Lyocell or Tencel

Tencel @ is the brand name for a natural fiber generically called Lyocell that has a flattering drape and is soft, luxurious, absorbent, very strong when wet or dry, breathable, naturally wrinkle-resistant, machine- or hand-washed or drycleaned and environmentally sustainable absorbent, very strong when wet or dry, and resistant to wrinkles; it can be machine or hand-washed or dry cleaned, it drapes well, and it can be dyed many colors, as well as simulating a variety of textures like suede, leather, or silk. Lyocell was introduced to consumers in 1991 and originally marketed as a type of Rayon.

Tencel® is the brand name owned by Lenzing Fibers of Austria for a blended composition of a fabric that contains a minimum of 30% Tencel®. Lyocell is made from the cellulose derived from wood. Broken down chemically into a soupy sludge that is forced through a shower head spinneret and reformed as recovered, solvent spun or regenerated fibers that retains its’ organic cellulose based structure. It is not an organic fiber like wool that comes directly from the animal and is spun out into yarn. Cellulose does make up the structure of all plants tissues.

The production of lyocell has minimal impact on the environment and economical use of energy and water. Lyocell uses an amine oxide considered a 99% is recovered and recycled during the manufacturing process a non-toxic solvent which is continually recycled during the production process. Production plant emissions into the air from smokestacks and from wastewater are significantly lower in comparison to many other man-made fiber operations.

Waste products in the air and water from the manufacturing process are minimal and considered harmless. Lyocell fiber is eco-friendly since products made from it can be recycled and lyocell is biodegradable because it is a cellulosic fiber. Products made from lyocell can be recycled, incinerated, or digested in sewage. The fiber will usually degrade completely in just eight days in waste treatment plants.

The process to manufacture lyocell fiber is in fact very nearly a closed loop process in which bleach is not required. Bleach is commonly required in fabric manufacturing, especially for cotton. For this reason, high quality lyocell products contain no free chlorine and are sold as so-called “TCF – products”. The European Union awarded this process the Environmental Award 2000 in the category “technology for sustainable developments”.

While production of lyocell fibers is generally eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable, the transformation of lyocell fibers into fabric and garments can use many or the same harsh, and even toxic, chemicals and processes used in conventional garments. This is because of two properties of Lyocell: it doesn’t always accept dyes well, and it has an inherent tendency to fibrillate or “pill”. In wet processes the surface of Lyocell fibers begins to peel away. These hairs on the fiber surface are called fibrils. When controlled in the correct way, the fabric is given a “peachskin” surface.

Lyocell fiber has a relatively low surface energy, which makes it difficult for dyes to bind to it. Depending upon their ideological leanings, the manufacturing facility might use a variety of chemical processes, enzyme baths, and dye treatments which might, or might not, be eco-friendly. Enzymes are bio-chemicals used to weaken surface hairs on fabrics so they can be removed to prevent excessive pilling. Enzymes do occur in nature and are responsible for the breakdown of leaves and vegetation on the forest floor, for example. This is in keeping with the Lenzing Fibers goal of using low impact chemistry in their fabric manufacturing.

**Tencel® and Lyocell may not be appropriate wear for those with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.