Lenzing Refibra fabric is often used in the fashion industry to make affordable clothing. Lyocell is arguably one of the most eco-friendly semi-synthetic cellulosic fibers.
Refibra Lyocell fabric has a very soft hand feel and luxurious appearance. It uses natural and renewable raw materials, cellulose filaments made of wood pulp extracted from trees, and cotton scraps from garment production.
The main advantages of Lenzing Refibra compared to natural fibers such as cotton are low costs and water requirements, even though it's a semi-synthetic or chemical fiber textile.
Here is everything you need to know about Lenzing Refibra fabric, its uses, manufacturing, properties, downsides, and environmental impact.
In this article:
- What is Lenzing Refibra Lyocell?
- Lenzing Refibra fabric applications
- How does Lenzing produce Refibra Lyocell?
- Lenzing Refibra fabric properties
- Lenzing Refibra fabric certifications
- How to care for Refibra Lyocell fabrics
- Is Lenzing Refibra Lyocell sustainable?
- Sustainable clothing brands using Tencel Lyocell
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What is Lenzing Refibra Lyocell?
Lenzing Refibra Lyocell is a regenerated cellulosic fiber in the family of rayon launched in 2017. It's considered a semi-synthetic material and is very cheap to produce.
Lenzing makes Refibra Lyocell fibers by solubilizing quality cellulose extracted from wood pulp and upcycled cotton scraps. Tencel Refibra Lyocell is a material produced under strict environmental standards.
Lyocell is the third generation technology of rayon, after viscose and modal. It's breathable, lightweight, durable, soft, anti-bacterial, and remains odor-free for a much bigger period than cotton.
But Tencel Lyocell is more expensive than viscose rayon or cotton. Its manufacturing process also uses more energy than processing natural fibers.
Lenzing is one of the most well-known manufacturers of Lyocell in the world. Many fashion brands now make clothing from Tencel Lyocell by Lenzing.
The annual production of regenerated cellulosic fibers is 6.7 million tons, according to Lenzing. It represents 6.2% of the total fiber production volume.
Lyocell is the third most used semi-synthetic cellulosic fiber after viscose and acetate. It had a 4% market share in 2018 but faster growth than any other fibers with a 15% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
Lenzing Refibra fabric applications
Lenzing Refibra fabric is used in the fashion industry to produce clothing and accessories. It is smooth, sheen, and affordable. Refibra Lyocell resembles luxurious silk.
Lyocell fabrics make knitwear, evening dresses, formal shirts, sportswear, hats, suits, blouses, coats, sweaters, pajamas, undergarments, and more.
You can also find Lenzing Refibra in furniture, upholstery, drapes, bed sheets, curtains, carpets, bathrobes, towels, and home decor, like other soft and luxurious fabrics.
Cellulosic fibers like Tencel Lyocell have become very common and replace petroleum-based synthetic fibers such as nylon, acrylic, and polyester.
The market for Lenzing Refibra fabrics will slightly rise in the coming years. New apparel and home furnishing applications will develop, especially in China.
Garment manufacturers often use Refibra Lyocell with other fibers, such as polyester, nylon, cotton, wool, silk, spandex, and more to lower raw material costs.
How does Lenzing produce Refibra Lyocell?
Lenzing invests heavily in Refibra Lyocell manufacturing processes to make it one of the most sustainable fibers in the textile industry.
Lenzing produces Refibra Lyocell from certified and controlled wood sources such as beech wood and a substantial proportion (up to 50%) of cotton pulp extracted from upcycled cotton garment scraps.
Refibra Lyocell manufacturing significantly lowers fossil energy and water use than generic cellulosic fibers such as viscose rayon.
Chemicals and water are required to condition wood and cotton pulp, treat and dissolve cellulose fibers, and wash the regenerated viscose fibers. However, during Refibra Lyocell production, Lenzing recycles up to 95% of the chemicals used.
Lenzing makes Refibra Lyocell from sustainable components that meet high environmental standards throughout their life cycle: from raw material extraction to production, distribution, and disposal.
Lyocell is manufactured by deconstructing wood or plant pulp into a purified fluffy white cellulose using N-Methylmorpholine N-oxide (NMMO) and water. NMMO, also commonly called amine oxide, is considered non-toxic.
Wet spinning is the manufacturing process that dissolves polymers in a solvent in a large spin bath, washing, and drying rolls.
It uses spinnerets and extrusion through several thousand holes to transform the resulting viscous cellulosic solution into multiple continuous filaments of Lyocell.
After being purified and extended to make long filaments, Lyocell fibers are ready to be spun into threads.
Making extended filaments is a crucial step in fiber production to create commercial textiles. They are many times longer than their original length to increase production efficiency and lower costs.
Once spun into yarn, Lenzing ships Refibra Lyocell to textile manufacturers who weave them into various fabrics to create apparel and other applications.
Lenzing Refibra Lyocell fabric properties
Lenzing Refibra Lyocell is a unique material with unique properties. The fine fiber is comfortable, super soft, lightweight, breathable, durable, and feels like luxurious silk.
Tencel Lyocell fibers are very pleasant to the touch and gentle on the skin. They are long-lasting, high-quality, water-absorbent, quick-drying, supporting the body's natural thermal regulation.
Lenzing Refibra fabrics drape and hang well. They have good resistance to wrinkling and pilling, multiple sheens, and color options.
