So you want to know "What is Tencel"? Tencel is a trademarked brand of fabric made from environmentally friendly wood products. It can be found in the products of prominent designers and manufacturers in both the clothing and home furnishing industries. Tencel is considered a fiber with lower environmental impacts making it a popular modern fabric.
What is Tencel Fabric?
Tencel is the brand name of a high-quality fiber created with wood pulp. The name is owned by an Austrian company called Lenzing AG. The generic name of this fiber is called lyocell and it is frequently used for underwear and activewear as well as lightweight jeans.
What is Tencel? Tencel is a brand name for a fiber called lyocell.
Tencel fibers can be combined with other textiles such as cotton, wool, silk or polyester, and other man-made fibers. This enhances their softness in particular as well as the strength and moisture absorption.
Is Tencel Natural?
Tencel is considered natural as it is made from wood but the actual fiber is created using a man-made process. Its technical term is "regenerated cellulose" as the wood pulp is combined with a chemical solvent in order to form the fibers. In reality, Tencel is considered somewhere in between natural and man-made.
Common trees used to create the fibers include the Eucalyptus tree, all of which can be sustainably grown and harvested with minimum pesticides and less water to minimize environmental impacts. Tencel is similarly produced to rayon or viscose in that wood pulp is used but it is considered to be more energy-efficient. Tencel uses chemicals that are less harmful than rayon.
Viscose vs Modal vs Lyocell (Tencel)
The one thing viscose, modal, and lyocell share is that they are all made from plant fibers and regenerated cellulose. These plant-based fibers are considered semi-natural and give all three fabrics a soft, breathable, and absorbent property. Where they differ is in their manufacturing process and the subtle characteristics this results in.
Modal for example is manufactured to be finer and stronger. Lyocell uses different chemicals to create fibers from the wood which are considered more eco-friendly. Lenzing, the company which owns the Tencel brand of lyocell, uses Eucalyptus trees from forests that are sustainably grown. Ultimately these three fabrics are extremely similar to touch but are created differently with different effects on the environment.
Tencel vs Cotton Sheets
Both Tencel and cotton as commonly used for bed sheets. While both are comfortable and durable, they are largely separated by price. Tencel is considered softer and feels quite silky but is harder to find.
- SOURCE - Cotton is made from the cotton plant whereas Tencel is made from Eucalyptus trees.
- BREATHABILITY - Botth cotton and Tencel are considered breatheable.
- SOFTNESS - Tencel wins in terms of softness but cotton will certainly get softer with every wash.
- LOOKS - Tencel tends to look a little silkier and often has brighter colors as it takes dyes better. After repeated washing, Tencel will look brighter than cotton.
- WRINKLING - Cotton will always wrinkle more than Tencel.
- SHRINKAGE - Tencel shrinks less than cotton.
- ENVIRONMENTALLY - Tencel is produced using less water and energy with less waste then cotton.
- WASHING - Tencel will need a little more care in washing and should be put on a gentle cycle. Cotton by comparision is easy to machine wash.
- PRICE - Tencel is more expensive than cotton.
Types of Tencel
Lenzing makes several types of tencel including
- Tencel Lyocell - This fabric is produced with a closed loop production process meaning its manufacturing is highly efficient and has low environmental impacts. Tencel lyocell fibers can be combined with other fibers such as cotton to enhance their natural characteristics.
- Tencel Modal - The Tencel Modal fiber is enhanced to increase softness.
- Tencel x Refibra - The incorporation of cotton scraps increases sustainability.
- Tencel Modal x Micro - The combination with Lenzing's Micro techology results in a fabric with even greater softness.
What is Tencel - Features
The greatest benefit to sewing or wearing Tencel is its softness. It feels great on the skin and breathes and wicks moisture away from the body. Many years ago I had a pair of Tencel jeans and they were so unbelievably soft and floaty.
Tencel has a beautiful drape which means it is flattering on the body and does not add bulk. Another amazing feature is that it is wrinkle-resistant and considered breathable and biodegradable. Considering a reported 73% of clothing ends up in landfills, biodegradability is becoming increasingly important today. Tencel takes dyes easily making items made with it rich in color.
Features of Tencel
- Softness - Tencel is extremely soft and gentle on sensitive skin. It has a similar softness to silk and is smooth to the touch.
- Moisture absorbent - Tencel's manufacturer claims that it is more absorbent than cotton.
- Drape - This is important in order for clothing to be flattering.
- Wrinkle resistant - Tencel is less prone to wrinkles than many other popular fabrics such as cotton. This makes it a popular choice for clothing as who likes ironing? If your Tencel clothing does have slight wrinkles, they can easily be removed with a small amount of steam.
- Breathable - Tencel fabric is known for its breathability making it popular for Summer clothing.
- Biodegradable - Tencel is biodegradable and can be composted.
- Durability - Tencel is popular for bedsheets as it is durable provided you wash them with a gentle machine cycle.
Tencel typically shrinks by approximately 3-5% in the first wash but tends to stabilize in subsequent washes.
