In the world of sustainable fashion, there are many different fabric options to choose from.
But what is viscose, and how does it compare to other sustainable fabrics?
If you’re a fan of athleisure, chances are you have more than one clothing article made from viscose. This fabric has plenty to love, from its light, comfy feel to its soft, silky texture. But is viscose as sustainable as we think?
In this blog post, we will answer those questions and more. We’ll start by giving you a brief overview of what viscose is. Then, we’ll dive into how viscose is made and the benefits, drawbacks, and commonly asked questions about this fabric. By the end of this post, you should have a good understanding of viscose and how it stacks up against other sustainable materials.
Viscose is one of the most popular synthetic fibers used today. It is commonly used in apparel, home furnishings, and many other products, and it is often combined with other natural fabrics like cotton and linen.
Viscous fiber is made from wood pulps or celluloses from plants such as pine, eucalyptus, bamboo, sugar cane, and corn husks.
Viscose manufacturing starts with pulping wood chips into small pieces. These are then mixed with water and chemicals. After being treated with enzymes, the mixture is heated to around 120 degrees Celsius. This causes a chemical reaction that converts the wood pulp into viscose. Then, the material goes through several washes to make sure that there are no impurities left over.
Finally, the product is washed, dried, and ready to be distributed to fashion manufacturers.
Manufacturing viscose involves soaking the raw material in water containing sodium hydroxide. This causes the cellulose fibers to break apart, releasing the lignin inside the cell walls. Then, the damaged cells are washed away, and the remaining cellulose fibers are bleached. Finally, the resulting solution is filtered and spun into yarn.
Viscose is considered more sustainable than other fabrics because it is made from renewable resources. However, viscose production can still have a negative environmental impact. About a third of the viscose used in the fashion industry is obtained from endangered species of plants.
Furthermore, the process of dissolving pulp destroys about 70% of every tree used.
Other effects of the production of viscose on the environment are:
– Water pollution: When producing viscose, factories use large amounts of water to dilute the wood pulp and spin the slurry into thread. This process can release large amounts of toxic chemicals into the environment, including toxins that can harm aquatic life.
– Land use: The manufacturing process also requires a lot of land – typically around 3 acres per million pounds of viscose produced – which could be used for crops or other purposes if not for viscose production.
– Energy use: Producing viscose also uses much energy – up to 30% more than cotton production – due to the high temperatures required to produce quality yarns from raw materials like wood pulp.
Viscose is biodegradable, putting it on the list of sustainable fabrics. But it does take 20-200 years to disintegrate, unlike cotton and wool, which are entirely natural fabrics, and take about 5 months to 5 years, respectively.
Let’s remember that most clothing items on the shelf are not 100% viscose but are blended with stretchy fibers, which are synthetic and non-biodegradable.
Viscose is often considered an inexpensive substitute for silk. It’s lightweight and breathable, making it ideal for summer wear. It’s easy to clean and maintain and doesn’t wrinkle easily. But what are the pros and cons of wearing viscose? Let’s find out.
There’s a reason viscose rayon is an excellent material for chic summer clothing: it is so breathable! Viscose fabric also wicks sweat away without trapping heat, making it an easy choice for activewear.
Viscose garments are usually treated with a stain protector or a waterproofing agent, such as Scotchgard, to help prevent stains from forming.
Start by checking the care label. It will tell you whether your viscose garment needs to be dry-cleaned or can be washed.
Treat it as a delicate article if it can be washed — and most viscose items can. Handwashing using cool water and gentle soap is the best way to go. However, you don’t want to overdo it; too much agitation could damage the fibers.
If the label says it can be machine washed, use a cold-water cycle in a gentle setting. Make sure the spin speed is set to low. Avoid high heat and long cycles since those could cause shrinkage.
Viscose is one of those fabrics that don’t like being ironed because it is sensitive to heat, so it must be handled carefully. Use the steam setting on your iron to prevent wrinkles, or hang the item warmly while you shower.
If you’ve ever wondered why viscose is synonymous with affordable luxury, it’s primarily because of how it feels on the skin. Viscose has a rich, silky feel and a texture as soft as cotton. This material won’t irritate sensitive skin and even feels cool.
Viscose is often referred to as “artificial silk.” It is incredibly soft and durable and is considered one of the most comfortable materials to wear next to cashmere. However, it does require some care to maintain its quality.
Viscose is one of the most commonly used fabrics in the world. This means you can find viscose products in almost any clothing store.
Viscose is an excellent choice for sustainable fabrics. Its versatility makes it an ideal option for many types of clothing. Still, a little comparison never hurt any fabric! So let’s look at how viscose performs alongside some other common materials.
Polyester is often considered the king of synthetic fibers because it is cheap and easy to produce.