Tencel Lyocell is flexible, breathable, easy to wear, and versatile. It makes ideal fabrics for everyday clothing, sportswear, underwear, and many other consumer applications.
However, Lyocell fabrics do not resist high temperatures. They have low thermal stability and will lose longevity when exposed directly to UV and sunlight.
Lenzing Refibra fabric certifications
Some of the best certification standards for textiles apply to Lenzing Refibra Lyocell fabric.
Textile standards are crucial to ensure that manufacturers use sustainable processes to produce fabrics under environmentally friendly and socially responsible conditions.
They guarantee that fabric production has the least possible impact on people, the environment, animals, and responsible resource usage.
Lenzing Refibra is a certified 100% biobased fiber made with raw materials originating from plant sources. Tencel Lyocell is also certified with the internationally recognized EU Ecolabel and Oeko-Tex standard.
Lenzing Refibra fibers are certified fully compostable and biodegradable in natural and industrial environments, including soil, compost, fresh, and marine water.
Lenzing uses wood and pulp that come from natural forests and sustainably managed plantations. Tencel Lyocell fabric is available PEFC or FSC certified.
Additionally, Lenzing Refibra fiber is available with Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) certifying the recycling of cotton scraps from garment production.
How to care for Refibra Lyocell fabrics
It is best to wash pure Lenzing Refibra Lyocell fabrics by hand with cold water at a temperature lower than 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and avoid cleaning them in the washing machine.
Taking good care of your Lyocell clothes is one of the best ways to ensure that they last longer. Give special attention to Tencel Lyocell fabrics, as they do not resist high temperatures.
Before washing clothes made from Lenzing Refibra, read the care instructions found on the care tag. This way, you can determine if the garment is washable. The washing instructions may vary depending on the fabric's blend.
Semi-synthetic fabrics made with blends of Lyocell with other fibers are usually easier to wash. You can put them in the washing machine with the cold wash setting.
Use a gentle cycle to avoid high spin speeds. Make sure the washing speed doesn't exceed 600 revolutions per minute. Otherwise, Tencel Lyocell fabrics may become very creased.
Do not use any chlorine-based or strong detergent when cleaning Lenzing Refibra fibers. Use a gentle and natural soap instead.
Do not dry Lyocell fabrics in a tumble dryer either. Since they have relatively low thermal resistance, the dryer reduces their durability and risk damaging the garments.
A more sustainable way of drying your Tencel Lyocell clothes is to hang them to dry. Place them on a line in fresh air rather than using a dryer. It preserves their quality and saves energy.
You can easily lay Lenzing Refibra fabrics down on a towel for a while, then flip them over. Try to avoid hangers. Instead, place the garments on a flat surface to help them dry naturally.
Is Lenzing Refibra Lyocell sustainable?
Lenzing Refibra Lyocell production is considered eco-friendly. Tencel Lyocell is arguably one of the most sustainable regenerated cellulosic fibers.
Sustainable forest management is a primary concern with Lyocell production. The global non-profit organization Canopy reports that semi-synthetic fiber production is often associated with massive deforestation.
Many cellulosic fibers available on the market are less respectful toward the environment. The global textile and apparel industry is responsible for deforestation, the destruction of ecosystems, and greenhouse gas emissions.
A large amount of cellulose comes from logging in tropical rainforest areas. Every year, manufacturers log 120 million trees to make fabrics such as rayon, viscose, modal, and other trademarked textiles.
If the trend continues, deforestation due to cellulosic fiber production could double by 2025, as stated in Canopy's Hot Button Report.
Thankfully, initiatives like the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) Out of Fashion campaign works against rainforest destruction and human rights abuses.
And responsible companies like Lenzing produces Lyocell under environmentally friendly processes. During production, Lenzing recycles up to 95% of the water and chemicals used.
Sustainable production facilities can almost fully recover and reuse water and chemicals with closed-loop processes. Together with sustainable forest management, this makes Refibra Lyocell production eco-friendly.
Tencel Lyocell is more sustainable than other cellulosic fibers because its production doesn't require sodium hydroxide. And closed-loop processes can almost fully recover and reuse the solvent used during manufacturing.
Lenzing has developed environmentally responsible production processes that transform wood pulp into Tencel Lyocell with high resource efficiency and low environmental impact.
Lenzing is also committed to using up to 50% of recycled content from cotton scraps to manufacture Tencel Lyocell using Refibra technology. It combines wood and cotton pulp sourced from post-industrial and post-consumer cotton textiles.
This technology fuses the best of two worlds to create one of the most ecological wood-based fibers on the planet. It merges the lyocell technology, arguably the most eco-friendly wood-based cellulosic fiber, and the recycling of cotton scraps from garment production.
Sustainable clothing brands using Tencel Lyocell
Many ethical fashion brands now use Tencel Lyocell for their new collections. They design, manufacture, and market high-quality clothing made of sustainable fabrics.
But sustainable fashion isn't only about material sourcing. It's also important that brands and retailers guarantee substantially fair, ecological, and resource-efficient manufacturing conditions.
Here are some sustainable fashion brands that produce eco-friendly clothing from Tencel lyocell:
- Thought, a clothing brand making classic shirts and dresses from natural and sustainable fabrics.
- Everlane, a transparent brand offering modern and beautiful essentials, at the best factories, without traditional markups.
- Reformation, a fashion label making sustainable women's clothing and accessories.
- People Tree, a fair trade fashion pioneer, and online garment retailer making clothes from environmentally-friendly materials.
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About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.