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What Is Viscose and Why Should You Care: Eco-material 101

What Is Viscose and Why Should You Care: Eco-material 101

Not everybody knows the answer to the question: what is viscose? But, you may have known it as Rayon. It is estimated to be the world’s third most popular textile fibre. It’s a tree-based semi-synthetic fibre, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for the environment or you. This article will tell you all about what is Viscose and if it is as sustainable as advertised.

What is Viscose?

what is viscose

To start off from the most basic of all questions is to answer what is viscose actually? Viscose is created from wood pulp with a comparable drape and smooth feel to the luxurious material. It is frequently touted as a more eco-friendly alternative to cotton or polyester and a less expensive and more durable substitute to silk in the fashion industry. Viscose was created in the late 1800s after a silkworm blight rendered natural silk, which was ridiculously expensive, nearly unaffordable.

Viscose is a diverse fabric used in apparel such as blouses, dresses, and jackets and the house in carpets and upholstery. It is also used in upholstery, bedding, cellophane, rugs, and clothing. 

How is Viscose Made?

Now that you know what is Viscose, you should understand its production process for a clearer insight. Viscose is made from the wood pulp of beech, pine, and eucalyptus, although it can also be made from bamboo. Due to the various chemicals required in the viscose process, such as sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide, viscose-natural fibre is considered semi-synthetic. The yarn is created using a synthetic approach. Yet, the fabric is built on a plant-based foundation.

The plant is crushed into wood pulp, and chemicals such as sodium hydroxide are dissolved, resulting in a brown wood pulp solution. Following that, the dark wood pulp is washed, cleansed, and bleached. The pulp is treated with carbon disulfide and then dissolved in sodium hydroxide to form the viscose solution used to make the fibres. Then, the solution is driven through a spinneret, a mechanism that produces regenerated cellulose filaments. This regenerated cellulose is spun into yarn and woven or knitted into viscose rayon fabric.

What is Bamboo Viscose?

Bamboo viscose is one of the most durable and cheap textiles. It is manufactured from bamboo cellulose. The plant’s sap is harvested and converted into bamboo chips. These chips are immersed in sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide to manufacture wood pulp. Spinnerets are used to extract the pulp, which is subsequently solidified using sulfuric acid. Bamboo will outlive cotton three to four times over in shape, strength, and durability when properly maintained, whatever piece of clothing it is. With this information now, you don’t just know what is viscose, but also a major subcategory of it as well.

Is Viscose Stretchy?

For the majority of people, it is not enough to just know what is viscose but also its qualities. The question might sound simple but is trickier than you think. The short answer is yes, Viscose can be stretchy, but the thing is, in general, any fabric can be made into a knit or woven cloth. A knit t-shirt is made entirely of cotton. A knit fabric is made up of a single yarn looped over and over to create a braided effect, giving the completed product some ‘stretch.’

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Although it isn’t incredibly stretchy, we all know that t-shirts are pretty forgiving when it comes to movement. A weave is made up of many filaments crossing repeatedly, and it has little to no flexibility. If a fabric is 100 per cent viscose, whether it has stretch depends on whether it is knit or woven.

Is Viscose Fabric Breathable?

Now that you’ve full transparency on what is viscose and how is it its stretchability, you might want to explore how breathable it actually is. To clear your doubts, Viscose is actually a breathable and absorbent fabric, even ideal for summer wardrobes. It has a lovely hand feel, similar to silk. It’s smooth, pleasant, and long-lasting. You can wash it and leave it to dry, and while it may appear to have lost its softness and lovely texture when wet, it always dries to the same smooth finish.

Difference between Viscose and Rayon:

To fully understand what is viscose exactly, you need to rule out any confusion between what is viscose and what is rayon if they’re not the same fabric. Rayon and Viscose’s main difference is that Rayon is a form of textile fabric made through the Cellulose Immersion process and made from wood pulp, with a higher adsorption capacity. In contrast, Viscose is a type of textile fabric made through the Cellulose xanthate process and made from plant fibres, with a lower absorption rate.

Rayon fabric is most commonly found in the furnishing industry, where it is used for drapes, bedsheets, and blankets. This cloth is frequently used for surgical masks and bandages in the medical field. The fabric rapidly absorbs fluids around it, keeping the injured area dry. Rayon fabric is made in an environmentally friendly way. The manufacturing process uses less energy and less harmful chemicals. As a result, Rayon fabric is extremely affordable.

The Rayon fabric, on the other hand, is not very long-lasting. The solvents in water and the sun’s UV rays easily destroy the polymer chains. As a result, Rayon fabric is not weather resistant and dissolves swiftly in the ground.

As you dive deeper into exploring what is viscose, you’ll find great features about the fabric. The viscose fabric is soft. As a result, this material is frequently used in the apparel business, where it may be found in shirts, pants, jackets, blazers, and other dresses. Because of its extreme softness, it is also used as disposable wipes. This fabric is also commonly used to clean the touch-screen surface of cell phones and other sensitive gadgets.

The manufacture of Viscose fabric is not very environmentally friendly. The manufacturing process necessitates a large amount of energy as well as a large number of harmful substances. As a result, the cost of Viscose fabric is exceptionally high. The Viscose fabric has the added virtue of being extremely durable. The most solvent in water and the sun’s UV rays are unable to break the polymer chains of viscose fabric quickly.

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Is Viscose Sustainable?