The most significant difference is that polyesters are generally made from petroleum products like oil, coal tar, and gas. This makes polyester very durable and robust. However, because it is a synthetic product, it doesn’t breathe well and tends to trap heat. On the flip side, viscose is a natural fiber. It breathes much better than polyester and is more comfortable to wear. But it is less durable than polyester.
Both fabrics are very comfortable to wear. However, viscose is slightly softer and more absorbent than polyester. So viscose is generally the better option for those looking for sustainable clothing.
Cotton is a natural fiber and can be grown organically. But it can be challenging. For example, cotton requires lots of water and pesticides. And it takes about 10 pounds of seeds to produce just one pound of fabric. So where does that go? Into landfills.
Like cotton, viscose can be grown organically, but it doesn’t require nearly as much water or pesticides. Plus, it uses less energy to produce than cotton.
But here’s the catch: Viscose isn’t biodegradable. This means it won’t break down naturally over time, making recycling more complicated.
So what do we use now? Rayon. It’s an artificial fiber chemically treated to look like cotton. It’s cheaper than cotton and viscose but needs to be recycled.
Lyocell and viscose are both artificial fabrics that are produced from cellulose. The main difference between the two is that lyocell is made using a closed-loop process, while viscose is made using an open-loop method. This means that lyocell is more environmentally friendly than viscose.
Lyocell is also softer and more absorbent than viscose, making it a better choice for clothing such as shirts and dresses. It is also less likely to shrink than viscose. However, lyocell is more expensive than viscose, so it is only sometimes the choice for budget-conscious shoppers.
Modal fabric is another semi-synthetic fabric that is obtained from wood pulp. It’s a modified rayon fiber that’s made more sustainably. It’s breathable and absorbent and has a higher fiber strength than viscose when wet, so it keeps its shape after a wash.
Hemp is a sustainable fabric made of cellulose extracted from cannabis plants. Cellulose is a type of plant fiber that can be used to make products such as viscose. However, viscose is less sustainable than hemp because it takes more resources.
Viscose and hemp are both soft fabrics. This makes them good choices for clothing and other items that need to be comfortable and durable. Additionally, they are environmentally friendly because they are made from natural materials.
Viscose is often used in high-end fashion brands such as Gucci and Prada. But it is also found in many fast fashion items, especially those produced by H&M and Zara.
Viscose, however, is still not inherently eco-friendly. Brands often use greenwashing marketing messages, making it hard for consumers to understand the sustainability of the items they want.
The good news is that the world’s leading textile brands are working together to ensure their customers know where their clothes come from.
In response to growing consumer demand for eco-conscious products, the German manufacturer Lenzing developed the LENZING™ Ecovero™ technology, producing the world’s first eco-friendly viscose fiber. This innovative solution combines the benefits of viscose with the advantages of closed-loop processes and certified and controlled production.
The material is produced without chemicals and uses renewable resources such as sugarcane and bamboo. In addition, it generates up to 50% fewer greenhouse gas emissions and water impacts than traditional viscose.
While some brands are still hesitant to embrace sustainability fully, others, like Stella McCartney, are making significant strides towards becoming a ‘zero-waste’ brand. The British fashion house known for its animal-friendly approach to clothing has taken another step towards sustainability. From 2017, all viscose used in the label’s ready-to-wear collections had been sourced from sustainably managed and certificated forests in Sweden. In 2018, the brand announced it would no longer use leather in its products.
Elk is an Australian brand committed to producing products that are both beautiful and eco-friendly. As a result, they are currently phasing out all non-certified viscose. Their new viscose is now certified by Oeko Tex Standard 100.
Oeko-Tex International is a German organization dedicated to ensuring the quality and safety of textiles. They’ve developed guidelines for textile manufacturers that include requirements related to water pollution, working conditions, and toxic substances. To qualify for their standard, a manufacturer must meet specific criteria. Those collect data regarding the amount of hazardous waste generated during manufacturing, the percentage of workers exposed to harmful substances, and the yearly accidents.
Amour Vert is a clothing brand based in San Francisco that makes everything in America. They use Ecovero-certified recycled fibers, certified organic cotton, and eco-friendly dyes. Amour Vert is committed to ensuring every fabric piece is produced ethically, believing that fashion shouldn’t harm our planet. In addition, all their packaging is made with compostable and eco-friendly materials.
Viscose is one of those fabrics that causes a lot of controversy among sustainability advocates. But there are good reasons why we love it.
Viscose is an excellent choice for eco-conscious consumers looking for a versatile and absorbent fabric.
Conventional viscose is not an option; however, viscose made from recycled materials can be entirely sustainable.
When shopping for sustainable viscose, buy products made from wood pulp sourced from sustainably-managed forests and produced using closed-loop systems.
And with all fabrics, how you handle them determines the item’s sustainability. So always avoid fast fashion, make informed purchases, and extend the life of your clothes following the simple tips in our blog.