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:
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® 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.