While you can't say that Tencel is completely wrinkle-free, it is certainly wrinkle-resistant. Tencel wrinkles are considerably less than cotton and many other natural fabrics. To remove any wrinkles, steam is usually best rather than putting the iron directly on the fabric. Always check the laundry care label before ironing.
Yes! Tencel is considered a soft, breathable fabric that will absorb moisture such as sweat.
Unfortunately, Tencel can pill easily especially if you don't wash it according to the labeled instructions. You can reduce any pilling by gentle machine or better still, hand washing.
In terms of the environment, Tencel is better than many other similar fabrics but not as good as other natural fabrics such as organic linen, organic cotton, or recycled cotton. Tencel is produced with chemicals that are less toxic and in addition, these chemicals are recycled during production. This closed-loop system results in 99% of the chemicals being recycled. The fact that Tencel is created from the wood from trees grown in sustainable forests is another plus. Tencel uses less water and energy than cotton production.
Tencel has moisture-wicking abilities meaning your clothing is less likely to grow bacteria. This results in fewer odors and is good for sensitive skin.
Tencel is often used for socks and activewear and can be produced as a stretch fabric. It has good elasticity and will stretch back to its original shape. For a greater stretch, it can be combined with other fibers such as spandex.
What is Tencel Production - Costs
So now you've read about all these wonderful properties of Tencel you have probably guessed that it is a little more expensive than some other more basic fibers such as cotton or rayon. This increased cost is offset by some of its wonderful attributes such as wrinkle resistance and breathability. I think I would pay a little extra for less ironing! Perhaps buy something small with Tencel in it and see if you think it is worth the extra cost.
What is Tencel - Products
Popular products that use Tencel include
- Lingerie, Sleepwear and Loungewear - Pajamas made from Tencel are unbelievably soft and comfortable. The fiber can be added to knit fabrics for added comfort.
- Activewear benefits from Tencel due to its breathability and moisture absorption. High-performance activewear and sportswear need to keep your body dry and cool and Tencel does just that.
- Denim can be a little stiff so the addition of Tencel softens it and adds much-needed drape. Jeans made using Tencel are much more comfortable and wrinkle resistant.
- Bedding including bed linens and mattresses. Due to the silky and soft feel, Tencel is popular for all bedding products. It feels luxurious and is comfortable on sensitive skins. When used in duvets, it can absorb more moisture than cotton and thus help you get a drier and more comfortable night's sleep. The best thing about sheets or duvet covers with Tencel is that no or minimal ironing is required.
- Towels need to be extremely absorbent and the addition of Tencel increases the absorbency. This means towels will absorb more and dry quicker. Even after repeated washing and drying, towels with Tencel will stay soft.
- Footwear can be enhanced using Tencel as it can be used for the upper and lining adding much needed softness for many styles.
- Travel garments with Tencel are wrinkle resistant making them a popular choice. They also dry quickly which is important when you are on the move and need something to dry overnight.
What is Tencel - Care Instructions
In general, Tencel is a strong fiber that is easy to wash and care for. Always check the laundry label for specific instructions and you may need to tailor your washing to any additional fibers that have been added.
- WASHING - Wash Tencel with cold water and a gentle hand wash. Cold water is recommended since the fiber may shrink slightly in the first wash if it has not been pre-shrunk. Always do up any zippers and if it is a delicate item, wash separately.
- DETERGENTS - Use a gentle detergent and avoid bleach and harsh chemicals.
- DRYING - Drip drying or air drying will always be best to maintant Tencel but some items may be able to be tumble dried on a low heat. Make sure you check the label carefully before applying heat.
- PRESSING - Tencel is best ironed on a low heat with a pressing cloth in between so the iron doesn't directly touch the fabric. Better than ironing, is to leave your Tencel garment overnight or to put it in the bathroom when you are having a shower. Steam and gravity will take care of most of the wrinkles for you.
- DRY CLEANING - If the laundry label specifies dry clean only then do not attempt to wash it yourself. This label is common when the Tencel is combined with other delicate fibers such as silk.
What is Tencel - In Conclusion
What is Tencel is a great question! Tencel is a soft, durable, moisture absorbing fabric that can be used by itself or in conjunction with many other fibers. Although it is a little more expensive, its unique properties make it a favorite with upmarket designers.
Now you know all about what is Tencel, check out these other fabrics listed alphabetically.
- CHIFFON – Sewing Chiffon
- BATIK – What is Batik
- CANVAS – Sewing Canvas
- COTTON – Sewing Cotton
- DENIM – Sewing Denim
- FELT – Sewing Felt
- FUR – Sewing Fur
- KNITS – How to Sew Stretch Fabric
- INTERFACING – Types of Interfacing
- LACE – How to Sew Lace
- LEATHER – Sewing Leather
- RAYON – Sewing Rayon
- SHEER – Sewing Sheer Fabrics
- SILK – How to Sew Silk
- THICK – Sewing Thick Fabrics
- VELVET Sewing Velvet
- WOOL – Sewing Wool