Lenzing offers several types of Tencel fibers made with different technologies, including Tencel Modal, Tencel Lyocell, Tencel Lyocell Filament, and Tencel Refibra Lyocell.
Lenzing Tencel fabric is often used in the fashion industry to make affordable clothing. Tencel is a branded name and arguably one of the most eco-friendly semi-synthetic cellulosic fibers.
Tencel 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.
The main advantages of Lenzing Tencel 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 Tencel fabric, its uses, manufacturing, properties, downsides, and environmental impact.
In this article:
- What is Lenzing Tencel fabric?
- Lenzing Tencel fabric applications
- How does Lenzing produce Tencel?
- Lenzing Tencel fabric properties
- Lenzing Tencel fabric certifications
- How to care for Tencel fabrics
- Is Lenzing Tencel sustainable?
- Sustainable clothing brands using Tencel
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What is Lenzing Tencel fabric?
Lenzing Tencel is a regenerated cellulosic fiber in the family of rayon. It's considered a semi-synthetic material, cheap to produce, and available as Tencel Modal or Tencel Lyocell.
Lyocell is the third generation technology of rayon, after viscose and modal. It's breathable, lightweight, durable, soft, anti-bacterial, and remains odor-free longer than cotton.
Lenzing makes Tencel fibers by solubilizing quality cellulose extracted from wood pulp produced with sustainable forest management. Tencel is a material manufactured under strict environmental standards.
But Tencel is more expensive than viscose rayon. Its manufacturing process also uses more energy than processing natural fibers.
Lenzing is one of the most well-known manufacturers of lyocell and modal fibers in the world. Many fashion brands now make clothing from Tencel 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 Tencel fabric applications
Lenzing Tencel fabric is used in the fashion industry to produce clothing and accessories. It is smooth, sheen, and affordable. Tencel resembles luxurious silk.
Garment manufacturers often use Tencel Lyocell and Modal with other fibers, such as polyester, nylon, cotton, wool, silk, spandex, and more to lower raw material costs.
Tencel fabrics make knitwear, evening dresses, formal shirts, sportswear, sweaters, pajamas, undergarments, hats, suits, blouses, coats, and more.
You can also find Lenzing Tencel in furniture, upholstery, drapes, bed sheets, curtains, carpets, bathrobes, towels, and home decor, like other soft and luxurious fabrics.
Cellulosic fibers like Tencel have become very common and replace petroleum-based synthetic fibers such as nylon, acrylic, and polyester.
The market for Lenzing Tencel fabrics will slightly rise in the coming years. New apparel and home furnishing applications will develop, especially in China.
How does Lenzing produce Tencel?
Lenzing invests heavily in Tencel Lyocell and Modal manufacturing processes to make them some of the most sustainable fibers in the textile industry.
But don't fall into the trap of thinking that Tencel is a natural organic fiber. An enormous amount of water, energy, and chemicals are necessary to manufacture Tencel, a semi-synthetic fiber.
Lenzing produces Tencel from certified and controlled wood sources such as beech trees, pine trees, eucalyptus, and bamboo.
Tencel manufacturing significantly lowers fossil energy and water use than generic cellulosic fibers such as viscose rayon.
Chemicals and water are required to condition wood pulp cellulose, treat and dissolve cellulose fibers, and wash the regenerated Tencel fibers.
However, during Tencel production, Lenzing recycles up to 95% of the water and chemicals used.
Lenzing makes Tencel Lyocell and Modal from sustainable ingredients that meet high environmental standards throughout their life cycle: from raw material extraction to production, distribution, and disposal.
Tencel 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.
Tencel Modal, however, is made from wood pulp using toxic chemicals such as sodium hydroxide, caustic soda, carbon disulfide, an acid catalyst (sulfuric acid), and more.
Lenzing uses spinnerets and extrusion through several thousand holes to transform the resulting viscous cellulosic solution into multiple continuous filaments of Tencel.
This manufacturing process is called wet spinning and dissolves polymers in a solvent in a large spin bath, washing, and drying rolls.
After being purified and extended to make long filaments, Tencel 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 Tencel fibers to textile manufacturers who weave them into various fabrics to create apparel and other applications.
Lenzing Tencel fabric properties
Lenzing Tencel is a unique material with unique properties. The fine fiber is comfortable, super soft, lightweight, breathable, durable, and feels like luxurious silk.
Tencel Lyocell and Modal 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 Tencel fabrics drape and hang well. They have good resistance to wrinkling and pilling, multiple sheens, and color options.
Tencel is flexible, breathable, easy to wear, and versatile. It makes ideal fabrics for everyday clothing, sportswear, underwear, and many other consumer applications.
However, Tencel fabrics do not resist high temperatures. They have low thermal stability and will lose longevity when exposed directly to UV and sunlight.
Lenzing Tencel fabric certifications
Some of the best certification standards for textiles apply to Lenzing Tencel Lyocell and Modal 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.
Tencel by Lenzing is a certified 100% biobased fiber made with raw materials originating from plant sources. Tencel is also certified with the internationally recognized EU Ecolabel and Oeko-Tex standard.
Tencel 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 fabric is available PEFC or FSC certified.
How to care for Tencel fabrics
It is best to wash pure Lenzing Tencel 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 Tencel clothes is one of the best ways to ensure that they last longer. Give special attention to Tencel fabrics, as they do not resist high temperatures.
Before washing clothes made from Lenzing Tencel, 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 Tencel 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 fabrics may become very creased.
Do not use any chlorine-based or strong detergent when cleaning Lenzing Tencel fibers. Use a gentle and natural soap instead.
Do not dry Tencel 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 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 Tencel 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 Tencel sustainable?
Lenzing Tencel 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 cellulosic fiber production. The global non-profit organization Canopy reports that semi-synthetic fabrics are 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 Tencel Lyocell and Modal 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 Tencel production eco-friendly.
Tencel Lyocell is more sustainable than Tencel Modal because its production doesn't require sodium hydroxide or other toxic chemicals.
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.
The Lenzing Tencel Lyocell technology creates one of the most ecological wood-based fibers on the planet.
Sustainable clothing brands using Tencel
Many ethical fashion brands use Tencel 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:
- 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.