn the filaments into a liquid substance called viscose. The terms rayon and viscose are often used interchangeably!

  • Viscose will eventually become threads of fiber for clothes when it is shaped into strands and placed into an acid bath. OKAY HARLEY QUINN & JOKER! Go off!! Haha! *I hope my DC fans caught that reference! - okay back to the wood pulp-

  • Rayon is not durable on its own thus it is mixed in with other fabrics like cotton.

  • When it was first developed it was made as a cheaper version to silk, but is not as breathable (doesn’t let moisture through as well as silk), not as stretchy, doesn’t retain dye as well (can transfer over to your other clothes), and isn't as soft. Lots of “not as good as silk” situations with rayon right??? And quite frankly doesn't compare from my own experience.




Next came Modal (1950s Japan):

  • Like rayon it comes from tree pulp and uses a chemical process (meaning it is also a semi-synthetic fiber), BUT undergoes a longer process that makes it lighter and softer and makes it so that it does not pill. It is more durable even when wet!

  • It uses less sodium hydroxide in the process, which is what makes it a little more eco-friendly than rayon.

  • It is made from beech trees which take up to 20x less water than cotton to grow.

  • The concern with modal has been that it has caused deforestation, so be sure to try checking where the modal is sourced from in products that you buy - if companies are transparent enough to say so. If there’s anything not stated in the product description, I always shoot the company an email to ask my questions. There’s no shame in needing more information because it’s your money and your investment. *I’ll have a future post of how I reach out to get more information from companies that I shop from or donate to! :)

  • A popular brand that you’ll see in the garment industry is Lenzing Modal (from Austria).



Lastly lyocell (1992 USA):

  • Lyocell does not use sodium hydroxide and according to Eco-cult, the process to make it uses a solvent (a substance that is able to dissolve substances - in this case the wood pulp) called amine-oxide instead.

  • Organic Clothing Blogs verifies that under the Material Data Sheet (MDS), amine-oxide is considered non-toxic.

  • The process to create Tencel is recyclable according to Good on You! You can use the solvent that softens the wood pulp over and over again (:

  • After watching a video on YouTube from Fairyland Cottage, I learned that even the water used to produce Tencel can be reused as well!

  • Because the solvent and water used in the production can be recycled and used again, this would be what is called a closed loop system. Just like a loop that is continuous, the materials used in the production process remain in the cycle and continue to be used without diminishing in quality!

  • When talking about the brand name Tencel, I learned that Tencel biodegrades within 8 days in a water treatment plan! So if microfibers of your Tencel clothing break off in the wash, you're good to go knowing that it isn't causing microplastic polution in our oceans. Rayon on the other hand can take anywhere from 20-200 years to biodegrade. That’s a huge difference!

  • Tencel is flexible, breathable, is moisture wicking, *prevents the growth of bacteria* (OKAY NOW this part's a game changer!! This means you can wear your clothes for longer since its bacteria that causes B.O.), and uses up less water and energy in comparison to cotton according to Good On You’s Material Guide. It is the perf material for people who live an active lifestyle and are breakin' a sweat from their workouts.

  • The main negative that I have found for Tencel is that it is costly to produce, so items made from Tencel can be more expensive also.

  • A popular brand of Lyocell is Tencel. It is also from Austria.




So which materials pass the vibe check?


I own a few items made in each material (that you've seen in the photos above) that I do want to review the quality of and share my personal experience with y'all! I made a short video and have also linked all of the items down below as I talk more about each piece.



-Giving each material a score based on my own belongings-


TARGET

Women's Beautifully Soft Short Sleeve Notch Collar Top and Shorts Pajama Set - Stars Above™


Prepare yourselves for Donald Duck feet lookin' photos lol! It's the best way I could capture the stretch of the Modal pjs! Hahaha



IT WAS THE STRETCHINESS FOR ME!! As you could tell from my video, the modal pjs were a def winner for various reasons. I’ve worn them over the past 3 days to sleep in and lemme tell ya, they are oh so buttery soft and drape so nicely on your body. They feel luxurious! I have never been able to say the same about any other pjs I’ve owned in the past. Were my older pjs comfy? Yes. Stretchy? Nope. Lost its shape/sagged/shrunk? Totally. According to Masterclass' Fabric Guide, modal is also less likely to shrink! Let’s see how these modal ones hold up, but as of now, I’m pretty in love! I bought my mom a pair as well and she LOVES them. Already seen her using them multiple times :D


Although they feel absolutely amazing on, I also can’t completely shake the fact that the process to create modal is not a closed loop system thus wasting more resources than Tencel and not to mention it’s usage of sodium hydroxide + contributing to deforestation depending on where the wood pulp is sourced from. So let’s say that the trees used to create modal were indeed ethically sourced, where the company made sure not to take/chop down more than they needed. I would just deduct a point each for not being able to recycle the resources used to make it as well as using a toxic chemical process. So all in all modal gets an 8/10, a B from me!


