Tencel: Today’s eco-sexy textile!

I’ve only come to know, wear and love Tencel in the last 6-months, yet already I’m hooked!
My Tencel shirts are by far my favourite, not only because they feel so soft, but also drape beautifully on one’s body. Check out my top 10 favourite here!
Aside from that – as if that’s not enough – the fact that this textile screams eco-freindly quality sits so well with my more intentional clothing choices.
We’ve certainly come into an age where the concept of slow-fashion and sustainability are really taking off, making on-going fabric innovation inevitable.

In my own journey, I’ve become actively curious about my clothing selection and the impact these choices are having on those who make my clothing, how far these pieces travel and the original of their cloth.

When it comes to Tencel, what’s not to like about this easy-comfort, eco and animal-freindly material.

Yet it’s in the understanding the ‘how and why’ that brings great appreciation for this regenerative textile.

So here’s my easy guide to understanding Tencel:


Why Tencel is the 'new black' of fabric innovation!
Synthetic vs. regenerative fabrics:

Tencel/lyocell is a man-made fabric but NOT a synthetic. (Synthetics are made from Petroleum; crazy right?) This is because Tencel or lyocell is regenerated from wood cellulose, making it a sustainable fibre.

Tencel vs lyocell:

Tencel® is a brand name and lyocell is the generic name.  Technically a fabric must contain 30% of the proprietary (Tencel) fibres in order to use the name Tencel.

Which to buy; Tencel or lyocell?
I’d recommend looking for the 100% TENCEL® brand, to ensure the smallest possible ecological footprint.

This is because while the process to produce fibre strands from wood pulp are very similar, regardless of source, the methods used to transform these fibres into yarn, fabric, and finished products can vary a lot.  Strong chemicals may be used in this process, rendering the fibre less sustainable and potentially more toxic.

Aesthetic diversity:

Today we’re seeing a lot of denim type styles and shades that are made from Tencel and lyocell, yet this material can be dyed many colours, and can simulate a variety of textures such as suede, leather, and silk.

Benefit of wearing Tencel/lyocell:
1. Absorbent:
The textile controls and regularly absorbs moisture (perspiration), 50% more than cotton and even more than wool.  How: It is composed of  very small fibres (nanofibrils) which are hydrophilic (a strong attraction to absorb water) and optimise absorption of moisture with excellent cooling properties by releasing moisture to the air.
2. Odour resistant:
Basically, bacterial growth is prevented through the moisture management of the fibre. When we sweat it is directly absorbed from the skin and transported to the inside of the fibre. Thus no water film is produced on the skin where bacteria could grow.  Yet Tencel clothes remain odour free for multiple wearings much longer than cotton.
3. Hypoallergenic:
This material is not likely to cause an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. It is also anti-static and doesn’t cling.
Taking care of your Tencel:
Because Tencel/lyocell remains odour free for multiple wears, this means fewer washings and saving on water and energy, as well as on the wear and tear that occurs on any fabric from the washing and drying processes.
They can all be hand washed or gently machine washed on cold setting. Fabric softeners are not needed or recommended.  When wet Tencel/lyocell is not soft and drapey, in fact it can feel stiff until dry. Minimal ironing is necessary, if at all, that’s a personal choice.
UPF rating:

A UPF rating is NOT a property of the Tencel/lyocell textile. Rather, factors that enhance level of sun protection include, but not exclusive of;

  • Construction: Dense, tight construction minimizes the amount of UV light that can pass through. Thicker fabrics also reduce UV transmission.
  • Colour: Generally, darker colours absorb more rays overall, including UV rays. Within the same colour, more vibrant hues outperform paler ones.
Tencel/lyocell vs, other regenerative fabrics:

While Cupro, Modal, Viscose and Rayon are also regenerated fabrics, Tencel is one of the most environmentally-friendly regenerated fabrics, for several reasons listed below:

1. Grown sustainably: Tencel’s supply chain is transparent. It is obtained from eucalyptus trees that are grown on farms, with NO old growth forests, genetic manipulation, irrigation or pesticides used.

2. Nontoxic chemical : The chemicals used to produce Tencel fibres are non-toxic. So the manufacturing process avoids polluting air and water emissions, as well as avoids using catalytic agents which create strong unpleasant odours. Interesting to note too that because of the nature of the material, the processing never requires bleach.

3. Processing in closed loop system: In addition, the wood pulp used for Tencel (along with Cupro and Modal) is treated in what is known as a closed loop system.  Essentially this means the chemicals used can be extracted after and the water reused. 99% of the water and solvent used are recovered and reused again. This means improved water management and preservation of a vital natural resource.

I hope this guide to getting to know Tencel/lyocell helps you. I’d love to hear if you’ve found Tencel a winning textile within your, perhaps intentionally chosen, closet.


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