It’s not enough to just know what is Viscose, but also understand why having knowledge about it is relevant in the present era. Viscose, as a plant-based fiber, is neither inherently harmful nor polluting. Viscose is made from wood pulp and is cellulosic, similar to cotton or linen.

Cellulosic materials are only half artificial. Polyester is an entirely man-made fibre, whereas cellulosic fibres are sourced from a natural source. However, due to the expanding fast fashion industry, much of the Viscose on the market today are produced inexpensively utilizing energy, water, and chemically-intensive techniques that have disastrous consequences for employees, local communities, and the environment.

The wood pulp used to make Viscose is treated with chemicals before being filtered and turned into a fine thread. This highly polluting technique discharges numerous harmful substances into the air and waterways around manufacturing plants. Another dangerous element is carbon disulfide, which causes more significant coronary heart disease, birth defects, skin disorders, and cancer in labourers and individuals living near viscose manufacturers.

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Furthermore, the dissolving-pulp manufacturing method wastes around 70% of the tree and is a chemically intensive manufacturing process.

Viscose production contributes to the increasing depletion of the world’s forests, which are being destroyed to make room for pulpwood plantations. It is believed that approximately 30% of Rayon and Viscose used in clothing is derived from pulp taken from endangered forests. This not only results in habitat loss, posing a severe threat to endangered species, but it also frequently entails human rights violations and land theft from Indigenous groups.

Since Viscose is derived from cellulose, there has been some debate about its sustainability. People who support Viscose argue that the fabric is more sustainable than synthetic fibres such as polyester. In contrast, those who support the environment say that it is not due to the use of chemicals. Although some viscose is manufactured using the Lyocell technique, which uses N-Methylmorpholine N-oxide as the solvent, there have been peace discussions. This approach generates very little waste, making it significantly more environmentally friendly.

Brands Using Sustainable Viscose

what is viscose

New materials, such as EcoVero, are developed with the advancement in technology. This revolutionary fabric, produced by Lenzing, is made from sustainable wood obtained from controlled sources. Many brands understand what is viscose and how it is important for the sustainability of products, thus they collaborate with Canopy and Lenzing to ensure that their Viscose is more sustainable and does not destroy valuable biodiversity. Here are a few of our favourites that also guarantee ethical production regarding the individuals who make their products.

Eileen Fisher

Eileen Fisher is a pioneering brand when it comes to sustainability and values, with a line of viscose and rayon styles produced primarily from ethically maintained, legally harvested forests. Furthermore, the company is funding research and innovation of recycled cellulose materials. Cardigans, windbreakers, dresses, t-shirts, comfortable pants, velvet tops, skirts, and jackets are available in cellulosic fabrics from this brand. 

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AmourVert

Another fantastic sustainable brand uses Ecovero for beautiful, colourful patterns and graphics. This brand incorporates a variety of sustainable textiles, such as TENCEL, Organic Cotton, and Hemp, and it’s fantastic to see several Ecovero pieces in the mix. Amour Vert manufactures 97 percent of its apparel in the United States, and its packing is eco-friendly and disposable.

Whimsey + Row

If there’s a brand that appreciates the fabric’s sustainability while actually understanding what is viscose, it’s Whimsey+Row. Whimsey + Row is an eco-conscious lifestyle brand founded on a passion for high-quality goods and environmentally friendly procedures. Its objective has been to deliver simplicity and elegance for the young, sustainable lady since 2014. Whimsy & Row uses deadstock fabric, and by confining each garment to small runs, the brand eliminates packaging waste while conserving vital water resources.

Armedangels

Affordably priced, ethically sound, and on-trend. Germany’s Armedangels has an overall rating of “Great.” The brand provides all of the essentials for ladies, men, and children. Armedangels’ high-quality, long-lasting products are manufactured from sustainable, environmentally friendly, and certified materials, such as GOTS-certified cotton. The business also adopted the Fair Wear Foundation Code of Conduct to protect its workers abroad. Its items are offered in sizes ranging from XS to XL.

Elk

Elk extensively uses ‘green-shirt’ graded cellulose fabrics and traceable Viscose. Ecovero, Tencel, and other approved more sustainable cellulose fibres accounted for about a quarter of Elk’s fabrics by weight. Elk is phasing out all traditional Viscose. However, this is a slow process. Collared shirts, skirts, slacks, tops, jumpsuits, velvet pants and jackets, co-ord sets, tanks, and more can be found in Elk’s selection of more sustainable Viscose in its extensive collection.

Conclusion

Now you know what is Viscose, how is it made and where is it used–but the debate regarding its sustainability isn’t settled just yet. Viscose is bio-degradable yet can take between 20 to 200 years to totally biodegrade. This is a direct result of it being a synthetic product. Therefore it can be suggested that it is not totally bio-degradable such as woollen fabrics or pure cotton. Viscose is significantly being manufactured while utilizing the procedure called Lyocell. This method creates much less waste, making it more eco-friendly than various other strategies used in the garment industry.

Furthermore, individuals are starting to require more obligation from suppliers and also the methods used for viscose might be much more eco-friendly in the near future! The textile is solid and wonderful to deal with, so hopefully, more environment-friendly manufacturing approaches will come up soon enough. This way it is a lot more lasting than several various other synthetic fabrics being produced. Due to several loopholes in the manufacturing arena which disregards eco-friendly production techniques at the moment, Viscose can certainly not be considered as an entirely sustainable fabric just yet.

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