If you search "Target modal pajamas" a whole bunch of options come up from the brand, Stars Above. There are all sorts of styles from shorts sets, pants sets, capris, and fun animal print ones! Check em all out in the collage below!


all photos from Target.com


links to pj sets

photo 1: Women's Animal Print Beautifully Soft Short Sleeve Notch Collar Top and Shorts Pajama Set - Stars Above™ Oatmeal

$21.99


photo 2: Women's Tortoise Print Beautifully Soft Short Sleeve Notch Collar Top and Crop Pajama Set -Stars Above™ Brown

$24.99


photo 3: Women's Beautifully Soft Notch Collar Top and Pants Pajama Set - Stars Above™

$29.99

Longsleeves + pants for those who get cold at night.


photo 4 & 5: Women's Striped Beautifully Soft Long Sleeve and Short Pajama Set - Stars Above™

$24.99

I love the slit on the side of the shorts for that athletic shorts look! Had to give y'all a close up of that detail.


photo 6: Women's Beautifully Soft Short Sleeve Notch Collar Top and Shorts Pajama Set - Stars Above™

$21.99

These are the one's I purchased for my mom and I :) Perf for the summer since it's a shortsleeve + shorts set.


photo 7: Women's Beautifully Soft Notch Collar Pajama Set - Stars Above™

For those whose legs get cold! Lol!


photo 8: Women's Beautifully Soft Crop Notch Collar Pajama Set - Stars Above™

For those fashionistas trying to bring capris back! These are the pajamas for you!



Seedstitches on Etsy

now to rate my headbands


IT WAS THE DURABILITY OF TENCEL FOR ME! While the viscose one was great at first and super soft, it just does not hold its shape as well as it initially did and compared to the Tencel one. I also bought it on a whim reading “bamboo” viscose and thinking oh wow, bamboo is a fast growing, sustainable plant, so thus the headband must be a great sustainable option! But this was before I read about the process to make viscose. My mistake. *do your research first ppl hehe*


As I have zero complaints about my Tencel headband purchase, it is a solid 10/10 FOR TENCEL :D Here is the shop I purchased from, Seedstitches.


I purchased the adult size Tencel/Spandex Turban Twist Headband in the color Dark Caramel, which is a 92% tencel/8% spandex blend.


Cost: $9 for the headband + $3.25 shipping coming from Des Moines, Iowa to California.


Why I encourage looking for sustainable buys from Etsy!

  1. You are supporting a small business and you can see from their product info what kind of impact the owner of the Etsy shop hopes to be making and how sustainable their products really are. The owner of the shop is a mommy of 2 who runs her shop when she isn’t busy taking care of her kiddos.

  2. I have mentioned this before but will mention it again: Etsy offsets their carbon emissions with each and every delivery! Yes, ya HEARD THATTT!! For ✨100%✨of orders placed on Etsy, they offset the shipping by investing in environmental projects. Learn more about the impact Etsy is making on the environment here ye here ye.


What is awesome about Tencel & my Tencel headband:

  1. The turban wrap that I bought is made out of eucalyptus pulp that is softened and turned into threads. It is SO soft and stretchy. One of my few headbands that doesn’t hurt my head.

  2. Yes, there is still some spandex in the mix in my headband. I was wishing it was 100% so the entire headband could degrade after use, however after seeing all of the following types: tencel blended, hemp blended, and cotton blended active wear as well as head bands that also included a mix of either spandex, lycra, or some other stretchy fabric, I imagine it is probably needed to give the garment a little more flexibility for what it is intended to be used for. I wonder if a modal/tencel mix would work??

  3. The headband is a beautiful mocha color and I was pleased to find that it was dyed using eco-friendly dyes, which Seed Stitches states “do not contain harmful chemicals or environmental pollution and comply with environmental regulations. Eco dyes are non-carcinogenic and are free from or produce no harmful aromatic amines or acute toxins. The color fastness and performance of these dyes are superior to banned dyes.”


UPWEST

the Tencel shorts that sold out on lil ol' me ;(


photo of shorts from UpWest.com


Okay, they sold out with good reason. The company UpWest makes small batches of their pieces! Waste not want not! I didn't snag these cute lil shorts, but I do back up the reasoning behind not making too many of a certain style of clothing to not waste what doesn't get sold.


Now that I’ve gotten a little taste of Tencel with my headband, I would love to own some Tencel clothing in the future to see how it feels on the skin in comparison to modal, which I love love love. The Tencel shorts I wanted to purchase sold out and I didn't want to force myself to buy any other old Tencel product, so I'll definitely wait for something I truly like. There's no immediate need for it right now, so my search for Tencel clothing can wait. *reminder to always check yourself when shopping and ask “do I need this right now?” or “can I live without this product?” Sometimes a product be callin' out your name & you just gotta answer the call! HAHA I get it! Or maybe I get it because I'm speaking for myself and only myself with that statement lol! But back to Tencel. The price tag is something to note. The cost of these lounge shorts are $48, which honestly is pretty steep. As I mentioned earlier, the price point for Tencel can be high as the process to make it is expensive.


