Chances are, if you have some summer wear in your closet, you probably have some viscose fabric. This is a light and comfortable fabric that should feel soft on your skin.
It is also rather inexpensive and does not come with a nasty static build-up while remaining robust and strong. That’s largely due to its construction which does offer doubt as to how sustainable a fabric it truly is.
In this guide, we will investigate what exactly is viscose fabric. We will also look at the sustainability of viscose fabric, its characteristics, and how it is made
What Is Viscose Fabric?
Viscose fabric is more commonly known as the substance called rayon in the US but was originally known as an artificial version of silk. This fabric is not quite synthetic like polyester or nylon but not wholly natural like wool, cotton, or silk either.
On a purely chemical basis, viscose fabric closely resembles a cross between cotton and silk yet this can vary depending on the way it is manufactured.
It is a fabric that should come low in cost and is highly popular due to its versatility (for more information on different fabrics, see our post on ramie fabric here). This type of fabric only became known as rayon in 1924 and can be used for creating a luxury velvet or even products used for feminine hygiene.
That’s in addition to the many clothes you can make from this versatile fabric.
The Characteristics Of Viscose Fabric
One of the underlying reasons why viscose fabric is so popular is due to its versatility. This one material can be used to make many different products as it blends well with several other fibers.
Viscose fabric remains breathable, does not trap much body heat, is highly absorbent, and is very smooth.
It also drapes well with great color retention while remaining relatively light, soft, and comfortable. Of note, viscose fabric is largely inexpensive and does not have a static build-up.
You can also rely on viscose fabric to be soft and comfortable yet strong and robust too which is largely down to its construction.
There are some rather negative characteristics to viscose fabric too, especially before you wash and wear it for the first time. You may find that viscose fabric will shrink to a certain extent when washed and it can wrinkle easily as well.
If you wear the viscose fabric outside, you may note that it deteriorates due to light exposure and can be vulnerable to mildew. Should you be caught in some rain while wearing viscose fabric then the fibers can weaken if it gets wet.
The Sustainability Of Viscose Fabric
There is something of a controversy over whether viscose fabric can truly be considered sustainable. This relates back to its construction as, though the fabric is derived from renewable plants, it is still manufactured.
You may wonder how a fabric that is initially made from wood pulp cannot be considered truly sustainable and environmentally friendly. This boils down to its production methods which use several chemicals and we will look at this later.
Viscose fabric can be considered as a less expensive alternative to silk and even the oldest manufactured fiber. Though the initial production of viscose fabric starts with wood pulp, its manufacture does use chemicals.
This is largely due to how formidable the fabric has to be to withstand the treatment of washing and wearing so it is chemically treated for those reasons.
Though it comes from wood pulp, its sustainability cannot be total though it is more eco-friendly than other materials.
In recent years, viscose fabric is being more and more manufactured via a method known as a Lyocell process. The specific process uses a solvent called N-Methylmorpholine N-oxide which, thankfully, produces little waste.
How Viscose Fabric Is Made
The term ‘viscose’ comes from the way that the fabric is made as a viscous organic liquid is formed to create it. Manufactured fibers, like those used to create viscose fabric, are constructed from either a protein or cellulose.
In the case of viscose fabric, the cellulose fibers are carbohydrates and come from wood pulp so it can be classed as partially man-made.
Essentially, viscose fabric is a general term for a regenerated and manufactured fabric that comes made from cellulose and then formed from the viscose process.
First, the recycled wood pulp is treated by using certain chemicals such as ammonia, sulfuric acid, acetone, and caustic soda. Though viscose fabric is certainly a fabric, it is constructed using chemicals so cannot be considered purely sustainable.
There is a relevant argument that as viscose fabric comes from cellulose it should be more sustainable as a fiber than another synthetic material like polyester.
Many wardrobes and closets should contain some viscose fabric as it has been popular since the 1800s. The fabric comes from wood pulp but is constructed using a high construction of chemicals which brings its sustainability into question.
However, due to this construction method, you can expect viscose fabric to be relatively inexpensive but especially versatile. You may well find it in clothes like dresses and jackets but also in carpets, female hygiene products, and upholstery.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should You Wear Viscose Fabric In Winter Or Summer?
As viscose fabric is a lighter fabric than most, you should consider wearing it during the summer. If you can imagine a fabric that lies in between cotton and silk for softness and shininess then that’s what you get with viscose fabric.
It may not be as light as silk, but you should still wear it during the summer.
What Is The Best Way To Wash Viscose Fabric?
Thankfully, despite its closeness to silk, you can machine wash viscose fabric. However, you should put viscose fabric in a wash bag if you decide to wash it in a washing machine.
Try to ensure that you use a cold water setting with a slow spin speed. You can also try turning the viscose fabric garment inside out for gentler washing.
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