No name jacket that I grabbed out of my closet for the sake of comparison.


Now to rate my polyester/cotton/rayon blend jacket ummmm...what is there to say! Haha, barely any stretch compared to the other products as it was mainly polyester and you could also see the pilling on the outside of the jacket. The fact that the cotton is not organic is also something to keep in mind to know that cotton that isn’t organic uses up more water and pesticides. Should I even grade this? Maybe a participation point since technically polyester wasn’t on today’s lesson. This material will NOT be on the quiz folks!! Hahaha! But in fairness, the rayon + cotton really didn't do much for this jacket either. Okay so...3/10 for rayon/non-organic cotton/polyester because the garment served its purpose, kept me warm at work and well, it still hasn't fallen apart on me! I'd say the same thing for my viscose headband. A 3/10 because at least it keeps my hair out of my face while I work, although adjusting it has been rather an annoyance. Does it give me joy like the other products? No not really, but it's functional.



So there you have my personal scores on each of the materials today based on items that I own + some background research. I definitely did not write this with the intent to rag on anybody’s clothing, but just to give background info on the process behind how the materials in your clothes are made because I also had to do research to understand the differences better myself. Now that I’m starting to buy sustainable clothing that is grown and processed more naturally, I can actually feel the difference. The new clothing that I've gotten feels softer and better quality. In turn, investing in quality pieces makes me want to take better care of my things and be gentler with them too! A lot of the stuff I want to hand wash so it doesn't get torn up in the washer.


I also want to bring up the scenario that maybe right now you can’t switch over to more eco-conscious clothing, it's too costly or you don’t need more clothes and/or are content with what you have. You have your reasons not to buy and to invest in what you want. We all have our intentions when making a purchase and if there’s something you own and wear that makes you feel good, whether it be a sustainable fabric or not, if you love it and it works for you then I love that for you! If all this post did was make you a little more aware or conscious about what goes into your clothing, then I’m happy too :)


For my visual learners, here's additional learning material on YouTube about sustainable materials in clothes


If you would like to learn more about other natural & sustainable fabrics such as hemp, linen (from flax plant), organic cotton, and more about Tencel/lyocell, then I’d love to recommend Fairyland Cottage’s YouTube channel where she gives a quick and very informative video!



Which sustainable fabrics do you already own or would give a go? What did you think about wood pulp being used in clothes?



Peace & Pulp (wood pulp that is lolol),

Judi Bloom 🌲






Resources:


Benton-Collins, Kendall. Material Guide: How Ethical is Tencel? 2019 July 27. https://goodonyou.eco/how-ethical-is-tencel/


Fairyland Cottage. 4 Sustainable Fabrics - Slow Fashion. 2019 November 24. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aANNE698zg&feature=youtu.be


Keist, Carmen Nicole. Rayon and its impact on the fashion industry at its introduction, 1910-1924. Graduate Thesis and Dissertations. Iowa State University. 2009. https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/etd/11072/#:~:text=Rayon%2C%20invented%20in%201846%2C%20began,time%20period%20of%201910%2D1924.


Hill, Rhonda P. EDGE Fast Fact | Non-Biodegradable Clothes Take 20 to 200 Years to Biodegrade. 5 September 2017. https://edgexpo.com/2017/09/05/edge-fast-fact-non-biodegradable-clothes-take-20-to-200-years-to-biodegrade/


How Products Are made Forum. Rayon. http://www.madehow.com/Volume-1/Rayon.html


Kaity. What is Rayon? The Middle Ground Between Real & Man-Made Fibers. 11 December 2019. https://www.contrado.com/blog/what-is-rayon/#:~:text=How%20is%20rayon%20made%3F,the%20most%20common%20and%20versatile.


Lackman, Michael. Tencel: Sustainable, but not necessarily healthy. 2005 November 4.

https://organicclothing.blogs.com/my_weblog/2005/11/tencel_sustaina.html#:~:text=The%20MSDS%20(Material%20Safety%20Data,are%20minimal%20and%20considered%20harmless.


Masterclass. Fabric Guide: What is Modal Fabric. Understanding How Modal Is Made and and Whether Modal Is an Environmentally Conscious Choice. 2 July 2019. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/fabric-guide-what-is-modal-fabric#what-is-modal-fabric


Wicker, Alden. Greenwashing Alert: Rayon Viscose Is Made From Plants, but Is Also Toxic and Destructive. 2017 June 17. https://ecocult.com/greenwashing-alert-that-natural-fabric-made-from-plants-might-be-toxic/


Zee, Mandy. What is Rayon. Here’s What You Should Know. 5 June 2019. https://www.whowhatwear.com/what-is-rayon/slide15